Ginkgo biloba is an ancient tree that's most well known for its brain-boosting benefits. The leaves and plant extract have been used for thousands of years, especially in Chinese medicine.
The trees themselves symbolize longevity and enlightenment in Asian countries. Traditional medicine practices use the leaves and seeds as herbs to promote stamina, longevity, and respiratory health. Today, modern research has discovered many potential uses of ginkgo for mind and body.
Here's more about this revered tree and the top benefits of ginkgo biloba for health.
What is Ginkgo Biloba?
Ginkgo trees (Ginkgo biloba) are also known as maidenhair trees. They are native to regions in Japan and China and are the oldest surviving species of tree.
In fact, ginkgo is believed to be the only survivor of an ancient order of trees. It's often referred to as a "living fossil" in light of this fact. This is part of why ginkgo is considered a tree of longevity and valued for its hardiness.
Ginkgo biloba grows up to 50' tall and 35' wide. It has beautiful fan-shaped leaves that turn a brilliant yellow in the fall. Individual trees can live for a few thousand years. Today, there's a 1400-year-old tree still going strong in China, but the record is 3500 years!
Not only are ginkgo trees long-lived, they are also incredibly hardy. They can withstand poor soil, city growing spaces, pollution, salty soil- and apparently nuclear bombs.
Several ginkgos were among the few living things to survive the radiation of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. One was just over a kilometer away from the center of the blast, yet continued to grow and bud as strong as ever.
Understanding the nature of ginkgo biloba is important for realizing its health benefits. The properties of herbs are deeply connected to how they grow and react to the world around them.
In this case, the hardiness and longevity of the trees are what gives ginkgo leaves their powerful effects on human health.
Top Health Benefits of Ginkgo Biloba
Boosts and Protects Your Mind and Memory
The ability of ginkgo to support and boost brain health is probably its most well-researched aspect. It's also been studied as a potential aid for diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia.
Healthy brain function is something that's hard to measure and observe in research studies. However, a few trials have indicated that ginkgo extract can boost overall mental performance and memory. Those who took it also reported a greater sense of well-being. (1)(2)
More research has been focused on the potential of ginkgo to help with cognitive disorders.
So far, the results are positive, especially when gingko is used in conjunction with conventional treatments. Studies show it may be able to improve overall brain function in those with mild Alzheimer's as well as those suffering from dementia. (3)(4)
Another trial explored a combination of ginkgo extract and aspirin to aid patients who had just experienced an acute ischemic stroke. Patients taking the extract show significantly greater cognitive improvements than those taking aspirin alone. (5)
While there's certainly potential for ginkgo biloba to help treat cognitive disorders, its greatest benefits may be for the longevity and protection of the mind. Taking it regularly can boost your mind and possibly keep it sharp for longer.
Can Help Calm Anxiety and ADHD
A few studies have already documented potential anti-anxiety properties of ginkgo.
In one human trial, participants with generalized anxiety disorder were given 240 mg ginkgo extract, 480 mg ginkgo extract, or a placebo daily for four weeks. Both doses of the extract produced a significantly higher reduction of anxiety symptoms than the placebo did. (6)
The calming effects of ginkgo may also prove useful for managing ADHD symptoms, although there's no conclusive evidence yet.
One trial found that ginkgo did reduce some symptoms of ADHD in children. It was not as effective as a common medicine, methylphenidate, but also did not have some of the side effects that the medication did. (7)
Boosting circulation is one of the most traditional uses for ginkgo biloba. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the leaves and seeds are thought to stimulate blood flow, which in turn supports several other systems in the body.
The most notable example in TCM is the support of the respiratory system. Ginkgo was frequently used to treat asthma and upper respiratory disorders, in part because the increased circulation helps to get rid of stagnation in the lungs.
Some researchers theorize that improvement in circulation may be part of the reason why ginkgo can improve brain health. It may increase blood flow to the brain, resulting in better cognitive function.
May Reduce Symptoms of PMS
There is some research that indicates ginkgo biloba may have benefits for reducing PMS symptoms- both mental and physical.
From the evidence so far, ginkgo can have a positive effect on PMS symptoms, but it's not necessarily the strongest remedy. However, it could be a good aid when used in combination with other natural remedies for PMS to give you a chemical-free way to feel better before your period.
Helps Relieve Migraines and Headaches
Headaches, particularly migraines, can really get in the way of life. While painkillers are always an option, many people would like a more natural and herbal approach to dealing with head pain.
Taking ginkgo biloba long-term has been shown in several studies to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Relief was not instantaneous, but participants noticed significant improvements after 3-4 months. In one study, migraines with aura disappeared completely in over 42% of participants taking ginkgo! (10)(11)
Full of Antioxidants for Skin & Heart Health
Ginkgo biloba is full of powerful antioxidants that are known to have an anti-aging effect and boost your overall health. In fact, some researchers believe these antioxidants are responsible for many of ginkgo's benefits. (12)
The combination of antioxidants and improved circulation is likely why studies are showing heart benefits from taking ginkgo. It's able to increase levels of a specific compound (nitric oxide) that is involved in promoting healthy circulation and dilating blood vessels. This effect can be helpful for people who already have heart disease. (13)(14)
Antioxidants are also very beneficial for your skin. Using ginkgo products topically may help to smooth out your skin, improve wrinkles, and boost hydration. (15)
Fights Chronic Inflammation
Another benefit of having a high antioxidant content is that ginkgo can reduce inflammation in your body. Chronic inflammation is the bad kind that's connected to all sorts of chronic diseases. Antioxidants are known to lower this type of inflammation and reduce your risk of developing certain diseases.
Ginkgo extract has shown itself to indeed be anti-inflammatory in both human and animal studies. (16)
Using Ginkgo Biloba
Although the traditional method would have been to use the leaves or seeds straight from the tree, ginkgo extract is the most common way to use this herb today.
You can take the extract daily to improve circulation and give your mind a boost. For some benefits, you'll need to take it long-term to notice results.
You can also try ginkgo alongside other herbs for memory, concentration, and clarity. This Cognitive Formula is one example where ginkgo is combined with herbs like eleuthero, gotu kola, peppermint, and rosemary.
It's unlikely you'll experience any side effects from taking ginkgo, since it's one of the safest herbs you can use. Rarely, symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, headaches, and allergic reactions can occur.
There is a possibility that ginkgo extract could interfere with certain medications, especially blood thinners.
Getting the Benefits of Ginkgo Biloba
Both ancient traditions and modern research support the many benefits of ginkgo biloba. It's most popular for its mind-boosting properties but can also calm anxiety, lower inflammation, improve circulation, relieve migraines, and much more.
Try taking it for yourself and discover how this herb can improve both physical and mental longevity!
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.