How to evaluate memory supplements

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Can supplements and herbs really improve your memory? Psychologist Dr. Cynthia Green, author of Total Memory Workout, says buyer, beware. Here are her tips for evaluating memory supplements to judge whether they are safe and effective.

How to evaluate memory supplements

Can memory supplements really help you improve your memory? The popularity of supplements has exploded at grocery stores and vitamin shops, which promise to “cure” a sick memory. But your memory doesn’t get sick or need a cure—rather, it needs a good workout.

  • Be a wary consumer when selecting memory supplements. Most aren’t regulated by industry standards and aren’t backed up by science. Unless the supplement conforms to an industry standard, you may not know exactly what it contains.
  • A lot of memory supplements are widely used in other cultures—but they’re usually part of an overall medical approach and are prescribed by a trained professional. These memory supplements can’t be bought off the shelf like they can in the U.S.
  • Supplements are medications and need to be treated as such. Use caution when taking them with other medications. Gingko biloba, for example, can cause bleeding problems when taken with a blood thinner.
  • Take a conservative approach. Look at the science (if there is any) and discuss it with your doctor or pharmacist before taking.
Transcript STACEY:  I’m Stacey Tisdale for howdini.com. Is there such thing as a magic memory pill? Or an herbal recall remedy. Well here to shed some light Dr. Cynthia Green, psychologist, and author of Total Memory Workout. I could not walk into a grocery store or a vitamin store without seeing some kind of memory supplement, do they work?

CYNTHIA:  You know, one of the first things I like to tell people when they ask me about these supplements is that a lot of them are touted as a cure for your memory. And your memory isn’t sick, its not broken, your memory does not need a cure. What your memory needs is a good workout, but it doesn’t need to be cured. So really those supplements aren’t going to give you a perfect memory in the way that they promise. The other thing is that a lot of these supplements aren’t necessarily what they claim to be. And you really have to be a weary consumer when you look at them. The science isn’t there behind most of them. They’re not really well regulated unless they adhere to some industry standard. You don’t really know that what they say is in there is really in there. And I would be very cautions before taking any of these supplements.

STACEY:  A lot of these came from eastern cultures, and a lot of eastern cultures swear by them, and when you look at especially older people in those cultures is seems like they do know some secret. So why should we be so weary about them here?

CYNTHIA:  What I would like for people to understand is that in those traditions, they are part of a medical practice tradition. So they don’t just go in those countries and buy these supplements at the local grocery store. In fact they are prescribed, and they’re give at a certain level dosage that is understood by a practitioner that is trained. And that’s not really the way it was used in this country. The other thing that people do forget, and you bring up a good point, these are medicines they do have an impact. And a lot of times people are not really aware of the impact that they have. Or, the fact that taking them in combination with other medications which, especially, as we tend to get older we tend to be taking a lot of medications. Might put you at increased risk for something you wouldn’t otherwise be encountering or be at risk for. So an example is Ginkco biloba

STACEY:  I know you said they were some concerns about bleeding when it comes to Ginkgo.

CYNTHIA:  Since people don’t know that Ginkgo is a vasodilator, they might take it in combination with something else they’re taking as a blood thinner. So especially for older adults, many are prescribed medications like Cumminen as a blood thinner. They might also be taking something like a Vitamin E, another kind of supplement that also has that kind of vasodialating the fact. So its very important to know what your taking, know what the mechanism is, and if your not sure to ask a lot of questions about it at the pharmacist or your doctor. So you can be a careful consumer about what you are taking as a supplement.

STACEY:  Successful aging, thank you so much for joining us.

CYNTHIA:  Thank you.

STACEY:  I’m Stacey Tisdale for howdini.com.
meet theexpert
  • Dr. Cynthia R. Green

    Dr. Cynthia R. Green Psychologist, Author Cynthia R. Green, Ph.D. is a nationally recognized expert on memory fitness and brain health. She founded The Memory Enhancement Program at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1996, and is the author of several self-help books. more about this expert »

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