Ginkgo Biloba is a popular tree whose leaves and other parts have provided medical benefits over the years. It was used in ancient China for various health benefits such as increasing levels of energy and dealing with asthma, among others.
Research done on it in the modern days shows that it has even more benefits to offer that are linked to blood circulation and the brain.
We take an in-depth look at Gingko Biloba to help you understand it better.
What is Ginkgo Biloba
Gingko Biloba is a tree that is believed to be the longest living species in the world, which belongs to a division called Ginkgophyta.
This tree species has been around for more than 190 million years and it can grow up to 130 feet in height and live up to 1000 years (1).
It is mostly found in Asian countries like Korea, China, and Japan but is also available in the USA and Europe. Scientists see it as a living fossil for having stood the test of time and being able to exist in an era where other tree species of its kind are extinct.
Initially, it was used for handling kidney disorders, bronchitis, asthma, bladder disorders, and for energy in China.
Royal court members also used ginkgo nuts to help with senility.
However, in this modern age, it has been found to bring about brain improving benefits as well.
Its extracts are used to help with problems related to circulation, memory, and blood, and it also makes good tea with its leaves dried.
It is also used in cosmetics to help with skin improvement.
Products made from the leaf extracts of ginkgo Biloba have been approved by the Norwegian Medicines Agency in Norwegia for blood circulation improvement purposes (2).
Other names used to refer to ginkgo are fossil tree, maidenhair tree, ginkgo seed, Kew tree, ginkgo leaf extract, ginkgo leaf extract, Yinhsing, adiantifolia, tebonin, arbe fosille, ginkgo folium, herba ginkgo biloba, abricot argenté, Japonais, Arbre du Ciel, pei go su ye, graine de ginkgo, rökan, baiguo, yen xing, tanakan, salisburia adiantifolia, and bai guo ye, among others.
History of Ginkgo Biloba
The ginkgo supplement can be traced back to China where the ginkgo tree has been existing for many centuries. In traditional China, it was considered a good medicinal tree and food as well, and it served great benefits for both purposes (3)(4)(5).
The three people who are mentioned around ginkgo biloba are Engelbert Kaempfer, William Hamilton and Linnaeus.
Engelbert was the one who discovered it first, back in the 1600s, and Linnaeus gave it the name “Ginkgo Biloba ” in the early 1700s, where the name means a silver plume that has got two lobes.
When it was brought to America in the 1780s, it was put in William Hamilton’s garden.
From that time, it has spread to different areas of the world even as researchers are more interested in finding out more about it and understanding its properties and mechanisms of action in humans.
How Ginkgo Biloba Works
Experts believe that Ginkgo has a number of ways through which it influences the human body.
First, it is said to improve the circulation of blood that helps other body parts like the eyes, brain, and legs perform much better as with the improvement of blood circulation, more nutrients and oxygen are able to be easily absorbed and properly utilized (9)(10).
Secondly, it has terpene lactones and ginkgo flavone glycosides that are able to protect the body against free radicals that bring about oxidative cell damage which shows ginkgo’s abilities to fight bacteria and handle infections (11).
These two substances also improve the utilization of cerebral glucose, regulation of the release of various neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, influencing the vasomotor system, and reduction of platelet aggregation as well.
It also provides protection of blood vessels from free radicals that come about through oxidation that can affect blood circulation and it even repairs the destruction that may have already been brought by them (12).
On the same breath, it hinders the PAF receptor (Platelet Activating Factor) which then contributes to improving blood circulation in the body and brain by working on the blood vessels and the viscosity of blood (13).
Ginkgo has also shown natural hindering properties of MAO (Monoamine Oxidase) and these properties allow neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine to remain at their optimal levels which helps with cognition (14).
Benefits of Ginkgo Biloba
Here are some of the benefits that are associated with taking ginkgo biloba:
1. Reducing inflammation – Human studies on ginkgo have found that it has effects that are promising when it comes to dealing with health conditions that are caused by inflammation such as arthritis, heart disease, stroke, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (15)(16)(17).
2. Treating diseases related to poor blood flow – Because of its capabilities in improving the circulation of blood in the body and brain, ginkgo can have a positive effect in health conditions that are linked to poor blood flow (18)(19)(20)(21).
3. Dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and different types of dementia – A few studies have shown that ginkgo has the potential to help treat mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, and some forms of dementia. Although the studies are few and limited. When it is combined with conventional treatment, it has shown rewarding benefits. Some studies have revealed that it can improve the condition of patients with mild Alzheimer’s. Also, if it used for about 5 to 6 months by dementia patients, it can help too. Although, more research is required in this area (22)(23)(24)(25)(26).
4. Improving brain performance – Through its ability to increase blood flow and also modulate certain neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, it can improve learning abilities, motivation, and enhance overall brain performance. It can also reduce cognitive decline effects associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Not only does it work for cognitively impaired people but studies have also shown that it may help healthy people improve their mental performance as well (27)(28)(29).
A study showed that it improved the neuropsychological processes of healthy adults who were above 60 years (30).
Since the studies in this area are limited and contrasting, more research is required to confirm the age bracket of healthy people who can benefit from it as well as how effective it helps people struggling with cognitive decline (31)(32).
5. Reduction in anxiety – The antioxidant properties in ginkgo biloba may contribute to reducing anxiety. Studies using different doses of ginkgo ranging from 240mg to 480mg showed that it works on anxiety and the higher doses within this range brought better results (33)(34)(35).
6. Treatment of depression – A couple of studies have shown that it may deal with stress and depression symptoms due to the ability to reduce inflammation which allows the body to handle high stress levels (36)(37).
7. Improving eye health – Few studies have shown that when it comes to eye health, ginkgo may prove beneficial as it increases blood flow to the eye which improves vision.
A study on how ginkgo helps with age-related macular degeneration worked with 2 trials on this. One in France where 20 people were given 90mg of ginkgo twice a day or placebo and another group of 90 people in Germany were given 2 different doses of ginkgo extract, 240mg per day and 60mg per day for 6 months. The results showed that there were positive effects on vision improvement for both groups although their results couldn’t get pooled (38).
Another study showed that it could be potentially effective in glaucoma treatment although the data is limited (39).
More research on this aspect can help us understand how effective ginkgo can be and who between healthy people and visually impaired people it is of most benefit to.
8. Treating headaches and migraine – The fact that is was continually used in China for migraines, it shows that they benefited from it in that aspect.
Research also shows that it could treat the types of headaches that are linked to too much stress and reduced blood flow thanks to its properties of antioxidation and anti-inflammation (40).
9. Improving symptoms of asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – Ginkgo can help treat respiratory conditions that are associated with inflammation like asthma and COPD as it is able to reduce inflammation (41)(42)(43).
10. Reducing PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) symptoms – One study that was aimed at determining how ginkgo affects PMS found that it can manage the symptoms, both the psychological as well as the physical ones. Compared to the people who had improved on the same symptoms due to placebo, the group that took ginkgo showed much better results (44).
11. Improving sexually related conditions – Ginkgo has portrayed the patients to deal with erectile dysfunction symptoms caused by low blood flow by increasing the flow of blood through increasing blood levels of nitric oxide. However, it didn’t show any positive effects when it came to dealing with erectile dysfunction caused by using drugs for depression. A study that combined ginkgo with therapy concluded that it can heighten sexual desire in women who may be receiving sex-related psychotherapy. On its own, it can’t help much on this issue (45)(46).
12. Improving memory – Ginkgo can improve various memory aspects in both cognitively impaired people and healthy people. For healthy people, it showed the potential to enhance aspects like information recall, recognition, and others in young, middle-aged, and older people. It also showed the ability to enhance memory in people suffering from mild to moderate dementia (47)(48)(49)(50)(51).
13. Increasing energy levels – Ginkgo may improve endurance and muscle performance due to the fact that it increases blood flow that helps with a good supply of oxygen and nutrients in the body (52).
14. Improving symptoms of Schizophrenia – Ginkgo can improve symptoms of schizophrenia through the reduction of movements that occur involuntary and repetitively (tardive dyskinesia) in schizophrenia patients. When taken together with drugs such as clozapine, haloperidol, and olanzapine, it improved these symptoms. Also, when used as a complement to regular therapy, an improvement was noted. (53)(54)(55)(56)(57)(58)(59)(60).
15. Improving the appearance of skin – Ginkgo based products for skin improvement have helped with reducing skin wrinkles and roughness, increasing skin elasticity, improving skin pigmentation, enhancing smoothness and moisturization, and boosting skin barrier function. Studies that used it together with other skin-improving ingredients like vitamin A, rooibos, green tea, porphyria, vitamin C, soybean, and Vitamin E, concluded that they brought good results (61)(62)(63)(64)(65).
16. Managing diabetes and its complications – Clinical trials on ginkgo show that it may help manage symptoms of diabetes and deal with the complications that come with it. One study concluded that it increases pancreatic cell activity linked to insulin, reduces insulin resistance and mortality risks, and it improves glycemic control and effectiveness of metformin, which is an anti-diabetic drug (66)(67)(68)(69)(70)(71)(72)(73)(74)(75)(76)(77)(78).
User Reviews on Ginkgo Biloba
While we understand that reading customer reviews of this supplement may help with understanding its benefits and value to users, we strongly recommend that you visit a doctor first before using it.
You should also not consider the reviews to be a replacement for professional medical advice and caution. The results you see here are for other people and don’t necessarily reflect the exact results you are bound to get from it since you are different from them in terms of brain and body chemistry as well as current health status.
Heed the warnings regarding interactions! I was using Gingko for three weeks to improve my memory. My Rhuematologist prescribed Ibuprofen twice daily for my arthritis and did not ask if I was taking anything. Two weeks later, a massive bruise suddenly appeared on my wrist. It was four inches across and traveled half way up my inner arm. It was hot to the touch and quite swollen. I had not injured myself and had no idea why this was happening, so looked online to see if I could self-diagnose and found the contraindications of taking the two medications together. Thank goodness the bleeding was on my arm and not internal. I stopped taking the Gingko right away. Please investigate. I wish the doctor had asked, because I had no idea.
Ginko definitely helps me remember things. I tend to have poor short term memory, aka, don’t forget to bring this item with me today – walks out door – forgets item. Definitely been much better with that sort of stuff since taking ginko.
Ginko is amazing for me, but only works once every couple of months. I take it, I can think more clearly and am able to remember things I wanted to do months ago. I will also have a better mindset of approaching problems I couldn’t solve previously. But if I take it the next day, all I get is a heachache and racing thoughts. Never really understood this one, I react poorly to cholinergics but not this one apparently.
I’ve been taking Rexall Ginkgo Biloba 120mg once a day for over 10 years now. I do technical work and I’ve noticed it does help my memory especially names and locations. Now that I’m in my 50’s I’m considering upping my dosage.
After one week of taking this product, I started waking up with a feeling of dread. I stopped it & the feeling went away.
How to Take Gingko Biloba
Even though there is no confirmed dosage for ginkgo biloba, doses ranging from 120mg to 600mg have been reported to be well-tolerated, safe and effective, especially with memory enhancement (81)(82)(83)(84).
This dosage can be taken all at once or it can be split into 2 or 3 doses spread throughout the day and taken with food.
Overdosing might put you at great risk of getting thyroid or liver cancer.
It is advisable to start with a low dosage and slowly increase it to the highest recommended dosage as you keep using it. You should also be patient as you use as results may take around 1 month to 1 and a half months to be noticed.
Ginkgo is available in various forms like tablets capsules, dried leaves for you to make tea with, and liquid extract.
Children, breastfeeding women and pregnant women, epileptic people, people who are allergic to alkylphenols, and those taking blood thinners are advised not to take it.
Talk to your doctor before taking the supplement so that you are well-advised if it is a good fit for you and how you should take it for your particular case.
Side Effects of Ginkgo Biloba
The side effects experienced from taking ginkgo are usually very mild for many adults although for some they could be quite risky.
The mild side effects include headaches, nausea, stomachaches, constipation, faster heartbeats, diarrhea, dizziness, and allergic reactions (87).
Some medications that may bring negative effects when combined with ginkgo are antiplatelet drugs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Tylenol and ibuprofen, antidepressants, blood thinners, diabetes drugs, anticonvulsants as well as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft and Prozac (90)(91).
That is why it is important to talk to your doctor before you take ginkgo biloba for proper guidance on how to go about it.
If you notice any side effects, you should stop taking it immediately and seek medical attention.
Stacking With Ginkgo Biloba
Stacking is taking two or more supplements together that are known to have certain benefits so that you increase their effectiveness and also reduce the side effects that come with one or all of them.
Ginkgo biloba can be stacked with other supplements and bring a noticeable difference in the user.
Some of the stacks that can work well for it include:
– Ginkgo, Ashwagandha, and Gotu kola. Gotu kola is a supplement that has energy-boosting benefits. It is also able to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, something that it has in common with ginkgo and ashwagandha. Taking this stack can help improve your moods, energy levels, and boost your mental performance.
– Ginkgo and vinpocetine. The benefit that vinpocetine has which are similar to ginkgo is memory enhancement. It is also known to protect the brain and increase blood circulation. Taking them will help increase memory enhancement effects and other benefits.
– Gingko, Porphyra, and vitamins A, B, and C. Studies have shown that taking ginkgo combined with vitamins helps with improving your skin by increasing moisturization, reducing wrinkles, and roughness as well as enhancing skin barrier function (link).
Essentially, ginkgo is a supplement that has been found to have numerous health benefits. Although, it works on some benefits, as listed above, but not all the benefits it is claimed to have out there.
It is a potentially effective supplement that could be a good treatment for many health conditions. However, more research is required on the areas it has shown potential in to better understand how it works and how exactly it helps the users for even better results.