Ginkgo biloba – Wiki Page
Ginkgo biloba, commonly known as ginkgo, is one of the world’s oldest living tree species, earning it the name ‘living fossil.’ Its existence can be traced back more than 200 million years, commonly found in North America, Europe and China before the Ice Age. Up to just 350 years ago, the knowledge of the ginkgo plant was restricted to China as a commonly used herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine, particularly for memory and blood flow1, 10. The ginkgo tree grows up to 100 metres tall with fan-like leaves that look similar to the two lobes of the brain (hence the species name, biloba)6.
In modern Western herbal medicine ginkgo biloba leaf is used, however the nut of the plant was also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine1. Ginkgo biloba tablets and liquid herbal extracts are commonly prescribed by naturopaths and herbal medicine practitioners today and interestingly, ginkgo is one of the most widely studied medicinal plant products7.
Ginkgo is popular for its neuroprotective properties and ability to aid blood circulation, particularly in the elderly. The herb possesses antioxidant properties, helping to reduce free radical damage to the cells of the body, especially the cells of the central nervous system and the cardiovascular system. It also supports vasodilation which helps to improve blood flow through arteries, veins and capillaries. This suggests its role in supporting the health of the brain and the heart1, 2, 3, 6.
The leaf of the ginkgo biloba tree contains many active constituents including flavonoids and ginkgolides. Flavonoids are responsible for ginkgo’s antioxidant and free radical scavenging activities, and the ginkgolides contribute to the plant’s neuroprotective effects4.
- What is ginkgo biloba good for?
- Brain Health, Nervous System Health and Memory
- Cardiovascular System Health
- Reducing Free Radical Damage
- Does ginkgo biloba work sexually?
- Is ginkgo biloba safe to take daily?
What is ginkgo biloba good for?
Ginkgo benefits are based on the herb’s traditional use, as well as modern, evidence-based research. Over the past 30 years, over four hundred scientific studies have been conducted on the benefits and uses of ginkgo biloba leaf extract, especially on the brain and cardiovascular system, for vertigo and tinnitus, for skin disorders such as vitiligo and its ability to reduce the production of free radicals4.
Brain Health, Nervous System Health and Memory
Research on ginkgo biloba for memory and brain health is becoming more and more prevalent, with the results of many clinical studies showing positive outcomes. Ginkgo biloba extract can help to improve concentration and memory processes like short-term memory, thought to be due to its ability to increase alpha wave activity in the brain. Alpha waves are the brain waves responsible for mental coordination, alertness and mind/body learning5.
Ginkgo also helps to increase blood flow throughout the body, including to the brain. Blood is rich in nutrients and oxygen which are crucial for healthy brain function6.
The active flavonoid constituents in ginkgo leaf, called bilobalides and ginkgolides, are known for their helpful actions on the nervous system. Bilobalides and ginkgolides are helpful in regulating the body’s stress response through its modulating action on a protein called translocator protein6. They have also been suggested to have the ability to modulate certain neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin, which is known as the ‘feel good’ hormone10.
Cardiovascular System Health
Ginkgo biloba supports cardiovascular system health by assisting the proper flow of blood throughout the body’s tissues and organs. Ginkgo’s active constituents called ginkgolides help the blood to circulate throughout the body’s tissues due to their anti-platelet activity. This is especially beneficial in older people who may have blood clotting issues. Ginkgo also supports peripheral circulation, which is the flow of the blood to the extremities of the body like the hands and feet5.
Ginkgo biloba also helps to strengthen the cell membranes, or cell walls, of the red blood cells. This encourages the proper functioning of the red blood cells as they transport oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from the heart and tissues5.
Vertigo is a disorder of the central nervous system, associated with feelings of unexplained dizziness.
Ginkgo supports blood flow around the body, including to the organs of the inner ear which are responsible for balance and coordination, therefore helping to reduce feelings of vertigo and dizziness5, 7.
Reducing Free Radical Damage
The human body has its own in-built antioxidant system which keeps a balance between free radicals and the functioning of the antioxidant system. Keeping this biological equilibrium is especially important for the nerve cells, called neurons. Ginkgo helps to protect nervous tissue and also the red blood cells against free radical damage by scavenging for free radicals6. The active constituents called flavonoids are thought to be responsible for the plant’s antioxidant activity4.
Vitiligo is a common hypopigmentation skin disorder characterised by white patches of skin emerging on different areas of the body. Melanocytes are the skin cells responsible for making and maintaining the skin’s natural colour, and a default or disorder of these cells is what contributes to vitiligo12.
Emerging research shows the benefits of ginkgo for vitiligo. Although the exact mechanism of ginkgo on the skin cells is still unknown, its action seems to be related to its antioxidant properties11. Supplementation with ginkgo can help to reduce the spread of vitiligo throughout the body and helps to decrease the size of vitiligo lesions12.
Does ginkgo biloba work sexually?
Although research is still being conducted, there are already some beneficial results on the use of ginkgo biloba to support sexual function. Extracts of ginkgo have been suggested to improve sexual function by improving blood flow to the brain and to the genital organs10. Ginkgo also has a relaxant effect on smooth muscle tissue which is considered to be an important process for healthy sexual responses, especially in women8.
Is ginkgo biloba safe to take daily?
It is advised you speak to your doctor or healthcare professional before taking a new supplement. Ginkgo biloba is designed to be safe when taken at the correct dosage and while under the guidance of a health professional. If you are taking any other medications or supplements, we recommend you seek professional advice from your doctor or healthcare professional.
Ginkgo biloba contains an active constituent known as ginkgolide B – this constituent can reduce the ability of the blood to clot and can prolong bleeding time. Therefore, it is not recommended to take gingko supplements alongside any blood thinning medications or in blood clotting disorders9.
- Braun, L., Cohen, M. (2015), Herbs and Natural Supplements An Evidence-Based Guide (4th Ed), Chapter: Ginkgo biloba, pp. 415-438, Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier
- Wisneski, M.D. (2000), The Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs and Supplements. Integrative Medicine Communications Access
- Blumenthal, M et al. (2000), Expanded Commission E Monographs, American Botanical Council
- American Botanical Council (2000), Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E, Ginkgo Biloba leaf extract, cited on 4.11.19, accessed from <http://cms.herbalgram.org/expandedE/GinkgoBilobaleafextract.html
- European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (2003), ESCOP Monographs, Chapter: Ginkgo folium, pp.178-210, Thieme
- Mills, K., Bone, S. (2013), Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy (2nd Ed), Chapter: Ginkgo, pp. 596-627, Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier
- Pohl, F., Lin, P.K.T. (2018), The Potential Use of Plant Natural Products and Plant Extracts with Antioxidant Properties for the Prevention/Treatment of Neurodegenerative Diseases: In Vitro, In Vivo and Clinical Trials, in Molecules, 23(12): 3283
- Meston, C.M., Rellini, A.H., Telch, M.J. (2008), Short- and long-term effects of Ginkgo biloba extract on sexual dysfunction in women, Archives of Sexual Behaviour 37(4): 530-547
- Science Direct, (2016), Ginkgo Biloba, Elsevier, cited on 4.11.19, accessed from <https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/ginkgo-biloba>
- Corazza, O. et al. (2014), Sexual Enhanced Products for Sale Online: Raising Awareness of the Psychoactive Effects of Yohimbine, Maca, Horny Goat Weed and Ginkgo biloba, BioMed Research International, sponsored by Hindawi Publishing Corporation
- Gianfaldoni, S. et al. 92018), Herbal Compounds for the Treatment of Vitiligo: A Review, Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences, 6(1): 203-207
- Szczurko, O. et al. (2011), Ginkgo biloba for the treatment for vitiligo vulgaris: an open label pilot clinical trial, BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 11(21)