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Ginkgo Biloba: 6 Health Benefits, Side Effects and Risks

Gingko Biloba is a popularly known dietary supplement. Ginkgo biloba seeds and leaves have created a specific impact on traditional Chinese herbology and thus are still frequently used by them. However, modern times’ research mainly concentrates on the Ginkgo Biloba extract.

The Ginkgo biloba leaf extract comprises the ginkgo leaves, consisting of two antioxidants, namely, flavonoids and terpenoids. When we age, our body starts developing harmful elements known as free radicals, which conceivably may contribute to brain health, heart conditions, and other diseases such as cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Antioxidants similar to the ones discovered in the ginkgo extract helps in battling these harmful free radicals and prevent them from causing damage to the body’s organ system, DNA, and multiple other cells.

Nevertheless, most of the claims focus on the ginkgo Biloba extract improving blood circulation through dilation of blood vessels and treating brain health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The effects of Ginkgo Biloba extract include treating age-associated memory impairment, vascular dementia, and cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease. The ginkgo supplements have several other uses that can benefit one’s health. Its antioxidant properties dilate the blood vessels and improve their circulation. Other than that, it can also soften bladder irritation and treat intestinal worms and intermittent claudication.

Regardless many studies have suggested that the fossil tree doesn’t prevent memory enhancement for healthy people. Similarly, it doesn’t completely deal with conditions such as high blood pressure, including other ailments such as treating tinnitus and multiple sclerosis. However, it is essential to take medical advice before including the dietary supplement in your regime.

Gingko biloba
Photo by keriluamox/ Creative Commons. (CC BY-SA 2.0) Copyright 2021.

Ginkgo Biloba: Introduction

Ginkgo biloba is the scientific term used for a tree species native to China. The meaning of Ginkgo Biloba is said to be, ‘a two-lobed-leaved silver apricot.’

‘Ginkgo’ is derived from ginkgo, which means a silver apricot. The name ginkgo is used in both Japanese and the Chinese language. However, due to the cultural and translation differences between both languages, the common phrase is often confused. Regardless, ginkgo is also otherwise commonly recognized as a ‘maidenhair tree.’

Ginkgo biloba belongs to a very ancient family of trees called Ginkgoales, and ginkgo Biloba is the only surviving species of the particular plant order. Hence, it is sometimes called a living fossil or fossil tree and is one of the oldest trees known to man.

It is said that the family lineage of ginkgo Biloba goes back further than 225 million years. It has also most probably observed the rise and fall of dinosaurs. Ginkgo has also managed to successfully, albeit barely, resist the ice age period.

In the last four generations, ginkgo is recorded to have a minimum of 20 species and most probably 50 species.

Though the leaf extracts of Ginkgo Biloba are used as dietary supplements, scientists are yet to discover evidence of whether the herbal tree holds any properties that will provide support to human health. Moreover, there are still no scientific indications that ginkgo Biloba can cure or be effective to a disease.

Gingko Biloba
Photo by Victor Sassen/ Common Creative. (CC BY-ND 2.0) Copyright 2021

Gingko Biloba: Health Benefits

1. Reduces Anxiety

Some documents have indicated that ginkgo Biloba consists of components that may ease anxiety attacks. According to a few animal studies, it was observed that the herb reduced the symptoms of anxiety to some extent. Ginkgo’s antioxidant properties might have contributed to declining anxiety symptoms.

However, taking ginkgo supplements may likely help reduce anxiety stress, but even with the shreds of evidence from studies, it’s still too soon to make any conclusive results.

As per one of the preliminary research, it was discovered that a specific kind of ginkgo extract formulation, also known as EGB 761, may effectively reduce anxiety symptoms. Participants suffering from generalized anxiety and adjustment disorder showed few signs of anxiety after taking the special ginkgo extract.

2. Improves Age-Associated Memory Problems

Traditional Chinese medicine has been distinguished mainly for diminishing the effects of anxiety and all the related symptoms associated with memory problems, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, the scientific evidence on ginkgo Biloba treating psychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other mild cognitive impairment disorders remains inconclusive.

According to certain studies, ginkgo Biloba proved to be efficient in cognitive decline and reducing the effects of dementia on people. However, some of the studies failed to give a positive result.

A detailed review assessed the result of four studies. As per the review, it was found that taking ginkgo Biloba supplements for 22 to 24 weeks can reduce a substantial amount of symptoms in dementia. Those studies also suggest that using standardized Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 has proved to be more effective as compared to the placebo-controlled trial to treat cases such as Alzheimer’s disease along with both mixed as well as vascular dementia.

3. Improves Heart Circulation

During the traditional period of Chinese herbology, the seeds of the ginkgo Biloba were used to create energy paths to several vital organ systems such as the liver, lungs, brain, and kidneys.

The already known ability of Ginkgo Biloba to improve blood flow of the various parts of the human body may have been attributed to its supposedly other health benefits.

According to one research, few human subjects with heart disease exhibited a positive response after giving ginkgo Biloba in their dietary supplements. The participants were revealed to have an immediate boost in the blood flow of their several body parts. Gingko Biloba raised at least 12% of the nitric oxide levels, i.e., a compound used to expand the blood vessels.

Another study experimented with older adults who showed the same result. However, these adults were given the Ginkgo Biloba extract.

Besides treating heart health conditions and preventing stroke, ginkgo Biloba has encouraged multiple diseases of brain health. The studies reported several plausible explanations for ginkgo to treat such diseases, one of which included the compound anti-inflammatory that exists in the plant of Ginkgo Biloba.

More research is needed to comprehend the effects of ginkgo Biloba on brain health and heart circulation.

4. Diminish PMS Symptoms (Premature Menstrual Syndrome)

According to preliminary studies, Ginkgo Biloba may consist of properties that can reduce both the physical and psychological symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

As per a study, if a women take 40 milligrams (mg) of Ginkgo biloba leaf tablets three times on different days for at least two menstrual cycles can reduce a significant amount of PMS symptoms.

However, there is still more research to be done to support the survey results. Regardless, no other conclusive scientific evidence has yet proven whether ginkgo Biloba can diminish symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

5. Improves Eye Health And Vision

Gingko Biloba has shown tremendous potential in treating eye health conditions such as glaucoma, among many others. The natural components of ginkgo Biloba contain antioxidant which helps in improving the blood flow through our body and thus treat such eye diseases.

The limited investigations on the effects of ginkgo Biloba on eye health show a promising result. Glaucoma is an eye disease that is caused due to an injury on the optic nerve which may result in permanent blindness.

Regardless, a study showed that people suffering from the eye disease glaucoma experienced an increase in the blood flow after they were given ginkgo Biloba supplements. However, the supplementation didn’t improve their vision.

Besides, the other two studies assessed ginkgo Biloba extract a potential to treat age-related macular degeneration. Although few healthy human subjects indicated signs of improvement it was not substantial enough to guarantee that Ginko Biloba can cure eye health conditions and age-related macular degeneration.

Hence, it’s still doubtful whether ginkgo Biloba medications increase the vision power of people who don’t already have a vision impairment injury. Also, more researches are needed to conclude if ginkgo Biloba extracts restrict the progression of age-related macular degeneration.

6. Works As A Sex Booster

Gingko Biloba is popularly known for boosting brain health and mental power, but not many people are aware that it can also work as a sex booster and can treat sexual dysfunctions such as low libido, erectile dysfunction, among others.

Gingko Biloba contains the energy to enhance blood levels of nitric oxide, which relaxes the blood vessels. The dilating blood vessels help improve blood flow which results in an erection. Hence, Ginkgo biloba can most probably help with several other sexual dysfunctions as it enhances the blood flow of those parts of your body.

Certain studies examined ginkgo Biloba treating sexual dysfunction caused by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) drugs such as antidepressants. However, the results weren’t that effective. In addition, there is a chance the herbal medicine didn’t work due to being mixed with the SSRI drug. But there is still hope that Ginko Biloba can treat antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunctions.

One of the researches showed that Ginkgo Biloba can enhance the pleasure and sexual desire of women who are concurrently going through sexual psychotherapy. The assortment of both ginkgo Biloba and therapy proved to be more productive as compared to the use of Ginkgo biloba supplement alone.

Nevertheless, no further researches can back up the evidence regarding ginkgo treating antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction or other desires.

Talk with your healthcare provider before taking ginkgo if you take any other medicines. It may change the effects of other medicines, especially blood thinners (anticoagulants).

Ginkgo Biloba
Photo by ginkgocz/ Creative Commons. Copyright 2021.

Side effects

There are a limited number of risks involved while taking ginkgo; however, there are still chances where the herbal medicine can cause severe harm to your health if not consulted with a professional doctor.

Regardless, there are several side effects of ginkgo that can seriously harm you. Hence, possible side effects of ginkgo can be triggered if you do not take it as prescribed by your doctor or pharmacist. The side effects of ginkgo may include:

  • Allergic skin reactions
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach injuries, and
  • Muscle weakness

Other side effects of ginkgo may cause if you suffer from bleeding disorders, then it is cautious for you to not take ginkgo since the medicine may influence blood clotting. Besides that it if you are allergic to alkylphenols then you should also not take ginkgo.

Ginkgo should also not be consumed by individuals on medications such as popular blood thinners like warfarin and aspirin, SSRIs/MAOIs/antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft, and drugs manufactured by NSAID like ibuprofen and Tylenol. Other than that, adverse medication interactions with garlic and vitamin e can also cause damage to your health.

Gingko comprises a blend of ginkgo toxins. The compound is mostly found in considerable quantities in the ginkgo nuts; however, a smaller amount of ginkgo toxin can also be found in the ginkgo leaves. The structure of ginkgo toxin is related to vitamin B6; thus, it is studied that it can stop the activity of vitamin B6.

According to one study, a woman consumed ginkgo nuts in huge quantities, which developed a generalized tonic-clonic seizure as it reduced the levels of vitamin B6 in her body. However, the women were treated, and after undergoing the treatment -vitamin B6 medication was included- most of her symptoms were resolved until there were no more seizures.

Gingko Biloba
Photo by Drew Avery/ Creative Commons. Copyright 2021

Risks

Like all the other medications, it is necessary to take ginkgo with care and prevent them from mixing the herb with other drugs. As it happens, combining ibuprofen with Ginkgo Biloba extract slows blood clotting and increases the risk of internal bleeding.

Those who are taking anticoagulants drugs such as aspirin may experience unwanted impact following the use of ginkgo. This particular Chinese herbal medicine tends to influence the process of blood clotting thus it is advised for patients who are suffering from bleeding disorders to consult before taking ginkgo.

Individuals who are taking SSRI-based medications such as antidepressant drugs must not use ginkgo as the herb holds back monoamine oxidase which diminishes the efficacy of the drugs.

Other than that, the combination of the drugs and ginkgo can probably cause an awful crisis which is commonly called serotonin syndrome.

But there was one particular report where an elderly person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease went into a coma after taking ginkgo supplements with antidepressant drug trazodone ( i.e. Desyrel).

Another report showed an individual acquiring high blood pressure after taking thiazide diuretic (water pills) medications with ginkgo. Hence, if you are on thiazide diuretics drugs, it is necessary to consult with your doctor or health care provider before you add ginkgo supplements to your daily regimen.

Gingko Biloba
Photo by ginkgocz/ Creative Commons. (CC BY 2.0) Copyright 2021

Dosages and Supplements

Similar to all the medicine dosages, it is strictly advised to take Ginkgo only after being consulted by a doctor.

Ginkgo is available in many forms in today’s market which includes:

  • Standardized extract
  • Tablets
  • Capsule form
  • Ginkgo seeds
  •  Dried ginkgo Biloba leaf extract to be used in teas, and
  • Liquid extracts (glycerites, tinctures including fluid extracts)

Remember to always take the purified and undiluted ginkgo extract rather than the raw seeds of ginkgo. Gingko seeds are fatal and can cause severe damages to your health.

As per recent studies, around 120–240 milligrams of ginkgo extract were consumed by adults. The doses of ginkgo extract were divided and consumed by the adults as per the prescribed dosage throughout the day. However, no maximum limit of the dosage has been discovered as of yet. But as a precautionary measure, it is safe to start with a lower dose and gradually move to increase your dose level to assure your ginkgo tolerance.

Most of the researchers have refrained from using more than 600 milligrams of ginkgo extract in their studies. So it is quite sensible to not exceed this quantity as it may cause irreparable harm to your health.

Another thing to keep in mind in regards to ginkgo extract is that it may take 4 to 6 weeks before any improvements or changes start appearing.

Ginkgo Biloba
Photo by Universidad de Navarra/ Creative Commons. (CC BY-ND 2.0) Copyright 2021.

Warnings And Precautions

Before taking ginkgo, you must ensure that you are not allergic to it. So you should first check in with your doctor or pharmacist and inform him/ her if you are allergic to Ginkgo as well as notify them about your other allergies. It might be possible that you could be allergic to the ingredients contained in ginkgo or any additional inactive elements. Thus, to avoid health problems you must evaluate your allergies.

Other than that, previously consuming ginkgo, you must also consult your doctor and pharmacist about your further health issues such as diabetes, seizures as well as other bleeding conditions.

In addition, if you are taking ginkgo and have surgery in the coming weeks then you must talk to your appointed doctors or dentist and notify them about your consumption of the medicinal herb. It’s a precautionary measure since ginkgo is examined to have the capacity to reduce blood clotting which might cause a hindrance to your surgery as well as your health.

To play it safe, you might want to stop taking ginkgo at least two weeks previously to your surgery appointment except if you are told otherwise by the doctor or dentist. Furthermore, you also need to speak to your doctor about when will it be safe to take ginkgo again after the surgery is performed.

If you are using ginkgo Biloba extract or any other liquid form of ginkgo then again you are strongly advised to ask your doctor or pharmacist about the consumption of ginkgo and its safety. The precaution is urged because ginkgo Biloba extract and other liquid forms of ginkgo may either include alcohol/sugar or maybe both.

Patients suffering from health conditions such as diabetes, liver disease along alcohol use disorder are further instructed to speak with a doctor before taking ginkgo extract or other liquid forms of Ginkgo.

Hence, traditional Chinese medicine is additionally not recommended to be consumed by pregnant women during their pregnancy stage. It is still not yet discovered whether ginkgo can affect breast milk. But to not take any chances with your or your baby’s health you must consult with your doctor or physician before you start breastfeeding.

The Bottom Line

Ginkgo is considered to be one of the oldest living tree species in today’s time. It is also listed to have an origin of a strong ancient seed plant. Thus, the medicinal plant may have also witnessed the earth’s history. Regardless, of its past, Ginkgo is still cultivated and is planted all across the world.

Ginkgo holds strong characteristics such as being anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant as well as improving the ability of blood circulation. Jointly these properties provide endless possibilities to influence several bodies part that may result in healing wounds and a couple of diseases.

Still, science is yet to make a progress on the numerous aspects of Ginkgo. Yet, Complementary and Alternative Medicine have reported ginkgo to be among the best-selling herbal dietary supplements in the continent of Europe as well as in the United States of America.

Though ginkgo is being used by people for past many centuries, the working of the medicinal herb is still yet misunderstood. The research done as of yet on ginkgo does not provide much information and the vague details on ginkgo are mostly inconsistent and inconclusive.

Similar to all herbal medicines, ginkgo may include certain risks. This particular supplement can cause a lasting effect on your health if you are allergic to it or its ingredients. It can also cause a complication if you are on medications. Hence, it is necessary to consult a doctor or pharmacist who will provide medical advice before you start taking ginkgo supplements.

To read more articles like these, click here.

Any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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