Ginkgo Biloba: Benefits And Side Effects

Ginkgo Biloba

What is GinkGo?

Ginkgo, also referred to as Ginkgo biloba and the Maidenhair Tree, is a very unique deciduous tree that is thought to have no living relatives. Described by Charles Darwin as a living fossil, Ginkgo trees have been around for over 250 million years – that means they were around in the same state when dinosaurs roamed the earth!

Being native to China, Ginkgo has been saved from extinction by the cultural significance the Chinese people have placed on the tree. The trees themselves are often planted around temples, whilst the nuts of the tree are used in traditional Chinese medicine, and the leaves in modern practices.

The tree itself can grow up to 50 meters tall, although it is more common for their growth to peak at around 35 meters. It has an almost bizarre appearance, as the branches grow in very erratic patterns, making it often look patchy and asymmetrical.

It is the leaves that are of most interest, as recent scientific investigation has shown the chemical compounds within them contain valuable neuro-protective properties, as well as improving circulatory function.

History Of Ginkgo

History of Ginkgo

Ginkgo trees are thought to be the oldest living trees in the world. Some species have been dated back all the way to the Permian Period, around 248 – 286 million years ago! Scientists have discovered fossils that suggest species of Ginkgo were wide spread throughout Europe, Asia and America. However, only one species, Ginkgo biloba exists to this day.

The survival of Ginkgo biloba was found by German scientist to be because of its outstanding adaptability and evolution. Through this, it managed to survive through the ice age where other Ginkgo species fell. This adaption means they are different to their ancient counterparts, but not necessarily for the worse, as they hold a lot of medicinal value.

To give you an example of the adaptability and resilience of Ginkgo, consider this: there is a particularly large and ancient Ginkgo tree growing in Hiroshima just 1.1 kilometers from where the atomic bomb was dropped. After the war, the tree was still standing, healthy and to this day has shown no signs of deformity.

The awesome qualities of Ginkgo were first recognized by the Chinese. The Ginkgo nut has been used for over 5000 years to treat such ailments as asthma and polyuria. However, mainstream medical use of the nuts were not recorded until 1578. Even though Ginkgo has been used for millennia, it was not until the 1950’s when Western medicine started looking at its use.

This led to the discovery of its potent chemical compounds and the potential application of the leaves of the Ginkgo tree, which have now been entered into the Chinese Materia Medica and are used as an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine. To this day, Ginkgo is the most used herbal supplement in the world for enhancing cognitive function.

Effects Of Ginkgo

Scientific Research Suggests That Ginkgo Could Be Used To Help Treat Alzheimer’s

The main benefits that can be gained from taking Ginkgo are increased cognitive performance, improved circulation, protection of nerve tissue, and protection from free-radicals (anti-oxidant). These have implications for a number of conditions and ailments. Most notably, scientific research suggests that Ginkgo could be used to help treat Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The compounds within Ginkgo not only protect cells from deterioration, but also enhance memory and cognitive function. Although more clinical research is required, what research has taken place suggests that the use of Ginkgo could be as effective as prescribed acetylcholinesterase inhibitor drugs.

Other popular uses of Ginkgo include the treatment of dizziness and tinnitus. The enhanced blood flow to the central nervous system can reduce the impact of nerve-related disorders, thus cutting down on their symptoms. It is worth noting that nerve-related disorders such as dizziness, vertigo and tinnitus are hard to treat, but Ginkgo can offer some degree of relief for people, even if it is only a little.

This leads onto the other major use of Ginkgo, as a circulation booster. Those with poor circulation such as those who suffer from low blood pressure, Raynaud’s syndrome, altitude sickness and intermittent claudication can benefit from Ginkgo’s ability to boost circulatory function.

Ginkgo affects a wide range of systems within the body, by supporting the circulatory system, protecting cells and improving cognitive function, all organs within the body benefit. This makes Ginkgo an ideal daily supplement, and it is not unknown for some health professionals to recommend its use as an addition for a wide range of ailments, from MS to frost bite!

Disclaimer: We are not health professionals, seek the advice of a medical professional if in doubt.

Side effects of Ginkgo

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.

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