Ginkgo Biloba: Health Benefits, Uses, Risks
Ginkgo biloba, also known as the maidenhair tree, is one of the oldest species of trees on the planet. The tree is considered to be a “living fossil”, meaning that it has continued to survive even after major extinction events.
Ginkgo trees have very unique properties – they are capable of growing more than 130 feet and can live for over one thousand years. In fact, there are some trees in China are said to be over 2,500 years old. The plant has a number of therapeutic properties and contains high levels of flavonoids and terpenoids, these are antioxidants that provide protection against oxidative cell damage from harmful free radicals.
Over recent years, ginkgo supplements have become increasingly popular – they are currently among the top-selling herbal medications. Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) is collected from the dried green leaves of the plant and is available as liquid extracts, capsules, and tablets. The dried leaves of the plant can also be used to make tea.
History of Ginkgo biloba:
The Missouri Botanical Garden says that ginkgo biloba is “the only member of a group of ancient plants believed to have inhabited the earth up to 150 million years ago.” Introduced very early to human history, the trees were originally cultivated for consumption and as a traditional medicine.
Ginkgo biloba was first used for its medicinal properties in Ancient China. The Chinese took ginkgo for its claimed cognitive benefits and to alleviate symptoms of asthma, they also ate ginkgo nuts because of their “strengthening” properties.
According to the Institute for Natural Products Research, other traditional uses of Ginkgo biloba include:
- Preventing bed wetting
- Soothe bladder irritation.
- Treating intestinal worms
Ginkgo biloba’s introduction to the western world:
Engelbert Kaempfer was the first European to discover ginkgo, in the late 1600s. By 1771 Linnaeus finally named the tree Ginkgo biloba which translates into “silver plume with two lobes.” In 1784 ginkgo was brought over to America to the garden of William Hamilton.
Possible health benefits of Ginkgo biloba:
The possible medicinal uses and health benefits of ginkgo biloba are memory enhancement, dementia and Alzheimer’s. There is some evidence indicating that people with dementia can benefit from taking ginkgo. Its benefits can include improved thinking, Improved memory and better social behaviour. Researchers believe that ginkgo improves cognitive function because it promotes good blood circulation in the brain and protects it from neuronal damage. However, ginkgo may not improve memory among people who are healthy. Ginkgo may help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.
Possible side effects of Ginkgo biloba
Patients with blood circulation disorders or individuals on anticoagulants, such asaspirin, are at risk of experiencing undesirable effects after taking ginkgo. Patients taking antidepressants are strongly advised not to take ginkgo as it inhibits monoamine oxidase, reducing the effectiveness of the medications. Possible side effects of Ginkgo biloba include:
- Stomach ache