Ginkgo biloba is an extract taken from one of the oldest tree species known as the G. biloba tree, native to China, and is commonly associated with treating blood circulation disorders, neurological disorders, and memory loss.1 The tree itself is renowned for its ability to treat asthma and coughs. However, for its current day usage, the most potent properties are typically extracted from the leaf of the tree.
Why is it Effective?
The extract obtained from the leaves of the fruit contains two medicinal properties know as flavonoids and terpenoids.3
Flavonoids are phytonutrients found in most fruits and vegetables, making up the bright colours in the plants, in addition to being found in tea and wine.3 These plant chemicals are so beneficial because they are a great form of antioxidant, anti inflammatory, and immune system booster.3 They have been shown to help heart disease prevention, in addition to having anti cancer and anti virus properties, and playing a large role in protecting the brain.3
Flavonoids are able to perform these functions by working to gather the cell-damaging free radicals that are given off by radiation, toxins, and heavy metals, especially in the brain, as it is most susceptible to free radical damage which causes memory loss.4
Terpenoids, or modified terpenes, are found in the oils of plants and are hydrocarbons that are denatured by oxidation (extracting from the leaf).5 They are responsible for the smell and flavour of the plant. When seen in essential oils, they are typically listed as “Quinta essential”, which is the fragrance of the plant.6 These compounds are known to have anticancer, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties.7 Though, their anti cancer effects give them their reputation, since they help to inhibit the formation of tumours, and slow down tumour angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels).7 Additionally, they help to promote blood flow by dilating blood vessels.8
Dementia and Alzheimers Disease
Ginkgo biloba is thought to be beneficial for treating some symptoms of dementia and Alzheimers. Due to the antioxidants present in flavonoids and terpenoids, the antioxidants may help to protect the brain against free radical damage, reducing damage to the cells and slowing memory loss.9 The brain is most susceptible to free radical damage from oxygen, as it consumes the most oxygen in the body.9 Moreover, it is thought to improve memory by protecting brain cells and encouraging blood flow to the brain, due to its positive effect on circulation.9
Similarly, the flavonoids and terpenoids found in the extract may have a positive effect on reducing Alzheimers disease. Their ability to reduce the stickiness of platelets can counteract some of the inflammation caused by Alzheimers Disease.10
This powerful plant has been deemed an effective way to reduce premenstrual symptoms such as headaches, back pain, mood swings, fatigue, and anxiety.11 In a study published in the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine”, women took Ginkgo Biloba tablets three times a day from the 16th day of their cycle up until the 5th day of their next menstrual cycle. Women who took the tablets reported a significant decrease in their usual menstrual symptoms.11
By reducing inflammation, promoting memory retention and brain function, and increasing blood flow to the brain, this promotes overall cognitive health, increasing the body’s ability to concentrate.12 In a study conducted by the University of Munich, researchers tested the effect of the plant extract on middle-aged adult’s mental capabilities over a four week period. Those taking the tablet versus taking the placebo found significant differences in self-estimated, overall mental health.12
By having the ability to dilate the blood vessels, circulation is improved throughout the body. When arteries are clogged and blood circulation is inhibited, muscles become deprived of oxygen, making it painful on the legs to walk; this is known as claudication.13 The extract is found to have a very beneficial effect on blood circulation, helping to supply oxygen to the muscles, decreasing the pain concentrated in the muscles.13
Overall, Ginkgo biloba has been shown to live up to its hype in multiple studies. Many juice bars are starting to offer it as a booster to juices and smoothies, as it is a growing supplement in the health industry. With its potential to help slow progression of dementia, reduce PMS, and promote circulation, it is no doubt that it is a unique plant that encompasses many powerful properties.
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