Repeatedly one of the top-selling supplements in the world, Gingko Biloba is an herbal extract with many health benefits. Long used as a natural remedy for its cognitive benefits, researchers are now discovering several new applications for Ginkgo Biloba.
An Ancient Herb Rediscovered
Gingko Biloba is derived from the Gingko tree, one of the oldest tree species in the world. In fact, the Gingko tree has been referred to as a ‘living fossil’ because it is believed to have survived several catastrophic events throughout time. The Gingko tree is thought to be over 250 million years old, and some trees living today are 3,500 years old!
For millennia, the Chinese have used dried Gingko leaf and seeds as herbal remedies. Early on, traditional herbalists noted and used Gingko for its powerful cognitive benefits. Additionally, it was used as a folk remedy for breathing problems as well as incontinence.
In more recent years, Gingko Biloba has been the subject of over 400 clinical studies. Rediscovered by the western medical community, this herbal extract is yielding promising new results as a health supplement. Here are 10 benefits of Gingko Biloba, illustrating just some of its many uses and potential applications.
10 Health Benefits of Gingko Biloba
1. Gingko Helps Protect Your Brain
Numerous studies have concluded that Gingko may help protect your brain, especially as you age. Several trials have indicated that its cerebral benefits may lie in its ability to lower oxidative stress. Oxidative stress, if you haven’t heard the term, is an effect caused by harmful free radicals. The effect of oxidative stress is that it attacks the cellular membranes in the mitochondria of the brain. If oxidative stress is too high, then free radicals can actually penetrate the cellular walls of your mitochondria and damage important components within.
What this all means is that oxidative stress can actually lead to lower energy output and reduced cognitive function. Since Gingko Biloba is thought to lower oxidative stress, it may play a role in protecting our brain from neuronal damage and thus helping preserve our cognitive abilities as we age.
What are Free Radicals? – When cells create energy, they also produce unstable oxygen molecules. These molecules, called ‘free radicals’, have a free electron, which is what makes the molecule unstable. These unstable molecules (free radicals) bond to other molecules in the body, causing proteins and essential molecules to not function as they should. While free radicals can be formed through the natural process we explained above, they can also be caused by diet, stress, smoking, alcohol, exercise, inflammation, drugs, exposure to the sun or various air pollutants. Because of this, regular antioxidant and supplementation is vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
2. Gingko Helps Increase Cerebral Blood Flow
Several clinical trials have indicated that Gingko Biloba may promote the flow of blood to the brain. This is important for a few reasons. The brain is a very demanding organ. It consumes somewhere around 20% of our daily oxygen intake. Therefore, it relies upon the supply of oxygen-rich blood to function optimally.
One way to understand this is to use exercise as an example. Recently, Scientific American published an article outlining why we think better after exercising. The same principle is at work. When you exercise, blood is circulated throughout the body (and brain), and as a result our mind is sharper and able to perform better.
According to several studies, Gingko Biloba similarly helps deliver blood to the brain. This is a called a ‘vasodilatory effect.’ Some researchers believe that Gingko Biloba, like exercise can help boost our energy levels and cognitive function by promoting blood circulation.
3. Gingko Supports Memory Function
In a number of trials, researchers have concluded that Gingko Biloba helps boost short-term memory, especially in adults over the age of 55. One study indicated that Gingko plays a ‘safe and suitable role’ in enhancing cognitive performance for those struggling with mental dysfunctions associated with aging, specifically issues related to lack of cerebral blood flow (source).
4. Gingko May Boost Processing Speed And Accuracy
Multiple studies affirm that Gingko Biloba may aid in cognition and especially the speed of mental processing. In terms of accuracy, research was performed using a standard cognitive performance test. The results found that participants could perform simple math in their head with fewer errors while taking Gingko. Similarly, a body of evidence also indicates that Gingko may boost the speed of mental processing. In one clinical trial, a group of older adults demonstrated greater ability to recall words over differing lengths of time while taking Gingko Biloba. Research indicates that Gingko may help improve processing speed without sacrificing accuracy.
5. Gingko May Relieve Symptoms of Altitude Sickness
Altitude sickness (sometimes called Mountain Sickness) is a set of symptoms brought on by climbing or walking into high elevations too quickly. The effects may include nausea, dizziness, headaches, muscle aches or a feeling of being “hung over.” Multiple studies have confirmed that Gingko may have a powerful effect on acute mountain sickness. One study revealed that gingko may help lessen the symptoms of AMS when taken at 240 mg for 1-5 days prior to exposure to elevation.
6. Gingko May Help With Sleep
Some research indicates that Gingko Biloba may have a positive effect on sleep quality and sleep efficiency. In one trial, Gingko was shown to enhance non-REM sleep and reduce the frequency of waking up at night. The studies indicate that the reason for this effect is because of the flavonoid content in Gingko. Flavonoids, if you don’t know, are chemicals found in plants that are contained within most fruits and vegetables. There is some scientific data to support the idea that the flavonoids within Gingko may significantly impact sleep.
7. Gingko May Benefit Eye Health
There is a small body of research supporting the effectiveness of Gingko as a protective agent for the eyes. A number of studies indicate that Gingko may positively benefit ocular blood flow and help protect against age-related eye problems. According to some scientific literature, Gingko benefits the eyes by increasing oxygen to the retinas, which may protect against degenerative issues later in life.
8. Gingko May Help Benefit Skin and Hair
As we mentioned earlier, free radicals can be a major issue and source of stress for the body. Because of the high antioxidant content of Gingko Biloba, it may help prevent wrinkles and other appearances of aging. Gingko’s effect on hair is also evidenced by its use in hair care products. Extracts of Gingko are used as ingredients to keep hair strong and looking vibrant.
9. Gingko May Help Soothe Muscle Soreness
Among its many other uses, Ginkgo Biloba may be a good addition to your post-workout routine. How does Gingko help with sore muscles? By boosting circulation and oxygen to the muscles and joints, Gingko may help repair and relieve muscle pain associated with exercise. Also, its anti-inflammatory properties may be of benefit to recovering from intense workouts.
10. Gingko May Help To Reduce Inflammation
Perhaps one of the reasons why Gingko Biloba has so many various applications is because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is the immune system’s response to invasion by foreign substances, and it is at the root of countless issues and symptoms. Some research indicates that Gingko may help lessen certain markers of inflammation in both human and animal cells.
How Do I Take Gingko Biloba?
As one of the most popular herbs in the U.S., you may be able to find Gingko Biloba in many forms. It may be available as a tincture that you can add to smoothies or teas. It also comes in powder and capsule form.
Are There Side Effects To Gingko Biloba?
Gingko Biloba is usually safe for most people when taken orally and in the right doses. However, some people do experience minor side effects. In some cases it may cause: upset stomach, headache, dizziness, constipation, forceful heartbeat and allergic skin reactions.