Review on March 16, 2009
In a study of alternatives to plant estrogens for menopausal symptoms, several botanicals were tested at the National Center of Excellence in Women's Health. Ginkgo biloba proved the most effective in easing difficulty concentrating, a common symptom among menopausal women.
During menopause women experience a loss of estrogen. Estrogen has an effect on the production of neurotransmitters that aid in heightened memory and ability to concentrate. Estrogen stimulates blood flow to the brain which deters difficulty concentrating. Studies indicate that ginkgo also increases blood flow to the brain and improves transmission of nerve signals, proving an alternative to prevention of difficulty concentrating.
The studies performed by the women's health center showed that among the 31 postmenopausal women tested, the group treated with gingko did significantly better in a memory task after one week compared to the placebo group. However, other recent studies that examined the effects of ginkgo showed less definite results. These reported more limited positive effects of ginkgo over the placebo in terms of memory, cognitive functions, and difficulty concentrating.
Though difficulty concentrating may be an annoyance, it is important to know the risks of taking botanicals and other herbs, especially in combination. If considering consuming supplements, a woman should inform her doctor of any other substances she is taking, natural or pharmaceutical. (For example, gingko should not be used by patients taking aspirin.) As further safety research may be necessary, a woman may wish to consider other methods to ease difficulty concentrating.
- Contemporary Alternatives to Plant Estrogens for Menopause. Stacie E. Geller, Ph.D. [Associate Professor] and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, College of Medicine, Director, National Center of Excellence in Women's Health, University of Illinois, Chicago. Laura Studee, MPH Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, College of Medicine, University of Illinois, Chicago