Everything You Need To Know About Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba: Everything You Need To Know

Ginkgo biloba is one of the most popular herbal supplements. People take it to improve memory function and circulation, and as a remedy for headaches and many other ailments. Here is everything you need to know about Ginkgo biloba.

WHAT IS GINKGO BILOBA

Ginkgo biloba, also known as maidenhair, is a tree native to Eastern China. The Ginkgo tree is the only surviving member of an ancient order of plants called Ginkgophyta, which is why it is also sometimes referred to as a living fossil. In China, the Ginkgo tree has been cultivated since antiquity, where it played (and still plays) an important role in traditional medicine.

Although both the leaves and the seeds of Ginkgo biloba (also “ginkgo” or “gingko”) were historically utilised in traditional medicine, modern ginkgo extracts are usually made from the leaves only. Available in capsule form, liquid form, or as powder, they are among the most popular herbal supplements.

Ginkgo biloba is thought to have numerous health benefits. People take it to improve blood circulation and brain function, but those are only a couple of the plant's healthful benefits. Read on to learn everything you need to known about Ginkgo biloba.

THE HISTORY OF GINKGO BILOBA

THE HISTORY OF GINKGO BILOBA

Ginkgo biloba is the world’s oldest living tree and a true plant fossil, which means that its history goes back a very, very long time. The plant first appeared during the Carboniferous Period, which spans 60 million years from the end of the Devonian Period (358.9 million years ago). Ginkgo trees are thought to have survived many crises during their long existence, especially once dinosaurs appeared on Earth. For some reason, the species eventually vanished 7 million years ago in America, and about 3 million years ago in Europe. Only in Southeast China have the last survivors of the Ginkgo trees taken refuge.

Buddhist monks in Ancient China held the plants sacred. They planted the trees in the imperial gardens and used them to crown their temples—the sap from ginkgo wood was thought to act as a fire-retardant.

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This is no compilation of cash crops; this is the fruit of forbidden knowledge. If you want to call them drugs, then Mother Nature is the dealer.

It was only much later in the 17th century that Ginkgo biloba became known in Europe. German botanist Engelbert Kaempfer discovered and categorised the plant during his travels in Asia from 1690 until 1692. He wrote about the plant in his book Amoenitatum exoticarum in 1712.

Some of the oldest Ginkgo trees in Europe were planted shortly after that time in the botanical gardens of London, in the Netherlands, and in France. Ginkgo biloba finally made its way to the US in 1784, where the first trees were planted in Philadelphia.

BENEFITS OF GINKGO BILOBA

BENEFITS OF GINKGO BILOBA

One of the most common reasons people use ginkgo today is for its purported ability to reduce age-related cognitive decline. But aside from that, Ginkgo biloba has a laundry list of other potential benefits. Here are some of the most notable:

1. BENEFITS BLOOD CIRCULATION AND A HEALTHY HEART

Many of the health benefits of ginkgo are believed to stem from its ability to increase blood flow to various parts of the body. A study published in 2008 found that an extract of Ginkgo biloba improved artery circulation in patients with coronary artery disease. When the researchers administered the supplement to patients, they saw a 12% increase in nitric oxide circulation, which is a compound that dilates blood vessels.

Another medical study performed on a group of elderly adults also showed that ginkgo improved coronary blood flow. There is further scientific evidence to suggest that Ginkgo biloba doesn’t only improve blood flow itself, but may actively support robust heart health as well.

2. IS A POWERFUL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY

Inflammation is a natural defence mechanism of the body to ward off harmful organisms and substances. But some diseases, such as rheumatism and arthritis, trigger an inflammatory response even if no injury is present.

In animal studies, Ginkgo biloba has been shown to help diminish overreaction of the body’s immune system by reducing the inflammatory response. This suggests that Ginkgo biloba may be beneficial for treating conditions such as arthritis, irritable bowel disease, heart disease, and many other autoimmune diseases.

3. MAY HELP WITH DEMENTIA AND ALZHEIMER’S

A review of 21 medical studies suggests that Ginkgo biloba extract may indeed be beneficial to improving cognitive impairment in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

The research found that “Ginkgo biloba is potentially beneficial for the improvement of cognitive function, activities of daily living, and global clinical assessment in patients with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease”.

However, the review cautions that more research and trials are needed to confirm the effectiveness of ginkgo for treating Alzheimer’s.

Similar promising results are coming from a study on patients suffering from dementia. The study, which was published in 2018, found that “Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761® improved BPSD (except psychotic-like features) and caregiver distress caused by such symptoms” (Note: BPSD stands for behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia).

Here too it is believed that the potentially beneficial effect of Ginkgo biloba may be due to its ability to increase blood flow to the brain.

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4. CAN HELP WITH DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

Ginkgo biloba supplements may possibly also help with depression and anxiety, according to several studies. In research conducted on mice, it was found that those subjects who received ginkgo were less emotionally affected by stress compared to the group of animals who didn’t receive the extract.

It is believed that the stress-relieving effect of ginkgo may be down to its anti-inflammatory action, which supports the body in coping with stressful situations. On the other hand, it remains to be seen whether the results from these animal studies will apply to human patients.

Similarly, research also suggests that Ginkgo biloba extract may help with anxiety. 107 young people with anxiety in a randomised, double-blind study performed in Germany were given either 240mg or 48mg of ginkgo, or a placebo. Those patients who received the highest dose of ginkgo reported a 45% greater reduction in symptoms of anxiety compared to those who got the placebo.

5. HAS POWERFUL ANTIOXIDANT PROPERTIES

We’ve already noted ginkgo’s therapeutic action regarding improving blood circulation and mediating the inflammatory response, but it is also a powerful antioxidant. This makes it potentially effective in combating damage from free radicals. This way, ginkgo may help reduce the physical signs of ageing, and perhaps be beneficial in the prevention of various diseases.

One study from 1997 concludes that EGb 761, which is a standardised Ginkgo biloba extract “may decrease atherosclerosis evolution, and is shown to accelerate cardiac mechanical recovery”, which the researchers believe is due to ginkgo containing high amounts of antioxidants such as flavonoids and terpenes.

6. CAN SOOTHE HEADACHES AND MIGRAINES

One of the common uses for ginkgo in Traditional Chinese Medicine is to relieve headaches and migraines. In China, it is the most popular natural remedy for this very purpose.

Researchers suggest that the headache-relieving ability of Ginkgo biloba may be due to its sedative and anti-inflammatory agents. Then again, as mentioned previously, ginkgo's ability to increase blood flow may also play a role, particularly if the headache is related to constricted blood vessels.

IS IT SAFE TO TAKE GINKGO BILOBA?

Ginkgo biloba supplements are generally safe for most people, with little risk for adverse effects. Then again, as with most supplements, some people may be at a greater risk for unwanted side effects, particularly if they are allergic to compounds in the plant or if they exceed the recommended dosage. People taking certain medications should be especially cautious when taking Ginkgo biloba.

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS

Possible Side effects

There is very low risk associated with the use of Ginkgo; however, research has found that Ginkgo can cause unwanted side effects within certain people, more specifically, those who are:

  • Suffering from severe circulatory dysfunctions
  • Taking anticoagulant drugs (such as aspirin)
  • Take certain types of antidepressants (such as MAOI’s and SSRI’s)
  • Pregnant

Note: Recent studies suggest that Ginkgo has a very minimal impact on those taking anticoagulants, but caution is still advised.

Side effects in these conditions include:

  • An increased risk of bleeding
  • Nausea
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhoea
  • Restlessness
  • Heart palpitations

It is worth noting that standard preparations of Ginkgo are considered safe, and side-effects are very rare.

HOW TO TAKE GINKGO BILOBA?

You can find Ginkgo biloba extracts in the form of capsules, powders, and liquids. In some health stores, you can also get dried ginkgo leaves so you can make Ginkgo biloba tea or tinctures. Most studies on the effectiveness and safety of ginkgo are conducted using extracts, which is also the most common form on the market.

If taking pure ginkgo extract, 120–240mg divided into several doses throughout the day is considered safe. Although there is no clearly defined maximum dose for Ginkgo biloba, most studies have not evaluated daily doses greater than 600mg.

When taking a Ginkgo biloba supplement, you should also be aware that it can sometimes take several weeks to produce an effect. Because of this, it is recommended that you start with a low dose first. Only if you don’t see desired results in 4–6 weeks should you gradually increase your dose.

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EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GINKGO BILOBA—BOTTOM LINE

There is plenty of evidence to support Ginkgo biloba’s numerous healthful properties. After all, it is not without good reason that it is one of the most popular herbal supplements. Science so far seems to confirm what many knew to be true for centuries. On the other hand, research is still in the early stages, especially when it comes to treating and preventing specific health conditions with Ginkgo biloba. What’s more, despite the evidence that ginkgo does indeed provide relief for a variety of health conditions, it is still not completely understood how it works. We can look forward to more research in the future so that we can hopefully unveil the full potential behind the ancient Ginkgo biloba.

Disclaimer:
We are not making medical claims. This article has been written for informational purposes only, and is based on research published by other externals sources.

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