Q. My mother had memory loss for about two years before she died. She didn't have Alzheimer’s, but it became fairly serious and I put her on ginkgo biloba.

Both my dad and I noticed an effect within two weeks, but the most remarkable effect was the improvement in her handwriting. She’d always had beautiful handwriting. As her memory declined, so had her handwriting.

On ginkgo, her handwriting improved in about 6 to 8 weeks. Then my dad decided he would buy the gingko instead of me. My mother's handwriting and memory started to slide again. I asked my dad where he was getting the gingko. It turned out he was buying cheap stuff. When I started supplying the ginkgo again (a standardized extract), her memory slide was arrested and her handwriting improved again.

A. A recent long-term, placebo-controlled trial of ginkgo did not demonstrate any ability to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (Journal of the American Medical Association, Nov. 19, 2008). Despite this discouraging result, some smaller trials have been promising. Your observation is fascinating.

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  1. LA

    This is very interesting to me as I have difficulty with my handwriting; I hesitate to take ginkgo because I’m concerned about possible side effects, such as blood thinning.

  2. Eleanor K.

    Ginko does indeed help with mental tasks. I discovered how it helped two ways quite by accident. The first is that without ginko I can’t remember a telephone number out of the phone book for any length of time and after taking it, I can remember for several minutes (long enough to dial it or write it down.) The second benefit is my vocabulary. It increases accessibility measurably. I suggest that the studies showing little effect used a dose that was too large. A small amount several times a week is effective, too much works the opposite way.

  3. NE

    I would like to know the “good” ginko from the “cheap” stuff. What does one look for?

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