Ginkgo biloba, also known as the maidenhair tree, is one of the oldest species of trees on the planet. The tree is considered to be a "living fossil", meaning that it has continued to survive even after major extinction events.
The plant has a number of therapeutic properties and contains high levels of flavonoids and terpenoids,these are antioxidants that provide protection against oxidativecelldamage from harmful free radicals.Ginkgo trees have very unique properties - they are capable of growing more than 130 feet and can live for over one thousand years. In fact, there aresome trees in China are said to be over 2,500 years old.1
Over recent years,ginkgo supplements have become increasingly popular- they are currently among the top-selling herbal medications. Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) is collected from the dried green leaves of the plant and is available as liquid extracts, capsules, and tablets.
The dried leaves of the plant can also be used to make tea.
Ginkgo Biloba trees can live for thousands
of yearsCourtesy: Missouri Botanical Garden
The Missouri Botanical Garden says that Ginkgo Biloba is"the only member of a group of ancient plants believed to have inhabited the earth up to 150 million years ago."2
Introduced very early to human history, the trees were originally cultivated for consumption and as a traditional medicine.
Ginkgo Biloba was first used for its medicinal properties in Ancient China. The Chinese took Ginkgo for its claimed cognitive benefits and to alleviate symptoms ofasthma, they also ate ginkgo nuts because of their "strengthening" properties.
According to the Institute for Natural Products Research3, other traditional uses of ginkgo biloba include:
- Preventing bed wetting
- Increasing sexual energy
- Soothe bladder irritation.
- Treating intestinal worms
Ginkgo Biloba's introduction to the western world
Engelbert Kaempfer was the first European to discover Ginkgo, in the late 1600s. By 1771 Linnaeus finally named the treeGinkgo Bilobawhich translates into "silver plume with two lobes."
In 1784 Ginkgo was brought over to America to the garden of William Hamilton.
Medicinal uses of Ginkgo Biloba
Memory Enhancement - Treating Dementia and Alzheimer's
Gingko Biloba leaves turn into a beautiful
uniform golden yellow in autumn.Courtesy: Missouri Botanical Garden
There is evidence indicating that people withdementiacan benefit from taking Ginkgo.
Some of its benefits include:
- Improved thinking
- Improved memory
- Better social behavior.
"Theclinicalefficacy of the ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in dementia of the Alzheimer type and multi-infarct dementia" was confirmed ina study published in the journalPharmacopsychiatry4
Another study5, published inJAMA, similarly found that EGb 761 "was safe and appears capable of stabilizing and, in a substantial number of cases, improving the cognitive performance and the social functioning of demented patients for 6 months to 1 year."
Researchers believe that Ginkgo improves cognitive function because it promotes good blood circulation in the brain and protects it from neuronal damage.
However,Ginkgo doesn't seem to improve memory among people who are healthy.
A meta-analysis, published in the journalHuman Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimentalin 20126, found that there waszero effect of Ginkgo on attention and memory in healthy individuals.
Ginkgo may help alleviate the symptoms ofanxiety.
One study, published in theJournal of Psychiatric Research7, found that people with generalized anxiety disorder who took gingko experienced better anxiety relief than those on placebo.
Patients with blood circulationdisordersor individuals on anticoagulants, such asaspirin, are at risk of experiencing undesirable effects after taking Ginkgo.
In addition,if you are onantidepressantsyou are strongly advised not to take Ginkgoas it inhibits monoamine oxidase, reducing the effectiveness of the medications (such as selectiveserotoninreuptake inhibitors and monoamine oxidase inhibitors).
Side effects include:
Ginkgo leaves contain long-chain alkylphenols, which are highly allergenic.
Therefore, people who are allergic to poison ivy and other plants with alkylphenols, are advised to completely avoid taking Ginkgo.
Written by Joseph Nordqvist