Ginkgo biloba is a plant extract with many health benefits and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 1000 years. In modern western culture, ginkgo is used as a treatment for many health conditions and is even thought to improve your cognitive abilities—but is it that effective? Is it safe?
In this article, we take an in-depth look into ginkgo biloba, its benefits, and its side effects.
Key Takeaways: Ginkgo Biloba Memory Supplements
Ginkgo Biloba: Overview
Also known as maidenhair, ginkgo biloba is a large tree with fan-like leaves, native to China, grown for thousands of years for its many health benefits.
Traditional Chinese medicine uses dried ginkgo biloba leaves and roasted ginkgo seeds for different therapies and treatments. Modern research, however, focuses on ginkgo extract, made from its leaves.
Many claims made about ginkgo herbal supplements associate them with health and wellbeing, with a special focus on their effects on brain function and blood circulation.
History of Ginkgo Biloba
The ginkgo biloba tree is the oldest living tree in the world and is the only surviving member of the Ginkgo family. For this reason, the ginkgo tree is a ‘living fossil’. Supposedly, this tree has existed since the time of the dinosaurs, and one tree in China is about 3500 years old .
The ginkgo biloba tree grows in Southeast Asia natively, but came to the United States in 1784. Many people use ginkgo nuts and ginkgo leaves for medicinal purposes. Its wood also makes religious furniture, and Buddhists have it planted around their shrines and temples.
How Does It Work?
Ginkgo biloba works in several ways. You’ll find ginkgo biloba supplements as liquid extracts, as dried leaves for different teas, and as tablets you can take daily in doses. For you to notice any changes, use ginkgo biloba supplements for 4 to 6 weeks.
Nootropics Containing Ginkgo Biloba
Nootropics are synthetic or natural ‘smart drugs’ or enhancers that have a positive effect on your mental functions and capabilities. Many nootropic dietary supplements contain ginkgo biloba extract. Let’s look at some of the best ones:
Qualia Mind is a complex nootropic formulation containing 28 different ingredients, including vitamins, minerals, herbal ingredients, and amino acids.
It contains ginkgo biloba standardized extract as part of its many ingredients. In combination, these ingredients can help you improve your focus, memory, and mental clarity.
The supplement helps your body enhance the production of essential neurotransmitters, the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), and other critical pathways that optimize brain function.
- Increases your focus and brain function
- Improves your ability to concentrate
- Enhances your energy levels
- Improves mental clarity
- Promotes long-term brain health
Here’s more information on other nootropics in our Mind Lab Pro review and Performance Lab Nootropics review.
BrainPill is another tailor-made nootropic formulation with the potential to improve cognitive function and mental health.
It contains a myriad of ingredients, including ginkgo biloba. This herbal supplement helps you improve the circulation of blood in the brain, promoting alertness and reducing forgetfulness.
- Boosts normal cognition
- Contains anti-aging properties present in its antioxidant ingredients
- 100% herbal supplement
- Helps treat depression and forgetfulness
- Enhances mental alertness
- Only available from online stores
Find out more about this nootropic product on our Brain Pill review and the NooCube review.
Ginkgo Biloba Benefits
Here are 9 health benefits you can enjoy from using ginkgo biloba:
- Boosts brain function and memory
- Powerful antioxidants
- Improves heart health and circulation
- Improves anxiety and depression
- Relieves premenstrual symptoms
- Improves vertigo
- Fights inflammation
- Reduces symptoms of dementia and other psychiatric diseases
- Reduces negative symptoms of asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Boosts Brain Function and Memory
Ginkgo biloba extract contains a rich amount of antioxidants that improve blood flow to the brain in healthy people. Improved blood circulation in the brain reduces the risk of damage to neurons, leading to improved performance.
As a modest number of studies have found out, there is a link between using ginkgo biloba and increased mental performance and well-being .
While these findings have led many people to believe that ginkgo biloba extract can improve their focus, attention, and memory, further research shows otherwise. There is no measurable increase in memory, brain function, or attention capacity from using ginkgo biloba supplements .
Some users may enjoy this benefit from using ginkgo biloba extract while others may not.
Many health claims made about ginkgo extract come from its rich composition of antioxidants. Ginkgo extracts contain massive amounts of terpenoids and flavonoids, two compounds with potent antioxidant effects on the body .
These antioxidants combat free radicals, highly reactive particles produced by the body during normal metabolic functions such as detoxification. Where free radicals would also destroy healthy body tissue and increase aging and cellular damage, antioxidants fight these effects .
Besides that, antioxidants also fight the growth and development of cancerous cells, reducing your risk of cancer. They may also prevent vision loss and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis .
More research is underway to determine just how effective ginkgo’s antioxidant effects are in treating some diseases.
Improves Heart Health and Circulation
Using ginkgo extract and supplements improves blood circulation to multiple parts of your body, including your heart and your brain.
Traditional Chinese medicine used roasted ginkgo seeds to open blood vessels and ‘channel’ energy to different body organs, especially the liver, lungs, and kidneys, and that appears to be the case even with its modern use.
One study attributed an increase in blood flow in the body of individuals with heart disease. Ginkgo extract potentially increased the levels of nitric oxide in the test patients, dilating blood vessels in the body, which also helps reduce blood pressure . Another study on older adults showed similar results.
Many anti-inflammatory properties in ginkgo biloba extract also had protective effects on the heart and brain, reducing the risk of stroke . Improved circulation also appears to have positive effects on brain functioning and health, protecting brain cells from inflammation and damage.
Improves Anxiety and Depression
Research shows ginkgo may decrease anxiety for people using it as a supplement. Both animal and human studies reflect this.
Several studies on the effects of ginkgo on animals showed a decrease in stress, anxiety, and depression.
Mice treated with ginkgo biloba extract showed reduced emotional responses to stressful situations compared to those that weren’t. Researchers attributed these positive findings in part to ginkgo’s rich antioxidant content .
In a placebo-controlled clinical trial involving human subjects, 170 people with anxiety treated with 240 to 480 mg of ginkgo showed a 45% decrease in symptoms of anxiety compared to the placebo group .
This relationship also points to a possible decrease in the effects of depression. Although depression is a complex condition with multivariate root causes, ginkgo may reduce its risk.
Ginkgo’s anti-inflammatory properties also improve your body’s ability to handle high-stress hormones.
While more research on the effects of ginkgo in depression is underway, the results look promising.
Here’s more information on nootropics for memory.
Relieves Premenstrual Symptoms
Ginkgo has shown some early promise in reducing the negative physical and psychological effects of premenstrual syndrome in women.
A study conducted on 85 college students showed a 24% reduction in PMS symptoms after consuming ginkgo. The placebo group showed a much lower reduction at just 8.8%. While ginkgo may not fully treat PMS, it has a significant positive effect when used .
More researchers are conducting further studies to determine further relationships between PMS and ginkgo.
Studies on ginkgo show that it matches prescription drug’s effectiveness in treating vertigo . It increased blood flow to the brain, which helped reduce dizziness and balance issues in patients with both vestibular and non-vestibular vertigo.
Inflammation is a natural response by the human body to an injury or attack on the immune system. Components of your immune system come together to fight the invasion and heal the injury or disease.
Some chronic illnesses can trigger an inflammatory response on the body, even with no injury. These symptoms can lead to permanent tissue and DNA damage.
Ginkgo biloba extract shows remarkable promise in fighting inflammation in human and animal body cells for a myriad of diseases . Supplements might reduce the inflammatory side effects of diseases and conditions like:
- Irritable bowel disease
- Heart disease
These positive effects are, in part, a result of the high levels of antioxidants present in ginkgo products. However, more research must occur to determine the exact role ginkgo plays in the treatment of these and other complex diseases before making any lasting conclusions.
Reduces Symptoms of Dementia and Other Psychiatric Diseases
Ginkgo has undergone multiple studies on its ability to fight symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease and impaired cognitive function. However, medically reviewed research shows conflicting results.
Many studies have shown a decrease in the rate of cognitive decline in older people, although other studies could not come to similar conclusions.
However, a review of 21 medically reviewed studies has shown an increase in the functional capabilities of mild Alzheimer’s disease patients who use ginkgo with conventional medicines .
Other studies show a significant reduction in the severity of symptoms associated with mild cognitive impairment, where a patient used ginkgo for up to 24 weeks .
Ginkgo biloba’s ability to increase blood flow to the brain draws these positive results, especially in cases of vascular cognitive impairment .
While more research is underway to determine if ginkgo is effective at treating cognitive decline, its benefits are quite clear in assisting treatment.
Reduces Negative Symptoms of Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Ginkgo’s anti-inflammatory properties play a huge role in reducing negative symptoms of asthma and COPD. These properties reduce the swelling of your airways, increase your lung capacity and make breathing easier.
Using ginkgo and other glucocorticosteroids for managing symptoms of asthma showed a remarkable decrease in inflammatory compounds in the saliva of test subjects in one study .
In another study, a mixture of Chinese herbs with ginkgo extracts showed a significant decrease in coughing, bronchitis, and other symptoms of COPD in test subjects .
While none of these studies credit these benefits to ginkgo alone, it has a complementary effect on the medication used to treat these conditions.
How To Take Ginkgo Biloba
You can take ginkgo biloba supplements in three commercial forms:
- Oral supplements
- Intravenous treatments
Most medically reviewed research uses purified ginkgo extracts. However, avoid eating raw ginkgo seeds as these are very poisonous.
Let’s take a deeper look into these three ways of taking ginkgo:
Ginkgo biloba supplements can come in various oral forms, including capsules, tablets, liquid extracts or dried leaves and teas. There is no standardized dosage for taking ginkgo biloba supplements, although evidence supports taking up to 240 mg a day, divided into several doses.
As many researchers have tested ginkgo supplements in controlled doses, none exceeds 600 mg per day. The rule of thumb here is to avoid exceeding this dosage. Where possible, start with small doses and work your way up as you build tolerance.
It can take anywhere between 6 to 12 weeks to see any major changes when using oral supplementation, so be patient.
Ginkgo’s high concentration of antioxidant compounds makes it an excellent anti-aging element. It also combats oxidative stress, causing a soothing effect on problematic skin and reducing allergic skin reactions.
In many cream formulations, ginkgo also helps you keep your skin hydrated, increasing smoothness and reducing roughness.
You can also inject ginkgo into your body as an intravenous treatment. Often, people recovering from a stroke can benefit from IV treatments, alongside conventional therapy.
You’ll enjoy all the benefits of taking oral ginkgo extracts, including improved blood flow, memory, and reduced anxiety.
There’s only one difference, however, ginkgo IV treatments are only available to you from a healthcare provider.
Ginkgo Biloba Side Effects
Taking ginkgo biloba supplements is safe. However, you may experience some side effects under certain conditions:
- Stomach pains
- Allergic reactions
For many healthy adults, the risk of experiencing these side effects is negligible. But, if you’re allergic to plants or medication with alkylphenols, avoid taking ginkgo . Always consult a qualified physician before including ginkgo in your diet.
Precautions and Warnings
Here are some critical precautions and warnings on the effects of ginkgo biloba :
- Ginkgo may be unsafe as an oral supplement during pregnancy. Using it may cause premature labor or exacerbate your bleeding during childbirth.
- People with bleeding disorders should avoid using ginkgo. Ginkgo slows blood clotting, and this can make bleeding worse. Also, avoid ginkgo before undergoing major surgery to avoid excessive bleeding during and after your operation.
- Although ginkgo biloba extracts are safe for children and adults, do not eat ginkgo seeds. They’re poisonous and can cause seizures and death.
- If you have a history of seizures, avoid ginkgo as it exacerbates them.
- Ginkgo may have a negative effect on diabetes treatment.
- People allergic to poison ivy, mango rind, poison sumac, poison oak, and cashew shell oil should avoid ginkgo as they may be cross-reactive to it.
- Ginkgo can interact with ibuprofen and other anticoagulant drugs to further slow down clotting.
- Buspirone and ginkgo can interact to cause hyper excitement since both can affect brain function.
- Some medications broken down by the liver may interact with ginkgo, either slowing down their effects or increasing their side effects.
- Since ginkgo can increase the chances of having seizures, avoid taking them with medications that increase the chances of seizures. Ginkgo may also reduce the effectiveness of drugs used to prevent seizures.
When Should You Not Take Ginkgo?
- If you have diabetes
- When you’re on seizure threshold lowering drugs
- If you have a bleeding disorder
- Just before and after a major surgery
- During late-term pregnancy or just before delivery
- When on anticoagulant medication or blood thinners
- If it comes as ginkgo seeds
- If you’re allergic to the ginkgo plant, poison oak, mango rind, and other similar plants
- When you experience adverse side effects after use
Here are answers to vital questions you may have about ginkgo biloba:
What Is Ginkgo Biloba Good For?
Ginkgo biloba has many health benefits for anyone using it. It contains a high concentration of antioxidants that have several benefits:
- They reduce inflammation
- It’s an excellent cognitive enhancer
- Increases blood flow to all the major organs in the body
- Improves symptoms of vertigo
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Prevents aging
- Reduces high blood pressure
- Reduces brain cell damage
- Improves the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and prevents dementia.
While these are some positive effects ginkgo has on the health and wellbeing of people, more research is underway to discover other benefits it can have to treatments and therapies.
Is Ginkgo Biloba Safe To Take Daily?
Yes, ginkgo biloba is a safe supplement and you can take it daily. Take note, however, that researchers have not conducted studies on standardized ginkgo doses of more than 600 mg. To stay on the safe side, ensure you use only a maximum of 240 mg daily, spaced out into several daily doses, for up to six months.
Some situations will require your doctor to provide medical advice before taking ginkgo. Give it up to six weeks before you begin to notice any changes in your body.
Does Ginkgo Improve Memory?
Yes, ginkgo improves your memory and cognitive ability, although modestly. It does this by improving blood flow to your brain. Its high concentration of antioxidants also helps protect brain cells from damage. While these effects may have a positive effect on your memory, more research is underway to determine its extent.
Besides improving memory, which of the following can ginkgo biloba improve?
What Medications Should Not Be Taken With Ginkgo Biloba?
Here is a list of medications you should not take with ginkgo biloba:
- Anticoagulants and blood thinners
- Medications that enhance brain function
- Antidepressant drugs
- Diabetes medication
- Drugs that affect liver function
- Antiplatelet drugs
- NSAID painkillers.
Ginkgo will also reduce the effectiveness of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Consult your doctor before taking ginkgo biloba supplements.
Does Ginkgo Boost Dopamine?
Ginkgo biloba doesn’t directly boost dopamine, but it helps create an environment for it to work more efficiently. It reduces the levels of substances that naturally break down dopamine. As such, dopamine works more naturally to improve your mood and mental wellness.
Click here to find out more about nootropics for motivation.
Taking ginkgo supplements can have a positive effect on your health. It improves blood circulation in your body by dilating your blood vessels. It also improves your cognitive function by increasing blood flow to your brain.
Before taking ginkgo supplements, ask for medical advice from your doctor. Take all necessary precautions to prevent adverse side effects when using it. If you experience negative side effects, discontinue use.
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