Ginkgo biloba is a revered living fossil and a cornerstone in traditional Chinese medicine, where it has been used for millennia for various ailments. It has garnered widespread attention for its potential health benefits, particularly in improving brain health and circulation.
This article delves into the multifaceted uses of Ginkgo biloba, exploring its role as a natural antioxidant and its effects on blood flow, especially to the brain, which is crucial in addressing conditions like dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive decline.
By discussing the latest research and expert opinions, including insights from Mayo Clinic, we aim to offer a thorough understanding of Ginkgo biloba’s potential as a nootropic and its role in enhancing mental and overall health.
Could this be the right nootropic for you?
Let’s find out.
What is Ginkgo Biloba?
Ginkgo biloba (also known as Ginkg, Gingko, Fossil Tree, Japanese silver apricot or kew tree) extract is derived from the leaves of the maidenhair tree, with a history that spans over 250 million years.
This is one of the oldest living tree species native to China, and this unique tree is the only surviving member of an ancient order of plants and is often considered a living fossil.
The ginkgo tree is easily recognizable by its fan-shaped leaves, which turn a bright yellow in the fall. These leaves are the source of Ginkgo biloba extract, widely used in herbal supplements. Historically, both the leaves and seeds of the Ginkgo tree have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. However, traditional herbal extracts are made with the Ginkgo biloba leaves, as raw Ginkgo seeds are poisinous.
Ginkgo biloba is rich in active components like flavonoid glycosides (e.g., quercetin, kaempferol) and terpenoids (e.g., ginkgolides, bilobalides). These are antioxidants that protect against oxidative cell damage from harmful free radicals.
This potent natural nootropic extract is renowned for its health-promoting properties. It’s widely used as a herbal supplement to improve memory, support brain function, and enhance overall vascular health.
Research indicates that Ginkgo biloba improves blood circulation and oxygenation, thus playing a pivotal role in treating or mitigating symptoms of various health conditions, including dementia, cognitive disorders, and even eye health problems.(1)
Moreover, Ginkgo biloba has shown efficacy in reducing symptoms associated with anxiety and depression, though its interactions with certain medications, such as antidepressants, warrant caution.
- Enhanced memory, concentration, learning ability, and overall cognitive function
- Improved mood and feeling of well-being
- Enhanced blood flow to the brain and throughout the body
- Neuroprotective effects prevent cognitive decline
- More research is needed to fully understand the effects and safety profile of long-term use
- Consistent use is needed to experience the maximum benefit
Mechanism of Action
Ginkgo biloba’s mechanism of action, particularly its cognitive and circulatory benefits, involves several key biochemical pathways and effects:
- Dilating Blood Vessels: Ginkgo biloba has been shown to dilate blood vessels, which improves blood circulation, including in the brain. This enhanced blood flow leads to better oxygen and nutrient delivery, which is crucial for brain function and overall vascular health. The increased circulation may also play a role in reducing the risk of certain types of vascular-related cognitive decline.
- Antioxidant Properties: Ginkgo contains high levels of flavonoids and terpenoids, compounds known for their strong antioxidant properties. These antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which are harmful compounds in the body that can damage cells and contribute to aging and disease. By combating oxidative stress, Ginkgo biloba helps protect the brain, cardiovascular system, and other organs from oxidative damage.
- Anti-inflammatory Effects: Ginkgo has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a key factor in many chronic diseases, and by reducing inflammation, Ginkgo helps mitigate the progression of conditions like heart disease, arthritis, and potentially neurodegenerative diseases.
- Effects on Neurotransmitters: Ginkgo biloba is believed to influence the levels and uptake of various neurotransmitters within the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are crucial for mood regulation, alertness, and cognitive function. By modulating these neurotransmitters, Ginkgo helps improve mood and cognitive abilities, including memory and concentration.
- Reducing Blood Viscosity: Ginkgo has been observed to reduce blood viscosity (thickness), which can improve blood flow and reduce the risk of clot formation. This property is particularly beneficial in preventing or managing conditions like deep vein thrombosis or other circulatory problems related to cognitive decline.
- Platelet-Activating Factor (PAF) Antagonism: Ginkgo biloba has been shown to inhibit Platelet-Activating Factor (PAF), which plays a role in blood clotting and inflammation. By modulating PAF activity, ginkgo helps to reduce the risk of certain cardiovascular diseases and improve overall cardiovascular health.
Nootropic Benefits of Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba’s reputation as a cognitive enhancer is primarily linked to its ability to improve blood flow to the brain, its antioxidant properties, and its impact on neurotransmitter systems.
These effects contribute to its potential benefits in memory enhancement, focus improvement, and overall brain function.
Here’s a closer look at the key nootropic effects and benefits of Gingko Biloba.
1. Memory Enhancement
Ginkgo biloba is well-known for its potential to improve memory, especially in older adults. It is believed to aid in the retention of new information and recall of existing memories.(2)
2. Increased Focus and Attention
By improving blood flow to the brain, Ginkgo biloba enhances cognitive processes like focus and attention, making it easier to concentrate on tasks.(3)
The antioxidant properties of Ginkgo protect neurons from oxidative stress and damage, potentially slowing cognitive decline related to aging or neurodegenerative diseases.(4)
4. Reduced Symptoms of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
Some studies have suggested that Ginkgo biloba can help in managing symptoms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, by improving cognitive function and reducing the rate of cognitive decline.(5)
5. Mood Regulation
Ginkgo’s impact on neurotransmitters also extends to mood regulation, helping to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, and contributing to better cognitive performance.(6)
6. Enhanced Brain Blood Flow
The improvement in cerebral circulation due to Ginkgo biloba leads to increased oxygen and nutrient delivery to the brain, which is crucial for optimal brain function.(7)
7. Support for Overall Cognitive Function
Even in healthy individuals, Ginkgo biloba supports cognitive function and health, enhancing mental clarity and processing speed.
8. Reduction of Mental Fatigue
Ginkgo helps in reducing mental fatigue, making it easier to stay mentally alert and focused, especially during tasks requiring sustained cognitive effort.(8)
9. Improvement in Tinnitus and Vertigo
While not directly a cognitive benefit, the improvement in blood flow and neural protection from Ginkgo biloba also contribute to the reduction of symptoms like tinnitus and vertigo, which indirectly supports cognitive health.
Uses of Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba, with its unique set of pharmacological properties, is utilized for a variety of health purposes. Here are some of the primary uses of Ginkgo biloba:
- Cognitive Enhancement and Memory Improvement: Ginkgo is widely used for enhancing memory and improving concentration, especially in the context of aging-related memory issues and mild cognitive impairment.
- Treatment and Management of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease: It’s used as a complementary therapy in managing symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, aiming to slow down cognitive decline and improve quality of life.
- Improving Circulation and Cardiovascular Health: Due to its ability to dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow, Ginkgo is used to promote better circulation, potentially benefiting cardiovascular health.
- Reducing Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression: Some studies suggest that Ginkgo biloba can aid in reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression, possibly due to its impact on neurotransmitter systems.
- Management of Eye Health and Disorders: Ginkgo may be beneficial in treating or preventing eye disorders such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, as it improves blood flow to the eyes.
- Alleviating Symptoms of Tinnitus and Vertigo: Ginkgo is often used to reduce symptoms of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and vertigo, likely due to its effects on blood circulation and neural protection.
- Treatment of Sexual Dysfunction: In some cases, Ginkgo biloba is used to treat sexual dysfunction, particularly when it is caused by antidepressant drugs or reduced blood flow.
- Reducing Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Symptoms: It has been used to alleviate physical and emotional symptoms associated with PMS.
- Antioxidant Benefits: The antioxidant properties of Ginkgo biloba make it a popular choice for combating oxidative stress-related conditions and for general health maintenance.
- Reducing Migraine and Headache Symptoms: Some people use Ginkgo as a remedy for migraines and headaches, again likely due to its effects on circulation and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Supporting Recovery from Stroke: There is some evidence to suggest that Ginkgo biloba can aid in recovery following a stroke by improving blood flow and protecting nerve cells.(9)
- Adjunct Therapy in Asthma and COPD: Its anti-inflammatory properties have led to its use as an adjunct therapy in respiratory conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- General Wellness: Ginkgo biloba is often consumed as a general wellness supplement, particularly by those seeking to maintain good brain health and overall vitality.
Where to Buy Ginkgo Biloba
Finding a reliable vendor for high-quality Ginkgo biloba leaf extract requires careful consideration of product sourcing and extraction methods to ensure potency and purity. There are a handful of scammers online, including those who sell low-grade Ginkgo products.
Luckily, we took the time, searched far and wide, and found one of the best nootropics suppliers for all your herbal supplementation needs.
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Ginkgo Biloba Dosage
The optimal dosage of Ginkgo biloba, typically ranging from 120 to 240 mg per day, may vary based on age, health status, and specific health goals.
There are general guidelines and commonly used dosages of Ginkgo supplements based on research and clinical studies:
- Cognitive Function and Dementia: For improving cognitive function or treating symptoms related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, doses typically range from 120 to 240 milligrams per day, divided into two or three doses.
- General Memory and Concentration Improvement: For general memory enhancement in healthy individuals, a dose of 120 milligrams per day, often divided into two doses, is commonly used.
- Circulatory Health and Peripheral Artery Disease: For conditions related to circulation, such as peripheral artery disease, dosages might range from 120 to 240 milligrams per day.
- Tinnitus and Vertigo: To alleviate tinnitus or vertigo, a daily dose of 120 to 160 milligrams is often recommended.
- Eye Health and Glaucoma: In cases of glaucoma or general eye health improvement, doses can range from 40 to 120 milligrams per day.
- Anxiety and Depression: For mood disorders like anxiety and depression, doses ranging from 120 to 240 milligrams per day have been studied.
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): For managing PMS symptoms, doses of 80 milligrams twice daily or 160 milligrams once daily have been used.
Ginkgo Biloba Side Effects and Safety
While generally considered safe, Ginkgo biloba can cause side effects in some people, including:
- Heart palpitations
- Gastrointestinal upset
Some special safety considerations include:
- Special Populations: Pregnant or breastfeeding women, individuals with bleeding disorders, or those scheduled for surgery should avoid Ginkgo biloba unless advised otherwise by a healthcare professional.
- Those with Pre-existing Conditions: People with bleeding disorders, diabetes, or fertility issues should consult a healthcare provider before using Ginkgo.
- Children: The safety of Ginkgo in children has not been well-established.
- Bleeding Complications: In rare cases, Ginkgo may lead to increased bleeding, including intracerebral hemorrhage. Caution is advised for those with bleeding disorders or on blood-thinning medications.
- Seizures: There have been isolated reports of ginkgo triggering seizures, particularly in individuals with a seizure disorder or those taking certain antidepressants.
- Medical Interactions: According to the Mayo Clinic, Ginkgo Biloba cannot be combined with Alprazolam (Xanax), anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs, herbs and supplements, anticonvulsants and seizure threshold-lowering drugs, herbs and supplements, antidepressants, Certain statins, diabetes drugs or Ibuprofen.
In conclusion, Ginkgo biloba stands out as a remarkable natural supplement with a rich history and a diverse array of potential health benefits. From enhancing cognitive function and memory to improving circulation and offering antioxidant support, its uses are as varied as they are impressive.
Whether you’re seeking to boost your brain health, manage age-related cognitive issues, or simply explore the advantages of traditional herbal remedies, Ginkgo biloba presents a fascinating option worthy of consideration.
As with any supplement, consultation with a healthcare professional is advised to ensure it aligns with your individual health needs and goals.
With its blend of ancient wisdom and modern research, Ginkgo biloba continues to be a topic of interest and a beacon in the world of natural health supplements.
How long does Ginkgo biloba take to work?
Generally, for cognitive benefits and improved circulation, some people may begin to notice effects within a few weeks, but it can take up to several months for the full benefits to be realized.
What is the elimination half-life of Ginkgo biloba?
The elimination half-life of Ginkgo biloba’s active compounds (such as flavonoid glycosides and terpenoids) is variable. Research suggests that the half-life of these compounds can range from 2 to 10 hours in the human body.
Should you cycle Ginkgo biloba?
Yes. Cycling, the practice of taking a supplement for a period and then stopping it for a while, is not a universally recommended or required practice for Ginkgo biloba.
Can I stack Ginkgo biloba with other nootropics?
Ginkgo biloba can be stacked with other nootropics, but this should be done with careful consideration of potential interactions and synergistic effects. Common stacks include Ginkgo with Panax ginseng, Bacopa monnieri, or Omega-3 supplements, as they might complement each other in supporting cognitive function.
How should I store Ginkgo biloba?
Store Ginkgo biloba L. supplements in a cool, dry environment, ensuring they are protected from excessive heat and moisture to maintain their efficacy.
- Boelsma, Esther et al. “Evidence of the regulatory effect of Ginkgo biloba extract on skin blood flow and study of its effects on urinary metabolites in healthy humans.” Planta medica vol. 70,11 (2004): 1052-7. doi:10.1055/s-2004-832646
- Silberstein, R B et al. “Examining brain-cognition effects of ginkgo biloba extract: brain activation in the left temporal and left prefrontal cortex in an object working memory task.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2011 (2011): 164139. doi:10.1155/2011/164139
- Søholm, B. “Clinical improvement of memory and other cognitive functions by Ginkgo biloba: review of relevant literature.” Advances in therapy vol. 15,1 (1998): 54-65.
- Singh, Sandeep Kumar et al. “Neuroprotective and Antioxidant Effect of Ginkgo biloba Extract Against AD and Other Neurological Disorders.” Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics vol. 16,3 (2019): 666-674. doi:10.1007/s13311-019-00767-8
- Tomino, Carlo et al. “Mild Cognitive Impairment and Mild Dementia: The Role of Ginkgo biloba (EGb 761®).” Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 14,4 305. 1 Apr. 2021, doi:10.3390/ph14040305
- Woelk, H et al. “Ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in generalized anxiety disorder and adjustment disorder with anxious mood: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.” Journal of psychiatric research vol. 41,6 (2007): 472-80. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2006.05.004
- Xu, Lili et al. “Effects of Ginkgo biloba extract on cerebral oxygen and glucose metabolism in elderly patients with pre-existing cerebral ischemia.” Complementary therapies in medicine vol. 23,2 (2015): 220-5. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2014.12.009
- Cieza, Alarcos et al. “Effects of Ginkgo biloba on mental functioning in healthy volunteers.” Archives of medical research vol. 34,5 (2003): 373-81. doi:10.1016/j.arcmed.2003.05.001
- Zeng, X et al. “Ginkgo biloba for acute ischaemic stroke.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviews vol. 2005,4 CD003691. 19 Oct. 2005, doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003691.pub2