Ginkgo Biloba: Nature’s Ancient Remedy (With Video)

Ginkgo biloba

Considered a “living fossil,” Ginkgo biloba is the only living species in its division. This article highlights Ginkgo biloba, an ancient tree species renowned for its distinctive fan-shaped leaves and long history of traditional medicinal use.

What is Ginkgo biloba?

It is one of the oldest tree species in the world that is still in existence today. Native to China, the ginkgo tree has been cultivated for thousands of years, and its leaves have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Scientifically referred to as Ginkgo biloba, it belongs to a division of plants classified as Ginkgophyta, making it the only living species in this unique group. Commonly called “Ginkgo” for short, its fan-shaped leaves turn vibrant colors in autumn, providing a striking display and hinting at why it is often grown as an ornamental tree worldwide.

History and Origin

Dating back to the Jurassic period, the trees were once globally distributed until the onset of the Ice Age.

During the Ice Age periods between 2.6 million and around 12,000 years ago, trees were growing widely throughout the Northern Hemisphere. However, as massive glaciers advanced, these slow-growing trees were unable to migrate adequately southward to escape the encroaching ice sheets. Most of the populations perished in the extreme cold conditions.

By the end of the last Ice Age, around 12,000 years ago, only a small number of individual ginkgo trees were believed to have survived in small pockets of forests located in what is now modern-day China. Due to the coverage of their original habitat by glaciers or tundra, the species nearly went extinct. Luckily, these remnants provided the genetic stock needed to allow ginkgo to gradually repopulate areas of eastern Asia as the climate warmed. Over thousands of years, the trees very slowly expanded their range back northward. However, significant glacial scarring of the landscape meant their distribution remained limited to small, scattered groves rather than widespread forests.

By 2000 BC, the trees were primarily confined to a few mountain valleys in China. It was during this time that people began cultivating durable trees for their nutritious seeds and leaves used in traditional herbal medicine. Monks also helped propagate ginkgo through transplantation.

This preservation by early Chinese herbalists is what saved this ancient tree from total disappearance after the Ice Age devastation. Without such small remnant populations and deliberate growing efforts, these unique trees that have survived for over 200 million years may have otherwise slipped into extinction. Their legacy lives on, thanks to our ancient herbalist ancestors!

Benefits  Improves Cognitive Function

One of it’s best-known effects is its ability to support brain health and function. Several clinical trials have found that supplements can help enhance memory, concentration levels, and overall cognitive performance in older adults. The unique flavonoids and terpenoids in it are thought to increase blood flow to the brain while protecting neurons from oxidative stress.

Increases Blood Circulation

Early research discovered that this ancient tree possesses vasodilating properties, meaning it can widen and relax blood vessels throughout the entire circulatory system. This allows for improved blood flow to the extremities as well as major organs like the heart and brain. Better circulation works to reduce the risks of hypertension, stroke, peripheral artery disease, and other cardiovascular concerns.

Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease

While more study is still needed, preliminary evidence suggests ginkgo shows promise as a preventive agent against Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. It combats neural decline by fortifying cell membranes against free radical damage, lowering pro-inflammatory responses, and supporting cellular communication networks within the brain.

Promotes Heart Health

Thanks to its circulatory benefits, it’s consumption may assist with maintaining ideal cholesterol levels, a regular heartbeat, and other markers of cardiac protection. Some research links taking ginkgo supplements long-term with a reduced risk of congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis and other heart problems later in life.

Reduces Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

It may modulate neurotransmitters like serotonin in a similar way to some pharmaceutical antidepressants. Studies link it to alleviating mild to moderate depressive episodes as well as generalized anxiety over time when taken regularly. The increased blood flow to the brain from ginkgo is one theory for how it lifts the mood.

 How to Take Ginkgo Biloba

Supplement Forms

The most common way to obtain it’s benefits is through supplementation, typically in standardized extract form. Look for products yielding 24% flavonoids and 6% terpenoids per daily dose. It may also be found in liquid, tea, or capsule formulas. Fresh or dried leaves can provide effects as well when prepared correctly.

Ginkgo Biloba Extracts

As mentioned previously, the extract is likely the most common form available due to its standardized and concentrated levels of active constituents. Look for 24% flavonoids and 6% terpenoids as the standard potency. Extracts come in capsules, tablets, or liquid drops for oral consumption.

Whole Dried Leaves

Some people prefer using the whole dried leaves, which provide a less refined source of nutrients. The leaves can be brewed as tea, added to recipes, or infused into oils or elixirs for topical application. Be aware that the active compounds may not absorb as well.

 Tinctures

An herbal tincture uses high-proof alcohol like vodka to extract ginkgo compounds into a liquid concentrate. Tinctures containing 12–15% standardized extract levels are formulated to be taken sublingually for faster absorption. They impart effects more rapidly than other forms.

Gummy Supplements

For those who prefer more of a candy-like delivery system, gummy supplements provide chewable ginkgo biloba extract-infused gummies. These ensure compliance for kids or those who dislike swallowing pills. Absorption is still effective when taken as directed.

Topical Creams

Some manufacturers isolate anti-inflammatory ginkgo terpenes into skin creams designed to soothe bruising, minor burns, piles, and other dermal issues when applied directly. Effects are local to the application site.

 Recommended Dosage

A standard recommended amount is 120–240 mg per day when taking a ginkgo biloba supplement, but some studies utilized higher doses of up to 240 mg three times daily. It’s usually advised to take the supplement with food and drink plenty of water for the best absorption. A treatment course lasting 2–3 months is typical before experiencing effects.

Possible Side Effects

While it is quite safe for most people when taken as recommended, rare side effects can potentially include headaches, gastrointestinal upset, dizziness, and allergic skin reactions. It may also increase the bleeding risk for individuals taking anticoagulant medications. As always, consult your healthcare provider before starting any new herbal supplement regimen, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

 Interactions with Other Medications

It could theoretically reduce the effectiveness of certain antidepressants and blood pressure medications through interaction with the same metabolic pathways. It also poses interaction risks with anticoagulant drugs like warfarin through additive bleeding effects. Always disclose supplement use to doctors and pharmacists managing prescription medications to avoid dangerous, unintended consequences.

 Conclusion

With centuries of traditional therapeutic use and mounting scientific evidence, ginkgo biloba stands out as a promising herbal remedy worth considering. Its unique combination of cognitive, cardiovascular, and neurological benefits sets it apart from other supplements. For most people, ginkgo supplementation provides a natural way to maintain brain and body function while also lowering disease risks when taken long-term as part of a healthy lifestyle. While more research continues, the ancient ginkgo leaves hold great potential as a cornerstone of preventive healthcare strategies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How long does it take to feel the effects of ginkgo?

A: Most people begin to notice subtle effects within 4-6 weeks of daily supplementation. For full benefits, a daily regimen of 2–3 months is typically recommended.

Q: Is it safe to take ginkgo every day?

A: When taken as recommended in the labeling, daily ginkgo supplementation is considered very safe for most healthy adults. Be sure to consult your doctor if you are taking other medications.

Q: Can ginkgo help with tinnitus or ringing in the ears?

Some preliminary research suggests ginkgo may assist with tinnitus by improving circulation to the inner ear. However, more high-quality studies are still needed to confirm this potential benefit.

Q: How does ginkgo compare to other brain supplements like fish oil?

A: While fish oil supplies anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, ginkgo’s unique flavonoids and terpenoids may deliver superior benefits for memory, focus, mood, and cerebrovascular health when taken regularly. Both supplements have value but work through different pathways.

Q: Are there any drug interactions I need to be aware of?

A: Ginkgo could potentially interact with antidepressants, blood thinners, and beta-blockers by way of metabolism. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before combining ginkgo supplements with any prescription medications.

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