Ginkgo Biloba – An Overview
Ginkgo Biloba is a powerful nootropic herb used for:
- Cognitive Function
Gingko is also a treatment for dementia, peripheral vascular disease, cerebral ischemia, and Reynaud’s Syndrome.
Ginkgo biloba extract comes from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree. This is the only surviving member of the ancient Ginkoales plant group.
The Ginkgo achieved its remarkable longevity due to nearly complete resistance to pests, diseases and environmental assaults.
Almost nothing can kill this plant.2Major RT. The ginkgo, the most ancient living tree. The resistance of Ginkgo biloba L. to pests accounts in part for the longevity of this species Science. 1967
One specimen of this tree even grew from ground zero of the 1945 atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It re-sprouted after it was obliterated in the nuclear explosion.3Hibaku Trees of Hiroshima Arnoldia Arboretum
Ginko Biloba is a powerful natural medicine. The first reported use of Ginkgo in China stretches back to 14th-century herbal manuscripts, although it was almost certainly used even earlier than that.4Hoon Huh, John Staba. The Botany and Chemistry of Ginkgo biloba L Journal of Herbs, Spices & Medicinal Plants, 1992
Ginkgo Biloba has recently caught on in the West as a nootropic supplement.
What Does Ginkgo Biloba Do?
Gingko Biloba for Depression
People have used Gingko Biloba for millennia to raise mood. Modern researchers are just now starting to recognize this benefit.
One study of elderly patients found that Gingko Biloba extract can restore neurologic function during the treatment of depression.
Researchers divided 136 patients into two groups. They gave them either a traditional antidepressant or an antidepressant and Gingko extract.
Ginkgo gave a significant improvement in cognitive function over the control group. They also noted that Gingko Biloba can effectively reduce the expression of serum S100B, which is a marker of brain injury.
Researchers concluded that this nootropic supplement could improve depressive symptoms and work synergistically with antidepressant medication.5Dai CX, Hu CC, Shang YS, Xie J. Role of Ginkgo biloba extract as an adjunctive treatment of elderly patients with depression and on the expression of serum S100B Medicine (Baltimore). 2018
Gingko Biloba For Anxiety
There is also evidence it could help with anxiety as well.
In a randomized, placebo-controlled trial, Gingko Biloba alleviated symptoms of anxiety in physically healthy young subjects. All of the participants had been diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
After four weeks, the groups that had taken the Gingko Biloba extract scored much better on tests measuring anxiety and tension than the placebo group.6Woelk 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 J Psychiatr Res. 2007
One interesting animal study showed that Gingko Biloba extract may reduce the fear response in rats.
What’s more, it could even potentially reverse conditioned fear responses. They believed that this is due to Gingko’s activation of the kinase enzyme ERK1/2.
This could have implications for people suffering from anxiety, which is associated with excessive fear response.7Yang YL, et al. Extract of Ginkgo biloba EGb761 facilitates extinction of conditioned fear measured by fear-potentiated startle Neuropsychopharmacology. 2007 8Howes MJ, Houghton PJ Plants used in Chinese and Indian traditional medicine for improvement of memory and cognitive function Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003
Gingko Biloba For Memory Improvement
Ginkgo Biloba may be able to improve memory, especially in people suffering from cognitive decline.
One year-long study looked at patients suffering from moderate-to-severe Alzheimer’s related dementia.
The researchers concluded that Gingko Bilboa could “improve cognitive performance and the social functioning of demented patients.”
The researchers did not identify the potential mechanism for this effect. But, they did note that this herb was well-tolerated and saw few adverse reactions.9Pierre L. Le Bars, et al. NA Placebo-Controlled, Double-blind, Randomized Trial of an Extract of Ginkgo Biloba for Dementia JAMA. 1997
A 2009 animal study did shed some light on just how Ginkgo Biloba may improve memory.
They saw evidence that it works by modulating “GAP-43, CREB-1 and GFAP expression in the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus.”
GAP-43, CREB-1, and GFAP are all proteins that facilitate memory-encoding. This is a promising first step in understanding Gingko’s memory-boosting powers.10Oliveira DR, et al. Neuromodulatory property of standardized extract Ginkgo biloba L. (EGb 761) on memory: behavioral and molecular evidence Brain Res. 2009
Clinically, ginkgo extract is widely used in Europe for the treatment of memory disorders associated with aging.
This includes Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. However, the experimental evidence for this is rather spotty.
A large systemic analysis of current gingko/Alzheimer’s research looked at the evidence from 36 separate studies.
They found that there were “no significant differences between Ginkgo biloba and placebo in the proportion of participants experiencing adverse events.”
They concluded that the evidence it can help with these disorders is unreliable and shaky.11Jacqueline Birks John Grimley Evans. Ginkgo biloba for cognitive impairment and dementia Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2009
A 2008 clinical study had no luck establishing a connection between mental decline and Gingko Biloba.
Researchers gave 120 mg Gingko Biloba to patients twice a day.
However, it was not effective in reducing either the overall incidence rate of dementia or AD incidence in elderly individuals with normal cognition or those with mild cognitive impairment.12Steven T. DeKosky, et al. Ginkgo biloba for Prevention of Dementia JAMA. 2008 13Barry S. Oken, et al. The Efficacy of Ginkgo biloba on Cognitive Function in Alzheimer Disease Arch Neurol. 1998
Age-Related Cognitive Decline
It is also unclear if this herb can prevent natural age from taking its toll.
Compared with placebo, Gingko Biloba did not result in less cognitive decline in older adults with normal cognition.14Beth E. Snitz, et al. Ginkgo biloba for Preventing Cognitive Decline in Older Adults JAMA. 2009
However, a second, larger trial contradicts these findings. This was a double-blind, randomized trial of 262 adults aged 60+ with no history of cognitive impairment.
They were given 180 mg gingko extract (or placebo) for six weeks.
The Gingko Biloba group performed significantly better on tests of mental processing and verbal fluency.
According to researchers, this study provides evidence that gingko biloba can “enhance certain neuropsychological/memory processes of cognitively intact older adults.”15Mix JA, Crews WD JrA double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 in a sample of cognitively intact older adults: neuropsychological findingsHum Psychopharmacol. 2002
Ginkgo Biloba For Tinnitus
Although traditional medicine prescribes gingko biloba for tinnitus, clinical evidence does not currently support this.
A 2018 meta-analysis looked at the available data and found it does not help in the treatment of tinnitus (at least, there is no evidence that it does).16Quidel Kramer F, Ortigoza Á. Ginkgo biloba for the treatment of tinnitus Medwave. 2018
Gingko Biloba For Stress Reduction
One promising 2002 study found that Gingko Biloba could exert beneficial effects on mood.
Researchers saw that it reduced stress-induced rise in blood pressure without affecting the heart rate. It also lowered levels of cortisol in participants’ saliva.
Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone and is strongly associated with mood.
These physical reactions could point to Gingko Bilobas action on stress and feelings of well-being.17Jezova D, et al. Reduction of rise in blood pressure and cortisol release during stress by Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) in healthy volunteers J Physiol Pharmacol. 2002
Gingko Biloba also has clinically proven nootropic benefits for neurohackers looking to increase their overall cognitive performance.
Although this herb is famous for its anti-aging benefits, there is evidence it can improve focus, memory, and attention in young, healthy people.
A French study found that Gingko Biloba could modulate the noradrenergic system and beta-receptors. This could improve overall function and help prevent brain aging.18Racagni G, Brunello N, Paoletti R Neuromediator changes during cerebral aging. The effect of Ginkgo biloba extract Presse Med. 1986
Gingko Biloba has a powerful antioxidant effect that can clean up and prevent damage to brain cells.
A clinical trial shows that gingko extract can scrub nitrous oxide, a source of neurological damage, from the bloodstream.19Marcocci L, Maguire JJ, Droy-Lefaix MT, Packer L. The nitric oxide-scavenging properties of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1994
Gingko Biloba extract may enhance mental functioning and quality of life in healthy volunteers.
A 4-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found significant evidence of overall cognitive enhancement in the healthy participants who took the extract.20Cieza A, Maier P, Pöppel E.. Effects of Ginkgo biloba on mental functioning in healthy volunteers Arch Med Res. 2003
Gingko Biloba For Erectile Dysfunction
Gingko Biloba has been used for thousands of years as an aphrodisiac. There seems to be merit to this use.
Anecdotally, there are many reports of Gingko Biloba supplements increasing desire and giving men better erections.
Traditional antidepressants like SSRIs are notorious for causing sexual dysfunction.
One study found that Ginko Biloba was 84% effective in treating antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction.
Women were more responsive than men, with relative success rates of 91% versus 76%.
Researchers found that ginkgo Biloba had a “positive effect on all 4 phases of the sexual response cycle: desire, excitement (erection and lubrication), orgasm, and resolution (afterglow).
Theoretically, these improvements should translate to non-SSRI related sexual issues, as well as improve performance/pleasure in those with normal sexual functioning.
However, we cannot draw any firm conclusions until more research is done.21Alan J. Cohen, Barbara Bartlik. Ginkgo biloba for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction Journal of Sex And Marital Therapy. 2008
How Ginkgo Biloba Works In The Brain
Ginkgo Biloba’s nootropic and health benefits are due to a few different organic compounds.
Any Ginkgo extract should have 22-27% glycosides and 5-7% terpene lactones to be considered therapeutically effective.
These are the compounds that have antioxidant and nootropic properties in Gingko.
How Much Ginkgo Biloba Should I Take?
There are no strict dosage guidelines for Gingko extract, but most of the studies used about 120-240 mg per day.
Some people take as much as 500-600 mg a day, but it is unclear if this dose range is more effective.
Make sure you are using a high-quality standardized extract. If it is a cheap, substandard product that does not have enough of the active compounds (glycosides and terpenes), it will not be effective.
Most people will need a few weeks of daily supplementation before they really start feeling the effects of this nootropic.
Is It Safe To Take Gingko Biloba Every Day?
This supplement seems to be safe for daily use in prescribed quantities.
However, as with all nootropics, you may want to cycle off Gingko occasionally to avoid tolerance and unwanted side effects.
Ginkgo Biloba Potential Side Effects
Gingko biloba is an all-natural supplement that is generally well tolerated. However, there are some potentially serious complications to watch out for. The most common side effects are:
- Excessive Bleeding
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Mild overstimulation
There are some potentially serious interactions between Ginkgo Biloba and some medications. Be very wary if you are taking the following:
- Insulin Medication
- Methylphenidate (Ritalin)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- St. John’s Wort
- Anticoagulants/antiplatlets (due to excessive bleeding)
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