Ginko Biloba

Background

Ginkgo biloba (the scientific name Salisburia adiantifolia) is a medicinal plant from traditional Chinese medicine that is commonly called ‘Maidenhair tree’, and this herbal supplement has a long history of use in treating blood disorders and memory issues. It is best known today as way to potentially keep your memory sharp. The antioxidant properties of ginkgo biloba particularly that of bilobalide, appear to be active at the level of the mitochondria and thus this plant can act as a mitochondrial protective agent.[1]
Ginkgo biloba has been reported to improve cognitive function in older adults and patients with Alzheimer’s disease and multi-infarct dementia.[2] This ancient supplement acts as a nootropic and helps increase blood flow and improve circulation in the brain.

The ginko biloba plant.

Benefits

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine and current clinical studies, Ginko Biloba is an effective natural supplement and it benefits your body in numerous ways because it exerts neuroprotective effects against mitochondrial damage and oxidative stress.[3]
It’s been used in Chinese herbal medicine to treat a variety of medical conditions since ancient times, especially circulatory problems and those related to declining memory. Scientists have found more than 40 components in ginkgo biloba where only two are believed to act as medicine: flavonoids and terpenoids. Flavonoids are plant-based antioxidants. Laboratory and animal studies show that flavonoids protect the nerves, heart muscle, blood vessels, and retina from damage. Terpenoids (such as ginkgolides) improve blood flow by dilating blood vessels and reducing the stickiness of platelets.[4] The most common health benefits of Gingko Biloba include:

  • Improve thinking, learning, and memory (cognitive function)[7]
  • Reduce the risk for dementia of Alzheimer’s disease (AD)[8]
  • Increase focus and concentration[9]
  • Reduce anxiety and depression[10]
  • Effective for people who have glaucoma and improve eye health and ear health[11]
  • Help reduce PMS symptoms[12]
  • Help people with ADHD[13]
  • Helps with sexual dysfunction and low libido[14]
  • Improve vascular health and foster excellent blood flow to the brain[15]

Some early research has shown positive effects of taking ginkgo on reducing PMS symptoms including mood swings, headaches, anxiety, fatigue and muscle pain. It also appears to have beneficial effects on mood and cognition in postmenopausal women and can help improve similar symptoms.
It lowers inflammation, improves antioxidant activity and has positive effects on nerve functioning. People have reported less trouble breathing when taking ginkgo. It also benefits people experiencing painful hemorrhoids. Some studies have found that supplementing with CoQ10 and ginkgo together improved quality of life for people diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a disorder of the nervous system.[5]

How it works

The neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects of Ginkgo Biloba may extend to dopaminergic neurons. In vitro, ginkgo biloba appears to reduce the oxidative damage to neurons that results in less dopamine secretion secondary to preserving membrane fluidity.
When Ginkgo Biloba is taken for memory it may be related to the way that cholinesterase inhibitors work. These chemicals prevent the breakdown of Acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine is the key neurotransmitter involved in basic cognitive function. Ginkgo preserves choline and Acetylcholine in the brain, which in turn promotes healthy growth of neural structures like neurons, and the synaptic connections that form between them. These connections are at the heart of how memories are formed and accessed.[6]
In your body, harmful particles called free radicals build up as you age, and may contribute to heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer disease. Antioxidants like flavonoids and terpenoids in Gingko Biloba fight off those free radicals, and stop them from damaging DNA and other cells.

Considerations

Ginkgo Biloba supplements are considered safe and effective at moderate doses. However, some people might feel an upset stomach or rapid heartbeat, but these effects are temporary. There are some cases when Ginkgo should not be taken, such as just after surgery, and also by babies, toddlers or pregnant women, due to a lack of information on safety in these groups.

Recommendations

To achieve the best effects of Ginkgo Biloba for memory enhancement, most people start with the dosage of 120 mg per day.[16] This can be taken all at once for a more pronounced, shorter effect, or divided over 3 splits for a more mild experience over a longer duration.
It is always recommended that you speak with your doctor to determine the best dosage for your needs, as well as determine any potential interactions with current supplements or medications.

Sources