Over the five years that I spent as a university student, exam period was always the hardest time to have. I wished the day lasted for 60 hours instead of 24 in order to fully prepare for the test. However, I had to be realistic since I only had 6 hours to complete the syllabus. I considered coffee and read advertisements about herbal and medical tablets sold in pharmacies which increase the ability to comprehend and memorize. I cannot deny I tried some of those tablets myself !
But is it true that coffee, Ginkgo biloba (tablets extracted from Ginkgo plant) and Dynamisan grant a better memory and induce alertness leading to a better academic achievement? What if there are some side effects?

  • Coffee and Caffeine
Many studies were published regarding the benefits of coffee, including enhancing cognition, which is the mental action of acquiring knowledge, judgment, reasoning, comprehension and understanding through thought, experience and the senses. In addition to that, coffee lessens the chances of developing depressive symptoms.
Throughout its interaction with Adenosine receptors in the brain as well as increasing the levels of Epinephrine and dopamine, caffeine induces the feelings of alertness and attention. Adenosine is a chemical in the central nervous system responsible for your cycles of sleeping and waking.
However, high consumption of unfiltered caffeine, boiled and espresso is associated with mild elevation in cholesterol levels. Some studies show that two or more cups of coffee a day increase the risk of heart diseases, especially for people with slow breaking down of caffeine in their bodies. Furthermore, coffee does not have the nutrients available in milk and juices. Also, adding sugar and cream to your coffee results in an over-500- calories drink! Moreover, coffee stimulates gastric acid leading to gastro esophageal reflux (the return of stomach acid back up to esophagus causing a heartburn) and increasing the contraction of gallbladder. Therefore, those who have gallstones should avoid drinking coffee.

A lot of people say: I drink coffee, yet I fall asleep! How does that happen?
After drinking coffee, %27 of people are exposed to constriction of their blood vessels which results in a less blood flow to the brain for about 10 minutes. Consequently, they feel sleepy. On the other hand, the quick breakdown of caffeine in body causes a sudden dilation of blood vessels and increases the blood flow to the brain. Thus, it makes them feel energetic in case they managed not to fall asleep within 15 minutes.
As a result of consuming caffeine for so long, coffee addicts develop basal vasoconstriction. Thus, cutting out caffeine triggers headache resulting from the sudden dilation of blood vessels. Caffeine is not only found in coffee but also in other products like black tea, green tea, chocolate, cola and energy drinks.
  • Ginkgo biloba: The myth of intelligence and sharp memory. .
Reading about this plant's history reveals its widely use in curing Alzheimer's disease, poor memory and blood circulation diseases. Ginkgo contains Flavonoid and Terpenoid antioxidants which improve blood circulation through dilating blood vessels and reduces platelet aggregation.
A study published on Mayoclinic website proves the efficiency of Ginkgo herb in reducing the symptoms of cerebral insufficiency which include poor concentration, anxiety, decreased physical performance and fatigue. However, this study was graded as B, which means that more studies regarding this topic are needed.
Now what about Ginkgo biloba side effects, and is it risky to use it?
US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not strictly classify herbs and dietary supplements. Therefore, there is no guarantee of the effectiveness and purity of the products which leads to various effects.
To avoid bleeding, people with blood congelation or taking anticoagulants "blood thinners" like Aspirin must use Ginkgo biloba cautiously and avoid taking it before surgeries. Also, avoid using it when allergic to mango rind, sumac, poison ivy, poison oak and cashews in order to avoid cross-sensitivity. Ginkgo might cause alteration in Insulin levels. Constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, increased appetite, hypomania, poor concentration, gastrointestinal pain and withdrawal syndrome and dependency.
  • Dietary supplements like Dynamisan and Dynamic top.
Such supplements contain amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It is well known that the body needs these elements but in very small amounts. However, the lack of such elements can cause serious health deterioration. For instance, the lack of vitamin B causes nerve issues, memory issues, fatigue and poor concentration. Also, vitamin B6 helps producing Norepinephrine and Serotonin neurotransmitters as well as Myelin, which is a protein surrounding nerve cells.
Dynamisan contains amino acid Glutamate, a nerve impulse associated with the ability to remember and learn. It also contains Zinc, the lack of which affects growth and causes loss of hair and appetite.
Following a healthy, balanced diet would make you needless of dietary supplements since the body gets rid of the excess portions of it anyway.
Hanady Hjazy
Pharmacist who cares about health and nutrition, looking to aware people for proper consumption of medicine.