The ginkgo biloba or Japanese nut tree, originally comes from Central China. In the US the leaf extract of ginkgo biloba is mainly used for age-related disorders such as memory loss and to support the blood circulation and brain metabolism in the elderly.
The effects of ginkgo on health are probably due to the interaction of flavonoids, ginkolides and terpenes. In laboratory experiments, this mixture of substances has numerous effects: it protects nerve cells from harmful influences and supports the function of certain messenger substances in the brain that affect memory and learning.
In addition, the substances interfere with blood clotting, improve the flow properties of the blood (which is largely determined by the malleability of red blood cells) and trap free radicals (which cause damage in the body).
What is ginkgo biloba?
The ginkgo is a tree species native to China but is found worldwide in 2022. Ginkgo extracts are used for such things as tinnitus, dizziness or concentration problems. Ginkgo is also an ingredient in a large number of natural male-enhancement pills.
Origin and Occurrence
The medicinal plant ginkgo biloba promotes concentration and memory, but it does not help against Alzheimer’s disease as is often claimed. The ginkgo is a tree that can live for more than 1,000 years and reach a height of up to 40 meters. Ginkgo biloba basically has a pyramidal shape and a rather loose, open structure.
The wood of the tree has a very fine texture, the heartwood has a light brown color and the sapwood – that is the non-core wood of a tree which is located between the heartwood and the bark of the tree – a light yellow color. The bark is dark gray and has deep furrows that are barely flammable. In addition, the ginkgo has fairly thick fine roots and the young trees form a taproot (a strong main root), which can have a length of about one meter.
When environmental conditions are poor, ginkgo forms stalactite-like thickenings above ground, from which vegetative shoots emerge. In addition, woody thickenings are formed below ground, from which secondary stems often emerge. The terminal buds are light brown and surrounded by numerous leaves. Very distinctive are also the leaves, which resemble small fans.
Originally, ginkgo is native to mesophytic (moderately moist environment) mixed forests along the Jangtsekiang, Blue River or Chang Jiang, the longest river in Asia. Today, mainly male ginkgo trees are planted in Europe, mainly due to the fact that female seeds have an unpleasant odor.
However, in Japan and China you will find more female trees. Because Japanese walnut trees are extremely insensitive to pollutants from the air, they are ideally suited as trees along streets and parking lots. Moreover, they are quite resistant to diseases caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi.
Ingredients, effects and dosage
Gingko leaves, which contain flavonol glycosides and flavone glycosides, are used for pharmaceutical purposes. Other ingredients include proanthocyanidins, flavan-3-ols, biflavonoids, and acylated flavonol glycosides.
The aglycones are mainly isorhamnetin, quercetin, kaempferol, luteolin or apigenin. In addition, ginkgo contains terpenes in the form of terpene lactones, ginkgolides and sesquiterpenes. Other ingredients include: ketones, aldehydes, alcohols, ascorbic acid, quinic acid, gingkoic acid, sucrose and polyols. Special extracts are obtained from ginkgo leaves because they are rich in desirable substances while containing few undesirable substances.
Ginkgo extracts improve learning ability and memory and are also used for urinary incontinence, skin diseases, bronchitis and asthma. In addition, the leaf of the ginkgo contains active flavonoids, which trap free radicals.
The Japanese nut tree also improves blood circulation and the level of nutrients and oxygen in the cells. Some people may be allergic to ginkgo on skin contact, which can cause skin irritation.
Taking a very high dose may cause headaches or nausea. In addition, ginkgo preparations should not be taken with anticoagulant medications (anticoagulants), as this may increase the effect of the drug.
Health benefits of ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo biloba is used for such things as:
Memory problems (forgetfulness)
Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
Ginkgo biloba, according to research, has no effect on preventing dementia in the elderly.
Protects and improves cognitive health
Many of the brain-promoting ginkgo biloba benefits are due to its effective anti-inflammatory effects that increase antioxidant activity, lower oxidative stress and improve blood circulation. These are all important factors in maintaining cognitive health.
Ginkgo biloba reduces symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder after four weeks, however, Ginkgo biloba does not appear to affect depression or other mood disorders.
Combats PMS symptoms
Ginkgo helps reduce PMS symptoms such as mood swings, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, and muscle pain. PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome. This is a collective term for severe physical and emotional symptoms you may experience during the period before your period.
Allergic conjunctivitis (pink eye)
Ginkgo biloba has the ability to reduce symptoms of pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, an infection that can be caused by either viruses or bacteria and often disappears on its own within 10 days. Compared to placebo eye drops, the drops containing Ginkgo Biloba reduced the symptoms of pink eye caused by allergies (allergic conjunctivitis).
Improves sleep quality
Ginkgo biloba may be able to improve sleep quality without affecting REM function. This benefit is attributed to the antioxidant activity of ginkgo. Daily use of ginkgo biloba may improve subjective sleep quality.
Support heart health
Ginkgo biloba had a reduction in the buildup of atherosclerotic plaques (leading to arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries) as well as reduction in the oxidation of LDL cholesterol levels.
Research shows major benefit of ginkgo biloba for heart health seems to be its superior antioxidant capacity; by taking a supplement with ginkgo you enhance the activity of some of the most powerful antioxidants in the body, superoxide dismutase and glutathione.
Promotes healthy skin
In several cases, ginkgo biloba helps to improve the quality of the skin with regular use. In the form of a facial cream, flavonoids from ginkgo biloba caused a very noticeable difference in smoothness/roughness of the skin, wrinkles and moisture.
Increased moisture was the most noticeable, increasing by nearly 28 percent overall. Although this is only one study, it does suggest that the use of ginkgo biloba may help to naturally slow the aging process.
In Japan, the seeds of ginkgo are used as a side dish, consuming only the yellow inner core. In addition, the chopped and roasted grains serve as a spice. For gingko preparations, extracts of the dried leaves of gingko are used, in which mainly the terpenoids and flavonoids are active.
Extracts are therefore used because the contents of the leaves are barely soluble in water and are difficult for the body to use. Moreover, consumption of the leaves can also be harmful because the substances present can cause allergic reactions. Gingko can be used as a supplement, tincture or herbal tea.
If you want to make tea, add two teaspoons of ginkgo to boiling water and let it steep for ten minutes. Then strain the tea and drink it in small sips. The ginkgo tincture, if all goes well, is a pure and clean tincture based on the ginkgo biloba leaf. Approximately 10 to 50 drops can be taken daily (the package insert lists the correct number).
A variety of ginkgo supplements are often available in supermarkets, drugstores, and pharmacies. Some supplements contain a higher concentration of ginkgo extract.