What is Ginkgo Biloba?
Ginkgo biloba sometimes referred to as the maidenhair tree, is the only species in the Ginkgophyta division that still lives today, as all other species in this group are extinct.
Ginkgo is found in fossils that are over 250 million years old, and the tree on which it grows was initially introduced to human history in China, where it is still widely cultivated and used as a source of food and in the arena of alternative medicine.
History of Ginkgo Biloba
The medicinal use of ginkgo Biloba has a long and interesting history. The seeds and leaves have been used in both alternative and traditional medicines for centuries. The earliest mention of the plants used as a medicine may date back as far as the Han Dynasty, which was believed to be some time between 205 BC and 220 AD.
The first documented mention of Ginkgo biloba in literature was during 1436 when an herbal practitioner suggested the use of its leaves as a remedy for skin sores. It was not until the 1950s when the Western medical world began to take notice of Ginkgo biloba as a treatment for a broad range of disorders including asthma, macular degeneration and all types of cognitive impairment.
Ginkgo Biloba Medical Uses
According to clinical studies, ginkgo biloba is safe, effective and benefits the body in numerous ways because it exerts protective effects against mitochondrial damage and oxidative stress. However, what makes gingko powerful is because it contains flavonoids and terpenoids that have strong antioxidant properties which is believed to help slow down the progression of age-related diseases by combating oxidative stress that usually worsens as someone ages.
Here are some of the common medical uses of Gingko Biloba
1. Cerebral Insufficiency
Cerebral insufficiency is defined as a lack of proper brain circulation, and research of ginkgo for this disorder has offered positive results. It is believed that the vasodilation action associated with the herb is the reason for these results.
2. Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder–ADHD
Limited research indicates that ginkgo may be equally as effective as methylphenidate–the drug of choice for ADHD symptoms. These benefits are thought to stem from Ginkgo Biloba’s ability to relax blood vessel walls and increase blood circulation to the brain.
3. Memory Enhancement
Evidence exists regarding the benefits of using Ginkgo biloba to improve one’s memory. Studies indicate that young men and women may enjoy enhanced memory, and even those experiencing the normal memory loss that comes with aging may benefit from a daily dose of the herb.
4. Mental Performance After Eating
One of the most popular uses of Ginkgo biloba is to increase mental alertness, particularly after eating. Although further studies are necessary to determine whether or not it has positive effects, preliminary research is promising. Scientists believe it may be due to the way the herb interacts with tryptophan, but clinical trials are necessary to reach a definitive conclusion.
Most scientific studies indicate that ginkgo offers benefits to those who have dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It may improve cognitive function by stimulating alpha brain waves for a short period after the herb is ingested.
6. Generalized Anxiety Disorder–GAD
Ginkgo biloba appears to offer significant benefits to those with generalized anxiety disorder–GAD–and is frequently prescribed by holistic practitioners for this condition. The results of one study indicated that gender and age play no role in how well the benefits are received.
7. Decreased Libido and Erectile Dysfunction
Due to the way it dilates blood vessels, ginkgo is also sometimes used for those suffering from erectile dysfunction.
In an open trial ginkgo biloba, an extract derived from the leaf of the Chinese ginkgo tree and noted for its cerebral enhancing effects, was found to be 84% effective in treating antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction
8. Intermittent Claudication
Intermittent Claudication is a medical term for pain in the legs upon walking as a direct result of clogged arteries. Ginkgo biloba may be effective in decreasing this type of pain. Preliminary studies have put Ginkgo biloba in the spotlight about the treatment of this painful condition. However, it is important to determine the cause of the narrowed or clogged arteries through evaluation by a medical doctor.
9. Diabetic Nephropathy
Ginkgo biloba is currently being studied as a possible holistic treatment for the type of kidney disease that comes from high blood sugar, also known as diabetic nephropathy. The effects of Ginkgo biloba have been studied by numerous health researchers on those with nephropathy from both types I and type II diabetes, and kidney benefits were observed in both groups.
10. Enhanced Energy
Certain research conducted on healthy males indicated that Ginkgo biloba might enhance endurance in those participating in competitive sports or other activities that require high levels of energy.
In simplified terms, glaucoma refers to an increase in eye pressure that may lead to a vast array of vision problems. Studies indicate that ginkgo may offer some advantages to glaucoma patients, such as an improvement of blood flow to the eye and protection from visual field damage; however, additional research is needed regarding this particular use.
In preliminary trials, ginkgo Biloba was somewhat effective in the treatment of those suffering from hemorrhoids. Certain components of ginkgo, such as terpenoids, may reduce the bleeding and pain associated with hemorrhoids, and additional studies are underway to confirm these findings.
13. Skin Aging
A gel-based Ginkgo biloba formula is sometimes used to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines and moisturize the skin. Additional research is necessary to determine if consistent positive effects can be expected.
Proven Ginkgo Biloba Benefits
1. Increases Concentration and Cognitive Function
Research indicates that ginkgo Biloba may be an effective cure for poor concentration and an even cognitive decline in elderly individuals. This is true whether the cognitive impairment is due to the aforementioned cerebral insufficiency or a mere age or hormone related lack of concentration.
Researchers have also discovered that Ginkgo Biloba’s benefits regarding the treatment of cognitive impairment rest on the fact that the herb is a potent anti-inflammatory, boosts antioxidant activity, improves circulation and lowers oxidative stress. All of these factors are essential in the maintenance of cognitive health.
Scientists from the Institute of Medical Psychology at Munich University tested a group of healthy adults and observed their mental performance after consuming a daily dose of Gingko Biloba. The study ran for a full month, and researchers discovered significant differences between the placebo group and the group that consumed the authentic Gingko Biloba supplement.
Individuals who took the supplement experienced better emotional health, higher cognitive performance, a stronger memory and increased energy.
The herb has also been shown to enhance acetylcholine and glutamate levels in the brain, support the proliferation of neural connections, interact with the serotonergic system, and exhibit antioxidant benefits.
2. Reduces Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
Although it is not a cure, scientific studies have linked the use of Ginkgo biloba with the improvement of Alzheimer’s disease and old-age dementia symptoms. In fact ginkgo biloba is “currently the most investigated and adopted herbal remedy for cognitive disorders and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Specific research determined that ginkgo can improve memory and cognitive performance in both younger and older adults, but may be particularly useful for age-related cognitive decline.
For example, a study was completed in 2012 on a group of Alzheimer’s patients who were 80 years of age or older. Some participants were given a placebo, while others consumed a daily Ginkgo biloba supplement.
The trial lasted for one year and according to scores on the Activities of Daily Living Scale and the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale, the group that consumed the Ginkgo Biloba supplement showed a considerably higher quality of life scores than the placebo group.
3. Recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury or Stroke
Ginkgo may also be beneficial to help stroke victims or those who have suffered traumatic brain injury to recover at a faster pace.
In extract form, ginkgo is widely used in China to treat those who have suffered the acute ischemic stroke.
Scientists from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine examined the results of approximately 14 clinical trials and discovered that the extract had positive neurological results for patients in nine of the 14 tests.
4. Helps Fight Depression and Anxiety
Because it is what herbalists refer to as an adaptogen, Ginkgo biloba is believed to increase a person’s natural ability to cope with stress and worry. For this reason, it may be particularly useful to those with depression, social phobias, or individuals who suffer from panic attacks.
Known as an adapotgen herb that naturally raises the body’s ability to cope with trouble and worry, it might be especially helpful for people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and possibly seasonal depression, panic attacks and social phobias, too.
5. PMS Symptoms
Preliminary research indicates the possibility of benefits for women using Ginkgo biloba to reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and certain side effects of menopause. These include mood swings, anxiety, headaches, muscle pain and fatigue.
In 2008, a Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine compared two groups of women suffering from premenstrual syndrome to determine if beneficial effects of Ginkgo Biloba existed. After a six-month trial period, only eight percent of the placebo group reported improvement in symptoms, while almost 30 percent of the group given Ginkgo biloba supplements reported a decrease in symptoms.
6. Eye Health
Although additional studies are still underway, there is evidence that Ginkgo biloba is beneficial to eye health, as it fights free radical damage that can harm the retina, macula, and cornea. It also improves blood flow to the eyes, and luminary research shows that it may be especially beneficial for those over 60 years of age.
Some studies conducted in Europe indicated that using ginkgo supplements may lower a person’s risk for age-related macular degeneration.
The study determined that the benefits are due to the herb’s antioxidant properties and platelet-activating factors. Oxidative damage to the retina and age-related vascular problems are primary causes of age-related eye disorders and vision loss. Ginkgo biloba may be beneficial in mitigating these effects.
7. Helps Prevent or Treat ADHD
Certain studies indicate that ginkgo may boost the effectiveness of certain traditional medications used to treat the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Studies were conducted on participants who were given a combination of a lower than the standard dose of methylphenidate in addition to 600 mg of Ginkgo biloba.
The results showed that this combination therapy was highly beneficial for approximately 58 percent of participants.
8. Improves Libido
Ginkgo has long been studied for its positive effects on hormonal balance, and some researchers believe that it may help certain individuals struggling with low libido or erectile dysfunction.
Again, this benefit is likely due to the way ginkgo improves blood flow and dilates blood vessels.
Also, certain reports show that it may be a potential treatment for the type of sexual dysfunction that occurs as a side effect of antidepressant medications.
9. Headaches and Migraines
Ginkgo may be an effective holistic remedy for frequent headaches due to its ability to increase blood vessel dilation.
Constricted blood flow to the brain is thought to be a cause of both a migraine and ocular headaches.
It is also believed that Ginkgo biloba may lessen the effects of stress and neck tension that can trigger migraines.
10. Lowers Symptoms of Asthma
Certain research has discovered that ginkgo extract can lessen asthma related symptoms.
In one clinical trial, individuals reported fewer breathing problems when taking Ginkgo biloba on a regular basis.
Most researchers believe that these benefits are due to the supplement’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
11. Multiple Sclerosis
Ginkgo Biloba’s platelet-activating factor–PAF-inhibiting properties along with its anti-inflammatory effect may lessen the severity and duration of multiple sclerosis symptoms.
Trials are currently underway to further document this benefit.
Nutrition Facts & Calories of Ginkgo Biloba
Researchers have discovered that there are more than 40 components in ginkgo Biloba.
However, there are only two ingredients that scientists believe are responsible for the healing effects of the supplement: terpenoids and flavonoids.
Ginkgo biloba has approximately two calories per serving, the latter of which is the standard dose for therapeutic purposes, usually 100 milligrams.
Recommended Ginkgo Biloba Dosage
To increase cognitive performance, boost energy, or lessen the symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, certain holistic practitioners have recommended up to 600 milligrams of Ginkgo Biloba.
For erectile dysfunction or decreased libido 240 milligrams is recommended by most herbalists.
The standard dose of Ginkgo biloba suggested by most holistic practitioners is anywhere from 40 milligrams to 300 milligrams daily, taken as a dietary supplement or in liquid extract form. Most experts recommend starting with the lowest dose and increasing until the therapeutic effect is felt.
Possible Ginkgo Biloba Side Effects
Ginkgo biloba is recognized as safe when taken by healthy adults at suggested doses. However, no herbal supplement or natural remedies should be taken to excess. Side effects include increased bleeding, low blood pressure, or sedation and drowsiness. Also, Ginkgo may lower blood sugar levels, and therefore should be used with caution by individuals with hypoglycemia or diabetes.
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