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What is Ginkgo Biloba?

What is Ginkgo Biloba?

Extracted from one of the oldest living trees in the world, Ginkgo biloba is an incredibly popular herbal supplement used worldwide. With a vibrant history, there's plenty to uncover, so let's jump straight into the versatile uses of this top-selling supplement.

What exactly is Ginkgo biloba?

Ginkgo biloba is a herbal supplement extracted from the dried leaves of the ginkgo tree.[1] However, what makes the Ginkgo biloba species rather extraordinary is its history. Many people consider the tree a "living fossil", owing to its incredibly long lifespan and ties to similar species that existed around 170 million years ago. With some specimens in China believed to be over 2,500 years old, and reaching more than 130 feet tall, Ginkgo biloba is arguably one of the most resilient species on the planet.

The ginkgo tree's extensive history is also one of the main reasons Ginkgo biloba supplements are so popular. It has become a mainstay in cultures worldwide, proving itself slowly but surely over its many years of existence. Most notable is its influence on traditional Chinese medicine, in which the dried leaves are used for various holistic purposes and to support cognitive function.

How Ginkgo biloba works

Before diving into Ginkgo biloba's specific effects, we first need to review how the extract affects mental and physical well-being in general. The tree is packed full of flavonoids and terpenoids (ginkgolides and bilobalide), which are powerful antioxidants. Chiefly, what makes antioxidants crucial for human health is their impact on free radicals.

Free radicals are essentially unstable atoms that bounce around inside the human body, damaging cells. Being highly reactive, free radicals contribute to ageing, oxidative stress, illness, and more. However, antioxidants can effectively turn free radicals "off" by giving up some of their own electrons.

We still don't fully understand the extent of the interaction between antioxidants and free radicals, or how to make the best use of it. Still, any substance that can reduce the impact of free radicals could potentially benefit well-being.

What is Ginkgo biloba good for?

So, what is it about Ginkgo biloba supplements that have helped them retain a top-selling spot? To answer that question, we need to look at the science supporting ginkgo’s proposed influence. Below is a general summary of the areas showing the most promise.

Ginkgo biloba and cognitive disorders

The impact of Ginkgo biloba on cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) is one of the areas with the most research, but there is a caveat. Despite the interest, results appear mixed, with some studies suggesting there is a beneficial impact, while others contest its usefulness.

However, it may not be a case of no impact, but a limited impact in healthy individuals. A 2012 meta-analysis of Ginkgo biloba found "no ascertainable positive effects" in healthy individuals, but three further studies suggest that "Gb may provide some added cognitive benefits" in AD patients specifically.[2],[3],[4]

Ginkgo biloba and inflammation

There's no denying the significant impact of chronic inflammation, so any substance that may prove influential is worth exploring. To that end, a 2008 animal model study from US researchers highlights some interesting mechanisms of action concerning Ginkgo biloba and inflammatory markers.[5]

The study notes that a specific Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) may influence iNOS and COX-2 markers associated with ulcerative colitis. And while the researchers acknowledge the potential use of EGb 761 as a complementary strategy, the challenge of standardising ginkgo extract and isolating specific compounds remains an utmost priority for future studies.

Ginkgo biloba and mood disorders

Another area of promise centres on Ginkgo biloba extract 761 (EGb 761) and mood disorders such as anxiety. In a placebo-controlled study from the Klinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, researchers note that not only did EGb 761 perform significantly better than the placebo, but "it was safe and well-tolerated".[6]

Another study found similar results when examining the impact of Ginkgo biloba on various psychiatric disorders. The researchers proposed "the potential use of EGb 761, alone or combined with current medication treatment".[7]

Side effects of Ginkgo biloba

When it comes to potential side effects, there are a few to be aware of. First, we should point out that while dried ginkgo extract appears well-tolerated, we cannot say the same for raw ginkgo seeds and leaves. Both are toxic to humans, and you should avoid them entirely.

Outside of consuming parts of the ginkgo tree raw, the dried extract has the following potential side effects:

• Headache
• Vomiting/nausea
• Diarrhoea
• Dizziness

Another notable interaction is between ginkgo and blood viscosity. If you have a bleeding disorder or are currently taking medication that alters blood clotting, it is advised to avoid consuming Ginkgo biloba extract. Of course, if you have any doubts or concerns, you should always discuss taking a new supplement with a doctor or physician to obtain case-specific advice.

How much Ginkgo biloba should you take?

The research regarding Ginkgo biloba dosage is limited, and thus there aren't any specific guidelines. If you decide to take ginkgo supplements, it's best to follow the manufacturer's advice, starting with a low dose and building gradually to observe how you feel. Another important consideration is the type of supplement you use.

Ginkgo biloba is available as capsules, powder, tablets, extracts, and ready-to-brew teas. Each comes with differing concentrations and bioavailability, so you should adapt your dosage accordingly.

Remember that none of the forms highlighted above is superior to another. Instead, it's about matching the benefits of a certain product with your specific lifestyle and wellness needs.

When to take Ginkgo biloba

If you're taking ginkgo supplements for general wellness purposes, you should aim to consume a regular dose alongside your existing supplement routine.

If you are trying to address a particular wellness need, however, you should aim to take ginkgo extract 1–4 hours before it's needed. Nearly all forms of ginkgo supplements must travel through the digestive system before active ingredients can begin circulating the body.

Are Ginkgo biloba supplements safe?

Ginkgo biloba is a herbal supplement, which means it isn't subject to the same restrictions and quality control as regulated substances. To ensure you have the best possible experience, always buy Ginkgo biloba products from a trusted supplier, preferably one that publishes a complete list of ingredients. While ginkgo itself appears well-tolerated, there's a greater chance that low-quality products may include unwanted or harmful elements.

As for the tree's proposed wellness benefits, the exact influence remains under investigation. However, given the prevalence of Ginkgo biloba supplements, and their synergy with other natural ingredients, there's no doubt we haven't seen the last of research examining its impact on physical and mental well-being.

Interested in exploring Ginkgo biloba alongside dozens of other natural ingredients? Why not browse the Cibdol store for a complete selection of wellness supplements. And to learn more about the relationship between free radicals and antioxidants, visit our CBD Encyclopedia.

Sources

[1] Ginkgo. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/ginkgo. Published 2020. Accessed May 10, 2022. [Source]

[2] Canevelli M, Adali N, Kelaiditi E, Cantet C, Ousset P-J, Cesari M. Effects of gingko biloba supplementation in alzheimer's disease patients receiving cholinesterase inhibitors: Data from the ictus study. Phytomedicine. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0944711314000257. Published February 16, 2014. Accessed May 10, 2022. [Source]

[3] Kanowski S;Herrmann WM;Stephan K;Wierich W;Hörr R; S. Proof of efficacy of the ginkgo biloba special extract EGB 761 in outpatients suffering from mild to moderate primary degenerative dementia of the alzheimer type or multi-infarct dementia. Pharmacopsychiatry. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8741021/. Published 1996. Accessed May 10, 2022. [Source]

[4] Yang G;Wang Y;Sun J;Zhang K;Liu J; G. Ginkgo biloba for mild cognitive impairment and alzheimer's disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Current topics in medicinal chemistry. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26268332/. Published 2016. Accessed May 10, 2022. [Source]

[5] Kotakadi VS, Jin Y, Hofseth AB, et al. Ginkgo biloba extract EGB 761 has anti-inflammatory properties and ameliorates colitis in mice by driving effector T cell apoptosis. Carcinogenesis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2527648/. Published September 2008. Accessed May 10, 2022. [Source]

[6] R; WHAKHKMH. Ginkgo biloba special extract EGB 761 in generalised anxiety disorder and adjustment disorder with anxious mood: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of psychiatric research. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16808927/. Published 2006. Accessed May 10, 2022. [Source]

[7] P; MPR-SERCR. Ginkgo biloba extract 761: A review of Basic Studies and potential clinical use in psychiatric disorders. CNS & neurological disorders drug targets. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25642989/. Published 2015. Accessed May 10, 2022. [Source]

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