In the past 20 years, there has been a rapid rise in the use of natural herbal supplements. Statistics show that 52 million adults in the U.S. used these supplements in 2012. That number continues to rise with ginkgo biloba at the top of the list as far as brain supplements are concerned.
Ginkgo biloba benefits the body and mind in many ways. This nootropic provides multiple well-studied and clinically proven health benefits. Today’s article will discuss several therapeutic uses for ginkgo biloba extract. Ginkgo can improve memory, aid weight loss, and reduce anxiety and depression. It can even help with altitude sickness, ADHD, and improving focus.
Herbal remedies are a great way to achieve better health, both physical and mental. However, many natural herbs are not extensively studied. The regulations on herbal dietary supplements are not as strict as prescription medications. Still, these homeopathic treatments usually carry fewer side effects than their prescription counterparts. At times, herbs are also more effective. Ginkgo is one such herb.
What Is Ginkgo Biloba?
What is ginkgo biloba? Ginkgo biloba is a tree species (maidenhair tree) that is native to China. It has existed for millions of years and can have a lifespan of roughly 1,000 years. This fact makes it one of the longest-living tree species in existence. Its fan-shaped leaves are used to create the sought-after ginkgo biloba extract. This extract appears in mental health products such as memory booster pills or nootropics. Ginkgo biloba supplements often contain other cognitive enhancing herbs to improve its effects on cognition.
Ginkgo biloba is used in traditional Chinese medicine for many conditions. These ailments include bronchitis, hypertension, and asthma. Ginkgo is an adaptogen, meaning it can help eliminate the physical and mental effects of stress. Over the past few decades, clinical research has studied ginkgo extensively. The herbal extract is a safe and effective therapeutic supplement through oral ingestion. Below, we will discuss the many health benefits and uses for ginkgo biloba.
12 Ginkgo Biloba Health Benefits and Uses
1. Helps Memory Retention & Brain Function
Using ginkgo biloba for memory is the most common health benefit that users seek. Acetylcholine sources are famous for improving memory. But, research has shown that certain herbs are just as helpful. In 2011, a study performed on healthy middle-aged patients taking 240mg of gingko biloba per day yielded exciting results. All subjects in the study showed improved information recall and memory retention. Another study found that gingko improves the speed and processing of new information.
Enhanced brain function is one of the significant mental health benefits of ginkgo biloba. Its effectiveness for boosting cognition and preventing memory loss is why you’ll see gingko as a mainstay in many of the best nootropics. The cognitive effects are partly due to increased blood flow within the brain post-supplementation. Gingko also improves the efficiency of neurotransmission. Together, these effects provide a unique combination for brain power that few herbs can achieve.
Several university students took part in a double-blind study supplementing ginkgo biloba. All subjects taking ginkgo experienced greater speed and accuracy in cognitive tests compared to placebo. The evidence shows that healthy individuals can reliably use ginkgo for memory improvement.
2. Reduces Altitude Sickness
Hikers and mountain climbers often feel sick as they climb to greater heights. To fix this, they have sought out a variety of natural treatments. One of the common ginkgo biloba uses is for reducing feelings of altitude sickness.
A randomized, double-blind study in 2002 looked at climbers taking 60mg of ginkgo biloba three times per day. All symptoms of altitude sickness significantly decreased. The subjects took their gingko biloba supplements the day before they made a rapid ascent from sea level to 4205 meters above the ground.
In another study, climbers took 80mg of ginkgo biloba twice per day, starting 24 hours before the climb. The climbers went up a 3696-meter-high mountain in northern Chile. They continued supplementing 80mg while exposed to high altitudes. As a result, they were far less likely to experience acute mountain sickness. Therefore, studies confirm that using ginkgo biloba for altitude sickness is an effective remedy.
3. Lowers Anxiety & Depression
Since ginkgo is an adaptogen compound, it has long been used to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Its anxiolytic and anti-stress effects are important to note. The mechanism of action for stress reduction involves preservation of feel-good neurotransmitters, serotonin, and dopamine.
A 2007 landmark clinical trial examined the effect of ginkgo on anxiety. Senior patients experiencing cognitive decline took 240mg of gingko biloba per day. After four weeks, patients who used ginkgo biloba for anxiety felt less anxious.
The benefits of ginkgo biloba don’t stop there. It’s also useful for treating depression, but it has not been extensively studied for this purpose. A clinical trial found that 240mg of gingko biloba per day reduced dementia symptoms, including depression. Ginkgo biloba also decreased feelings of apathy and irritability related to dementia. If you use ginkgo biloba for depression, you will also improve your sense of well-being. This nootropic is one of the best over the counter mood-boosting supplements.
4. Can Reduce Symptoms of ADHD
If you’re concerned about long-term risk Adderall or other ADHD medications, ginkgo is well worth a try. In 2014, a clinical pilot study examined 20 ADHD-diagnosed children. They consumed 240mg of ginkgo biloba extract per day for three to five weeks. Their quality of life improved while also reducing the severity of ADHD symptoms. Using gingko biloba for ADHD and cognitive function can be a practical solution based on this study’s results.
Another 6-week clinical trial found that ginkgo supplements improved inattention symptoms. Compared to Ritalin, there are no real differences in the number or frequency of side effects. Ginkgo may not be as potent as prescription ADHD stimulants by itself. But, it can increase the clinical treatment response rate of Ritalin by up to 35% when taken simultaneously. It is also known to be an excellent natural Adderall alternative.
5. Improves Blood Pressure & Heart Health
Another ginkgo biloba use is for stabilizing high blood pressure. One study found that ginkgo successfully reduced blood pressure within rats suffering from hypertension. Another study concluded that ginkgo biloba was able to reduce the rise of blood pressure in stressed-out individuals. At the same time, it lowered the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the same group.
For heart health, ginkgo biloba increases blood flow in the heart of healthy seniors. By acting as a blood thinner, this leads to improved nutrient and oxygen-rich blood flow towards vital organs within the body. It also reduces the formation of plaques in people who are at high risk for heart disease. These two effects strengthen the scientific link between ginkgo biloba and blood pressure regulation.
6. May Improve Skin Health
Believe it or not, a ginkgo supplement can make your skin more radiant and youthful in appearance. A 2010 School of Cosmetic Science study looked at ginkgo biloba as a skin solution. It reduced wrinkle formation by nearly 5%. Not only that, but it increased skin smoothness by 4% and moisturization by 28%. Used with other compounds in a formulation, it leads to better skin absorption.
One clinical trial investigated ginkgo biloba as a potential treatment for vitiligo. Vitiligo is a skin disorder that destroys pigment cells. This disease leads to the appearance of irregular white patches due to the loss of skin color. Ginkgo biloba was effective in reducing the spread of vitiligo in patients (ages 12-35). As you can see, there are many ginkgo biloba benefits for skin health.
7. Slows Hair Loss
As it turns out, this herbal nootropic is good for much more than merely enhancing memory and cognition. A scientific study published in 1993 revealed ginkgo biloba’s potential for hair growth. Researchers found that the ginkgo biloba extract promoted hair regrowth within mice. More research found that ginkgo slows hair loss by being rich in L-cysteine, a critical amino acid found in healthy hair.
Ginkgo biloba’s effects on hair health are believed to be caused by increased blood flow as well. When blood circulation is improved, your hair follicles can receive more essential nutrients. This helps the follicles stay active while simultaneously preventing hair thinning. If you’re looking for a natural beauty remedy, ginkgo biloba for hair loss and hair growth may be for you.
8. Helps Alzheimer's & Dementia
To date, 12 systematic reviews have examined ginkgo biloba's ability to treat dementia. Patients taking 200mg per day for at least five months showed a significant reduction in their symptoms. They also showed substantial improvements in cognitive performance and overall quality of life. It is not a complete cure, to be fair. Still, the evidence suggests that ginkgo benefits were statistically relevant in nearly all studies when compared against placebo.
Ginkgo biloba has also received attention for reducing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Many clinical trials examined ginkgo biloba in combination with conventional medicine. In all cases, there was a noticeable reduction in cognitive impairment. Another study examined ginkgo biloba on its own, without any other medications. Shockingly, it was clinically effective in reducing impairment of brain function. The results suggest that gingko can not only help brain fog, but it can also slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.
9. Contains Powerful Antioxidants
Gingko biloba has an extremely high concentration of antioxidants. Antioxidants are unique compounds that combat free radicals, which are molecules that damage cells. Free radicals are also known as “oxidants.” Oxidants accelerate the aging process and the development of diseases. Thus, for longevity, it’s in our best interest to fight these free radicals with powerful antioxidants.
The antioxidant activity is a major contributor to the health benefits of ginkgo biloba. It protects DNA from oxidative damage, stops unnecessary cell death, increases energy levels, and much more. Many of the studies to date used rats as opposed to human subjects. Therefore, more human research is necessary. Still, enough studies existed on antioxidants for us to conclude their effectiveness.
10. Improves Sexual Health & Libido
Ginkgo biloba is known for its potential to promote sexual health. Many studies focus on people who have sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressant medication. So far, it appears that ginkgo biloba can increase sexual function in those people. It positively impacts desire, excitement, and the climax.
In healthy women, whether in menopause or not, gingko biloba is useful in improving libido. One study found that women improved in both frequency and intensity of sex. They also experienced overall satisfaction with their sex lives. Other factors of interest include an easier time to reach an orgasm and the strength of said orgasm. For both men and women, these are significant health benefits worth examining.
11. Can Help Fight Inflammation
Inflammation is known as a core driver of many degenerative diseases in the body. This response occurs when the body’s immune system responds, either excessively, or when no illness is present. Inflammation is not harmful when it functions properly, but excess inflammation can damage the body.
Some researchers believe that a ginkgo biloba supplement can be an anti-inflammatory agent. A 2011 study in rats revealed that a ginkgo biloba injection into the inflamed area reduced pain. This same injection reduced the rate of inflammation as well. Another 2013 study looked at bilobalide, a compound found in ginkgo biloba leaves. It also inhibits inflammatory pain. This response explains why ginkgo biloba extract can treat so many diseases.
12. Supports Vision & Eye Health
Ginkgo biloba shows a lot of promise concerning eye health. One scientific study shows that ginkgo improves blood flow towards the eye. Moreover, this happened without any changes to heart rate or blood pressure. Thus, ginkgo biloba is a potential agent for treating various eye diseases such as macular degeneration.
Another 2012 study involved the use of ginkgo biloba in glaucoma patients. After two years of taking 160mg daily, visual function improved. It was one of the first studies to confirm that ginkgo biloba benefits eye health and vision problems.
Ginkgo Biloba Side Effects
Ginkgo has shown great promise as an overall health aid and as a natural supplement for focus. With that said, there are potential side effects of ginkgo biloba you should consider. Common adverse side effects include headaches, dizziness, and constipation. It may also interact negatively with other medications. Although rare, some patients who take ginkgo biloba with Advil reported internal bleeding.
Certain individuals should avoid taking ginkgo biloba or use it with precaution. Patients with bleeding disorders should avoid using this herbal nootropic. If you’re using blood thinners, consult your doctor before taking a ginkgo supplement. Surgical patients should stop using ginkgo biloba at least two weeks before surgery. More research will determine the long-term safety of regular ginkgo biloba use.
Ginkgo Biloba Dosage
What is the recommended ginkgo biloba dosage? There is no universally agreed upon dosage for ginkgo biloba. The appropriate dose is mostly dependent on the condition. For instance, daily doses as high as 360mg have been used in studies examining attention span and memory. However, most studies examine dosing ranges between 120mg and 240mg. This range seems to most widely agreed upon dose for holistic thinking, creativity enhancement, and brain function support.
Please read the manufacturer’s directions carefully before using any ginkgo biloba supplements. When in doubt, start with a lower dose, then gradually work your way up until you receive the desired effects. Do not hesitate to stop using ginkgo if you experience any side effects. Benefits may take between four to six weeks to achieve.
Final Thoughts on the Health Benefits of Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo leaves derived from the maidenhair tree have been used in medicine for thousands of years. There are many health benefits of ginkgo biloba supplementation. It’s not a limitless pill, but it can work wonders for cognition, memory, and a wide variety of other conditions. However, more research is needed to validate some of the claims made by its advocates. The FDA does not currently approve ginkgo biloba for any medical benefits despite numerous convincing studies.
Please consult with your doctor or physician before you begin taking any ginkgo biloba supplement. While there is a low chance of side effects, it may interact with your existing medications. Additionally, you may be suffering from a medical condition that will be made worse by taking it. Your physical and mental health should always be your priority.
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