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Do you take ginkgo biloba supplements to improve your brain function? If so, then first of all, you should probably stop because it’s not helping, according to the largest study ever conducted on the Chinese treatment back in 2009, which found absolutely no difference between gingko biloba and a placebo.
Also, don’t bother because even if it did help, the pills you buy at places like Walmart, Walgreens, and Target probably don’t even have gingko biloba in them, according to a recent investigation from the NY State Attorney General’s office. At Walmart, none of the supplements tested contained the pure ingredient listed on the container. Across the board, most of the supplements either had none of the one listed herb in it OR contained the herb alongside a bunch of other unlisted crap, including potential allergens like wheat.
The bitter irony, of course, is that if ginkgo biloba did improve your mental faculties and the pills did contain that herb, if you took enough you might be able to better realize when you’re being ripped off.
You can hardly blame consumers, though, considering that this shit is sold in pharmacies like Walgreens, whose very existence is meant as a place to sell effective medicine, not unregulated crap that’s more likely to cause an allergic reaction than to actually help you in any substantial way.
A lot of people don’t realize that herbal supplements aren’t well-regulated in the US and in many other places, because they’re not considered real medicine. They’re only regulated in that if something goes horribly wrong, like that time the “homeopathic” nasal spray Zicam started robbing people of their sense of smell, the government will demand they be removed from the shelves. Other than that, so long as they don’t promise to actually cure any diseases, they can pretty much sell whatever they want, labeled however they want.
So if you want to improve brain function, don’t bother with the gingko biloba. Maybe pick up a book instead, like this one from my friend Simon Singh called Trick or Treatment, in which he gives a complete and very honest overview of the actual efficacy of various alternative medicine treatments and why we use clinical trials to determine what works and what doesn’t.