Ginkgo Biloba Guide
Ginkgo Biloba is an herb typically found in medical extracts and nootropic supplements. Find out everything you need to know about this unique herb today in our ginkgo biloba guide.
What is Ginkgo Biloba?
Ginkgo biloba, often shortened to ginkgo, is one of the world’s most unique plants. Native to China, Ginkgo Biloba is considered a living fossil because it is one of the oldest tree species on the planet: trees similar to ginkgo biloba have been found dating back over 270 million years.
Some even say that ginkgo biloba is the oldest tree species on the planet.
The tree has been widely used throughout human history. In ancient China, it was popularly used as a type of medicine, for example. Other cultures used it as a food source. Today, it’s commonly found in a variety of nutritional supplements, particularly nootropics.
The ginkgo biloba tree itself is a large tree reaching approximately 60 to 120 feet (20 to 40 meters) high. The tree extends its roots deep into the ground, making it resistant to wind and snow damage and other environmental hazards.
In fall, the ginkgo biloba tree sheds its leaves after they turn a bright yellow color. Some of the oldest ginkgo biloba trees in China are thought to be over 2,500 years old and reach over 160 feet (50m) into the air.
One more reason why ginkgo biloba is a unique tree is its involvement in Hiroshima: after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945, few living organisms remained in the blast area. Despite the fact that almost all plants and animals were killed in the explosion, six ginkgo biloba trees survived the blast. The trees were charred, but they soon grew healthy again. Amazingly, the trees are still alive to this day and can be found across the city of Hiroshima.
How Do We Use Ginkgo Biloba?
As one of the world’s oldest trees, ginkgo biloba has been used for many different roles over the years. Some of its uses include:
— Ginkgo Biloba Nuts for Food: Ginkgo biloba seeds contain small, nut-like edibles. Ginkgo nuts are popularly used in Chinese and Japanese traditional dishes.
— Aphrodisiac: Some strains of ancient Chinese and Japanese medicine advocated the use of ginkgo biloba seeds as an aphrodisiac.
— Poison and Allergen: Male ginkgo biloba trees are highly allergenic, ranking at a 7 on the OPALS allergy scale. Female trees, on the other hand, are rated at just a 2 on the same scale (they produce no pollen). When the seeds of the ginkgo biloba tree are eaten in large quantities, it can lead to MPN poisoning. This effect is particularly prominent in children.
— Cognitive Supplement: More recently, ginkgo biloba has been advertised as a nootropic or cognitive supplement. Ginkgo biloba has showed early promise as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s and other degenerative cognitive conditions. It’s thought that these benefits are related to the high levels of polyphenols, proanthocyanins, phenolic acids, and other chemical compounds within ginkgo biloba. In some studies, ginkgo biloba has been shown to alleviate certain symptoms of Alzheimer’s and help sufferers more easily perform daily activities.
— Nutritional Supplement: Other gingko biloba nutritional supplements advertise the herb’s effectiveness at treating conditions like glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration in the eye, ADHD, and other medical conditions.
Scientific Evidence for Gingko Biloba
Despite the ambitious claims made by ginkgo biloba nutritional supplement manufacturers, scientific evidence for ginkgo biloba isn’t quite as concrete as they suggest. Here are some of the major ginkgo biloba studies that have taken place over the years:
2008 Study Shows Ginkgo Biloba is No Better Than A Placebo at Reducing Dementia Risk
In 2008, researchers noticed that a lot of ginkgo biloba supplements were advertising their benefits on memory and cognition despite a lack of overwhelming scientific evidence. These researchers launched a study to determine whether or not these benefits were exaggerated.
The study took place at 5 academic medical centers across the United States between 2000 and 20008. It involved 3069 volunteers over the age of 79 with normal cognitive behavior.
Participants either received a 120mg extract of ginkgo biloba twice per day or they received a placebo.
By the end of the study, the gingko biloba group had a slightly higher rate of dementia than the placebo group (3.3 per 100 person years compared to 2.9 per 100 person years). This difference was deemed not to be significant. In other words, gingko biloba was no better than a placebo at reducing the risk of dementia over a long period of time.
Ginkgo Biloba May Help Reduce Anxiety
One 2007 study on ginkgo biloba measured the effects of the herbal extract on those with anxiety. Researchers involved in the study had previously determined that ginkgo biloba effectively reduced anxiety in adults and the elderly. For the 2007 study, these researchers sought to determine the effects on younger patients suffering from anxiety.
In the randomized study, patients received daily doses of 480mg of ginkgo biloba extract, 240mg of ginkgo biloba extract, or a placebo for 4 weeks.
After 4 weeks, researchers noticed that “changes were significantly different from placebo for both treatment groups” and that ginkgo biloba “was significantly superior to placebo on all secondary outcome measures.” Researchers also described that ginkgo biloba was safe and well tolerated, which could possibly make it an ideal choice for elderly patients and those with compromised immune systems.
Ginkgo May Help Treat Intermittent Claudication
Those who suffer from intermittent claudication (a condition that involves poor blood flow) may be able to alleviate symptoms of their condition by taking ginkgo biloba. The herbal extract has been shown to improve blood flow.
In an overview of 8 studies, researchers determined that people taking gingko were able to walk 34 meters farther, on average, than those taking a placebo. Many of those who suffer from intermittent claudication experience poor blood flow that causes extreme pain in the legs.
Ginkgo May Reduce Symptoms of ADHD
One of the reasons why gingko is touted as a “brain herb” is this 2014 study. In that study, researchers determined that taking 240mg of ginkgo biloba per day led to significantly reduced symptoms of ADHD in children.
Researchers were hesitant to recommend the use of the herbal extract, saying:
“This preliminary evidence suggests that EGb 761® at a maximal dosage of 240 mg daily might be a clinically useful alternative treatment for children with ADHD, but further evidence is required before firm conclusions can be made.”
Gingko May Reduce PMS Symptoms
Interestingly enough, two studies have identified a connection between gingko biloba and a reduction of PMS symptoms. The first study was published in 2009 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. That study concluded that “g. biloba L. can reduce the severity of PMS symptoms”. Participants in the study either took gingko biloba or a placebo to treat their PMS symptoms.
The other study, published in the French journal Rev Fr Gynecol Obstet, first identified a connection between PMS symptom reduction and ginkgo biloba in 1993.
Multiple Studies Link Ginkgo Biloba to Better Eye Health
Ginkgo biloba has been widely studied for its ability to boost the health of the eye. In one study, researchers found that gingko biloba acted as a successful treatment for glaucoma.
Other studies have involved measuring the effects of ginkgo biloba on macular degeneration (age-related degeneration of muscle tissue at the back of the eye). This is the number one cause of blindness in the United States. Gingko biloba was shown to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration in this study.
How to Take Ginkgo Biloba
There are a few different ways to take gingko biloba, including:
— Dried leaf in tea
— Liquid extracts (like as a tincture, fluid extract, or glycerite)
— As a standardized extract, which typically contains 25 to 35% flavonoids and 5 to 15% terpenoids
The herbal extract appears to be safe. It has been well tolerated in most studies, which means that users should have little to worry about. Nevertheless, you should talk to your doctor before using ginkgo biloba, especially if you have a current medical condition, or if you’re nursing or pregnant.
Children should not take ginkgo biloba. You should also not eat the ginkgo biloba fruit or seed, as it’s poisonous in large amounts.
If you’re taking gingko biloba as a supplement, then you should take 120mg to 240mg per day (all of the above studies involved taking similar amounts).
You can buy ginkgo biloba supplements online or at most local pharmacies, drug stores, and supplement retailers.