Ginkgo biloba, also called ginkgo or the maidenhair tree, is an unusually flowering plant. An interesting fact about this species is it is the only living one in the division, Ginkgophyta, while all others are extinct. Gingko is a native to China, where the tree is widely cultivated and used extensively for its multiple medicinal benefits. It is a traditionally used medicine as well as a source of food in the China.
Health Benefits of Gingko Biloba
The health benefits of Gingko Biloba are explained beneath:
The unstable oxygen molecules released during various metabolic processes of the body can accumulate and cause significant damage to the normal cells and tissues. These unstable molecules, called free radicals, can also damage the genetic structures in the cells resulting in mutations, which can contribute to the development of cancer and other health problems.
Ginkgo biloba possesses strong antioxidant properties that can help combat the free radicals and repair the molecular damage. Research suggests that antioxidants in the Ginkgo biloba extract play an important role in preventing and delaying various disorders including heart diseases, cancer, and degenerative diseases. Antioxidants can also slow down the age related damage to the cells, thus delaying the effect of aging.
A study has proved that Gingko can increase the memory of a person and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. During the study, 60 mg extract of Ginkgo biloba was administered to the healthy middle-aged volunteers in combination with 100 mg extract of ginseng.
The effect of the herbs on various aspects of cognitive functions was assessed over a period of 14 weeks. The volunteers were also tested for and asked questions to assess their mood states, overall quality of life, and the sleep. The repeated assessment of the participants showed a significant improvement in their Index of Memory Quality. (1)
The study also reflected on the improvement in different aspects of memory, such as long-term and working memory. This enhancement in memory was observed throughout the 12-week period of dosing and during a period of 2 weeks thereafter when the treatment was stopped. The study proved the ability of Gingko in improving memory, sleep, and cognitive functions. Its use is highly recommended for improving the academic and professional performance of individuals. It can also be used by the people suffering from neurodegenerative disorders to increase their memory, and retention power, and enhance the overall quality of life. It can slow down the progressions of the disease and prevent cognitive decline to a great extent.
Research conducted to understand the effect of Ginkgo biloba extract on various mechanisms in the body indicated that this herb can help in managing several neurological disorders. It was found that Ginkgo biloba plays a role in treating impairments in activities of daily living (ADL), inflammation, edema, and free-radical toxicity linked to various neurological disorders including traumatic brain injury (TBI), cerebrovascular stroke, aging, and vaso-occlusive disorders. (2)
Ginkgo has been shown to act centrally and peripherally on the nervous system thus affecting the electrochemical, neurologic, physiologic, and vascular systems. It has shown promising results in the patients suffering from the age-related complications related to the nervous system such as loss of memory, and reduced ability for information processing.
Improves psychomotor performance
A randomized, placebo-controlled and double-blind study conducted to know the effect of Ginkgo biloba on the psychomotor performance showed encouraging results. (3)
The study involved administering different doses of Gingko to the volunteers aged between 30 to 59 years.
The results confirmed that Ginkgo biloba extract produces a favorable effect on various aspects of cognition such as memory, and psychomotor performance. Psychomotor performance involves coordination of the sensory or cognitive process and the motor activities of the nervous system. A higher psychomotor performance enables a person to act faster and in an appropriate way based on the inputs received by the sensory nerves. It coordinates the motor activities of a person such as running, driving, walking or balancing in response to any sensory stimuli. It also increases the uptake of glucose by the brain cells, which leads to an improved transmission of nerve signals resulting in better sensory-motor coordination. Gingko, by improving the psychomotor performance of a person, allows him to respond better to the unusual and stressful situations and prevents potential harm.
Alzheimer’s disease is a common neuro-degenerative disorder in the patients above 60 years of age. Loss of memory, cognitive decline, and loss of coordination are the characteristic symptoms of this disease, which affect the quality of patient’s life resulting in dependency. Protein degradation caused due to the mitochondrial failure, and oxidative stress is the factor that leads to faster degeneration of the nerve cells and the brain resulting in an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. These factors lead to reduced neurotransmission, hyperphosphorylation, and synapse loss which form the early stages in the development of this disease. (4)
A growing volume of data confirms that the use of Ginkgo biloba extract can help reduce the oxidative stress and improve the mitochondrial respiration thus slowing down or preventing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. It also produces a protective effect on the nervous system by increasing the production of adenosine triphosphate in neurons.
It also produces an anti-inflammatory action and reduces the damage to the neurons. It has been shown to improve the cerebral blood flow thus enhancing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, which helps to boost its functions including memory. This effect is particularly beneficial for the patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease due to multi-infarct dementia. Ginkgo biloba improves their social behavior, boosts their thinking, learning, and memory, and makes it easier for them to perform daily activities. It can also help in the management of age-associated dementia, and cerebral insufficiency that are caused due to the oxidative damage and mitochondrial abnormalities. Gingko can help in slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by boosting the cognitive abilities, and memory of the patients thus improving the quality of their life.
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive disorder affecting the motor functions like movements. The condition worsens over a period of time resulting in restricted mobility and even dependency. It affects the nerve cells in the brain, which produce dopamine resulting in the lower production of this chemical substance. This leads to symptoms like muscle rigidity, fine tremors, loss of muscle coordination, and changes in gait and speech. The lack of dopamine caused by Parkinson’s disease can be corrected by using Gingko. It increases the blood supply to the brain thus allowing more amount of the depleted dopamine to be circulated through the areas where it is needed the most.
Intermittent claudication is a condition that causes cramping pain in the legs typically after a strenuous physical activity. It occurs due to the poor circulation of blood in the legs as a result of an obstruction in the arteries. It also causes an aching, tired, and burning sensation in the legs, which comes periodically and subsides in a few minutes. The pain typically goes away with rest. Intermittent claudication can occur in one or both legs and continue to worsen over time. Gingko can help in treating this condition by acting as a vasodilator. It improves the blood circulation in the legs and prevents pain and fatigue thus allowing a person to perform physical activities for a longer period of time.
Anxiety disorder is a form of psychological condition that is characterized by a feeling of fear and phobia. Unlike in normal individuals, who too may feel anxious for some reasons, in the patients with an anxiety disorder, the feeling of anxiety does not go away and may get worse over time. It can interfere with their daily activities and affect their job performance, relationships, and school work.
One preliminary study has found that the use of ginkgo extract can help control anxiety. The study found that the people who were given the Gingko Biloba extract responded better to a stressful situation than those who were given a placebo. It has been found to be beneficial in the treatment of several forms of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorders, and panic disorders.
Patients suffering from depression due to varying degrees of vascular insufficiency have noted remarkable improvement in the mood following the use of ginkgo biloba extract. Patients with depression have found that Gingko can enhance the effect of other treatments and thus, assist in faster recovery. Regular use of Gingko has been associated with a lower incidence of relapse of depression. In case of mild depression, Gingko can help control the symptoms even without the use of any pharmaceutical treatment.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Ginkgo has been widely touted as a “brain herb” thanks to its neuroprotective and performance enhancing properties. Some studies have shown that it helps in the management of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a condition characterized by reduced attention span, hyperactive behavior, and impulsivity. It is a behavioral disorder that is more common in children. Regular use of gingko in a dose of 240 mg per day can help in treating these symptoms of ADHD. It can improve the social skills of the affected children and enhance their overall performance by increasing their attention span and ability to concentrate.
Gingko has been found to be useful in the management of glaucoma. It can help to delay the progress of the disease and prevent vision loss. Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to the optic nerve. The condition tends to gets worse over time and can lead to permanent vision loss. The damage to the optic nerve can occur due to high intraocular pressure. One study has found that taking 120 mg of ginkgo daily for 8 weeks can lead to an improvement in the vision in the patients with glaucoma. It helps maintain the intraocular pressure and prevents strain on the eyes, and the optic nerves. It also works as a neuroprotective agent and protects the nerves from damage. It also produces a strong antioxidant action thus preventing loss of vision due to the effect of free radicals on the optic nerves.
Gingko Biloba can help in the management of tinnitus. Tinnitus is not a condition, but a symptom of an underlying condition, like an ear injury, age-related hearing loss, or a circulatory system disorder. Labyrinthitis is another common cause of tinnitus that affects the labyrinth in the middle ear. The common symptoms of this condition include ringing and buzzing sounds in the ears, and dizziness.
Gingko helps in treating tinnitus through a variety of mechanisms. Its beneficial action is related to its antioxidant, and receptor modulatory properties. It can provide relief from the symptoms of tinnitus by minimizing the damage to the middle ear and by modifying the response of the nerves to any abnormal sensation or sounds.
Ginkgo biloba also improves the functions of the nerve cells, and platelets and restores the mitochondrial structures, which help correct the imbalances caused by Labyrinthitis. It also boosts the blood flow to the nervous system, which helps to restore the functions of the nerves in the middle ear. These actions of Gingko can provide significant relief from the symptoms of tinnitus.
Macular degeneration is an age-related degenerative condition that affects the retina resulting in a loss of vision. It is a major cause of blindness in the aging population. Some studies suggest that the use of ginkgo extract can help preserve vision in the patients with macular degeneration. It contains flavonoids that work as antioxidants and protect the retina from the damage caused by free radicals and slow down the degenerative process.
Ginkgo biloba also improves the nerve cell and platelet functions and boosts the blood flow to the brain and the nervous system. It has also been shown to reduce the viscosity of blood, which increases the vascular dilation thereby reducing the damage caused by macular degeneration.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual syndrome is a common problem affecting women. It causes symptoms like frequent mood disturbances, pain, and heaviness in the breasts, cramps, and abdominal pain. The symptoms typically occur 2 to 3 days before the menstrual period and subside once the menses begin. Two studies have found that ginkgo can help reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. The women in the studies were administered ginkgo extract from the 16th day of their menstrual cycle till the fifth day of the next cycle over several months. The participants reported to have obtained considerable relief from the symptoms of this condition.
Regular use of Gingko Biloba can help in preventing myocardial infarction. This benefit can be attributed to its anti-platelet activating property. It prevents the clotting of blood by inhibiting the action of platelets and thus, reduces the risk of blocks in the blood vessels. Patients who have suffered a heart attack are also advised to use Gingko to reduce the risk of recurrence. However, it should be noted that this beneficial anticoagulant action of Gingko may be counterproductive for the patients who also suffer from bleeding tendencies or peptic ulcers as it can aggravate their existing condition.
Gingko Biloba can help in the prevention and treatment of cerebrovascular stroke. This benefit can also be attributed to the anti-platelet action produced by the herb. It prevents clotting of blood in the arteries of the brain thus preventing the attack of strokes. It’s also believed to work by producing an antioxidant action and inhibiting the free-radical damage of the brain cells after the patient has developed a stroke. It can improve the functions of the nerves and assist in the faster recovery of the patients by restoring the sensory and motor functions that were hampered due to the attack.
Ginkgo biloba is also useful in the treatment of impotence and male disorders like erectile dysfunctions and premature ejaculation. Poor blood supply into the penile tissue is the main cause of erectile dysfunctions. Ginkgo can help in treating this problem by increasing the blood flow to the penile tissue and allow the person to achieve and maintain an erection. It also increases the spermatozoa count and spermatozoa motility thus increasing the chances of conception in the female partner.
Ginkgo Biloba Dosage
|The general dosage of Ginkgo Biloba Extract (50:1 concentrated extract) is as follows.|
|Children||40 to 120 mg *|
|Adults||120 to 240 mg *|
|Older Adults||40 to 120 mg *|
|* Once daily or divided dosage can be taken twice or thrice daily.|
Ginkgo Biloba Side Effects
Ginkgo can produce a few undesirable side effects, especially in the patients suffering from the blood circulation disorders and those taking anticoagulant medications like aspirin or warfarin. It may affect the anticoagulant action of warfarin and increase the risk of abnormal bleeding. Hence, the use of Gingko should be done with caution by the patients using these medicines and the herbs known to increase bleeding such as garlic, and ginger.
Some other side effects of Gingko include gastrointestinal discomfort, vomiting, nausea, pain in the abdomen, loose motions, headaches, dizziness, palpitations, and restlessness.
Pregnant women should avoid using Gingko as it can increase the bleeding time causing excessive blood loss during labor. Women with menstrual irregularities like menorrhagia and polymenorrhea should also avoid using this herb as it can increase the menstrual flow causing iron deficiency anemia.
An allergic reaction to Gingko may occur resulting in skin rashes, itching, swelling of the face and lips, and breathing difficulties.