Ginkgo biloba, a herb rich in antioxidants, is utilized for several health benefits, including the improvement of brain health. Ginkgo biloba is taken by consuming the seeds of the herb or by consuming the extract that comes from the leaves of the plant.
The main components known to produce health benefits in an individual who takes ginkgo biloba include flavonoids and terpenoids.
Ginkgo biloba trees have been around for a long time because they are included in a small list of tree species with the greatest longevity in the world.
Ginkgo biloba trees can grow to an astonishing height at approximately 120 feet and may live for up to a thousand years. They are also extremely hardy trees that hold up well to weather conditions and elements.
What Is Ginkgo Biloba?
Ginkgo biloba trees grow natively in Korea, China, and Japan. Today, ginkgo biloba is grown in regions of Europe and the United States. Ginkgo biloba is one of the few trees in the world that live the longest, and its species dates back to over 200 million years.
The ginkgo biloba tree has been coined as a living fossil because it is the only remaining live member left of the ginkgo family. The oldest known ginkgo biloba tree is around 3,500 years old and is located in China.
Ginkgo leaf extract has been used for centuries as an ingredient in several different cosmetic products. The seed of the plant is also considered an edible delicacy in countries such as China and Japan. Ginkgo biloba has been planted and used around shrines and in Buddhist practices.
Ginkgo biloba trees were present in the zone surrounding ground zero of the Hiroshima atomic bombing in 1945, and were still standing after the explosion. All other plants surrounding the blast died, but ginkgo biloba trees were able to live following the attack and produce non-mutated buds.
Today, ginkgo biloba trees are not found growing in the wild, but are intentionally planted in public places like schools, parks, around buildings, and along roads.
How It Works
Ginkgo biloba has shown in studies to have extensive antioxidant effects in an individual’s body. Oxidative stress occurs when unbalanced molecules that are missing an electron in their outer shell are present in the tissues of the body and cause adverse reactions with other molecules.
Oxidative stress has been implicated in the pathogenesis of numerous conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, conditions that interfere with concentration, cancers, and metabolic diseases.
Antioxidants in ginkgo biloba are molecules that offer the reactive oxygen species an extra electron that balances them out and causes them to return to a neutral and non-reactive state. The more antioxidants the body has, the less free radical molecules will be present.
Ginkgo biloba is also known to improve the circulation of blood in an individual by inducing blood vessel dilation and helping the blood be less viscous.
A decreased viscosity is caused by an action ginkgo biloba has on platelets that keeps them from adhering to one another inappropriately. Although there are over forty different components that have been identified in ginkgo biloba, only the flavonoids and terpenoids are known to serve health benefits.
Health Benefits of Ginkgo biloba
Individuals have claimed for centuries that ginkgo biloba has numerous health benefits. Research has suggested ginkgo biloba can improve some symptoms that occur in individuals affected by Alzheimer’s disease, vascular disease, and other forms of dementia.
Evidence has also been identified that suggests ginkgo biloba helps improve vision in individuals who have incurred damage to their retina as a result of diabetic retinopathy.
Gingko leaf has proven in many studies to help ease certain symptoms of peripheral arterial disease where a patient has poor blood flow in their legs. Some individuals have claimed ginkgo biloba can help alleviate some symptoms that occur with premenstrual syndrome.
Schizophrenia patients may benefit from taking ginkgo biloba along with their conventional antipsychotic medications because it increases the effectiveness of that medication and can decrease some of its side effects.
Individuals have also claimed taking ginkgo biloba can reduce symptoms associated with balance problems.
Potential Side Effects
Ginkgo biloba can produce numerous adverse side effects, just like any other health supplement or medication. The most common adverse side effects of gingko biloba include headaches, dizziness, stomach upset, and skin reactions.
There is also an increased risk of an individual experiencing events that occur due to abnormal internal bleeding.
Because taking ginkgo biloba increases an individual’s risk of bleeding, it is advised that anyone who has a planned dental procedure or surgical procedure to stop taking the supplement between one and two weeks before the procedure.
All physicians and dentists should be informed when patients are taking ginkgo biloba in the case of an emergency. Individuals affected by frequent seizures or any form of epilepsy should not take ginkgo biloba because it has shown to increase seizure risk.
Because the effects of taking ginkgo biloba on an unborn child are unknown, individuals who are breastfeeding or pregnant should not take this supplement.
The fruit part of the ginkgo biloba tree and its seeds should not be consumed, as any seed of the plant used in a supplement has been carefully prepared.
Potential Medication Interactions
There are several drugs and medications an individual may be taking that may have adverse interactions with ginkgo biloba. Medications that go through the liver for processing and breakdown can interact with ginkgo biloba.
Taking ginkgo biloba can make certain medications less effective, such as anticonvulsants like carbamazepine and valproic acid.
The risk of serotonin syndrome increases when an individual takes ginkgo biloba with serotonin reuptake inhibitors like escitalopram, citalopram, fluvoxamine, fluoxetine, paroxetine, and sertraline. Ginkgo biloba can amplify the effects of certain types of MAOI medications like phenelzine.
Medications used to keep blood pressure low like calcium channel blockers are also known to interact with ginkgo biloba in some individuals.
Medications used to thin the blood should not be taken along with ginkgo biloba because it increases an individual’s bleeding risk. Ginkgo biloba may influence blood sugar and insulin, which can cause problems with certain medications used to manage glucose and insulin.