Ginkgo Biloba, It’s Benefits and Uses
What is Ginkgo Biloba
Its common knowledge that modern science and medicine is embracing the old and traditional ways of healthcare. Ginkgo Biloba is a popular plant in both traditional and modern medicine. It belongs to the botanical family of Ginkgoceae and it is a species that has built a strong resistance to different biological, chemical and physical conditions and has been around for millions of years, hence it’s alias “living fossil”. It was originally popular in China, Japan, and Korea but since the 70’s it’s become common in Europe and America.
The use of herbs, medicinal plants or natural products to support good health isn’t new and has become more common in recent times. Ginkgo Biloba is one such herbal plant that has grown in popularity mainly because of its known healing effects. There is a history of its use in China for medical conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, fatigue and heart attack. Both its leaves and the nuts from the tree are known to have been used for the past several centuries in Chinese traditional medicine. Its major constituent is flavonoids with terpenes also being an active component. The flavonoid content in the Ginkgo leaf is known to vary between seasons; greater amounts are found in fall than in spring (McKenna and others 2001). These compounds are known to act mainly as antioxidants/free radical scavengers, enzyme inhibitors, and cation chelators (DeFeudis and Drieu 2000).
Benefits of Ginkgo biloba
The culturing, harvesting, and extraction of the ginkgo leaves are rigorously standardized and controlled based on its known active components (Smith and Luo 2004). As part of the standardizing and processing, the leaves are dried and analyzed to test for the presence of pollutants and unwanted substances. The dry extracts of the ginkgo plant are available as supplements as capsules or coated tablets. Uses of ginkgo biloba are usually considered in two main areas in healthcare; firstly, supporting and improving blood flow to the brain and other tissues and secondly its role in enhancing cellular metabolism. As we age, the body’s performance reduces and things like normal blood flow and cellular metabolism deteriorate. As a result, we may end up with medical conditions associated with these deteriorations. There are several studies that have reported that ginkgo extract promoted improved blood flow through arteries, veins, and capillaries. Some other reports go further to suggest that it can be very useful in preventing and treating cardiovascular diseases.
A report by S.M Cockle and others from the University of Surrey suggests that food supplement with Gingko Biloba has a positive impact on older people. This was after a survey that assessed the impact of ginkgo supplementation (120mg/day) on activities of daily living and various aspects of mood and sleep. It was noted that the group that has the supplementation felt better able to cope with their daily activities and had positive changes in their mood and sleep compared to the other group.
Ginkgo leaf extract has also shown to be useful in treating conditions like Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular diseases, memory loss, stress, schizophrenia, and cancer.
Uses of ginkgo biloba
Uses of ginkgo biloba – Antioxidant effects
Gingko leaf provides an antioxidant effect on the body through two main mechanisms; 1. Directly scavenging free radicals and 2. Indirectly inhibiting the formation of free radicals. It is also known to support activities of antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD).
Uses of ginkgo biloba- Neurodegenerative related diseases
This refers to the degeneration of the nervous system, especially the neurons in the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is one such condition which is the most common cause of dementia. More than 520,000 people in the UK have dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease and this figure is set to rise (Alzheimer’s Society). There is strong research that has found a connection between Alzheimer’s disease and the deposition of an amyloid beta peptide. Ginkgo leaf extract is known to inhibit the formation of this peptide which is an important process in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Ginkgo biloba complex is also known to improve cerebral blood flow. There is strong evidence that supports the positive effects of ginkgo leaf extract on neurodegenerative diseases however, its role in improving cognitive functions in humans remains inconclusive.
Uses of ginkgo biloba – Cardioprotective effects
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels. It’s usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries (atherosclerosis) and an increased risk of blood clots. This is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK but it can often be prevented by healthy lifestyle choices. Cardioprotective effects of Ginkgo leaf extract are through antioxidant, antiplatelet activity, and increased blood flow through the release of nitric oxide and prostaglandins (Pietri and others 1997a, 1997b; Mahady 2002).
Uses of ginkgo biloba – Cancer
This is a well-known condition where cells in a specific part of the body grow and reproduce abnormally. The cancerous cells can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue, including organs. The most common types in the UK are breast, lung, prostate and bowel cancer. Ginkgo leaf extract is known to exhibit a chemopreventive action at various levels with antioxidant, antiangiogenic properties, and influence gene expression (Sagar and others 2006). The Ginkgo leaf extract’s antioxidant ability contributes to improving cellular tolerance to oxidative stress (Smith and Luo 2004) as well as to reduce angiogenesis, which is blood vessel formation required for tumor metastasis (Monte and others 1994; DeFeudis and others 2003; Kim and others 2006; Sagar and others 2006). Ginkgo leaf extract is known to influence the expression of genes involved in cell proliferation, cell differentiation, and apoptosis at the mRNA levels in breast and bladder cancer models (Gohil and others 2000; Papadopoulos and others 2000; DeFeudis and others 2003), thus providing anticancer effects (Mahadevan et al, 2007).
Ginkgo biloba supplement
It is important to note that studies have shown a relatively low risk associated with the consumption of Ginkgo leaf products. Excessive consumption is not recommended as it may result in the occasional adverse effect. Ginkgo leaf extract is gradually becoming a must-have dietary supplement for everyday people as it has a proven record of adding significant health benefits for its consumers. The key benefits of a food supplement with Gingko Biloba are derived from its strong antioxidant properties.
Where to buy ginkgo biloba
Pure Food Supplement offers a high strength food supplement with Gingko Biloba 2000 mg plus the vitamin B complex. The B complex vitamins in this formulation are B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, Folic Acid and Biotin. A pack contains 90 capsules and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
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Alzheimer’s Society. (2019). Alzheimer’s disease. [online] Available at: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/types-dementia/alzheimers-disease [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].
Cockle, S., Kimber, S. and Hindmarch, I. (2000). The effects of Ginkgo biloba extract (LI 1370) supplementation on activities of daily living in free living older volunteers: a questionnaire survey. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 15(4), pp.227-235.
Fisher, E. (2016). Ginkgo biloba. Hauppauge: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
Kaschel, R. (2009). Ginkgo biloba: specificity of neuropsychological improvement-a selective review in search of differential effects. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 24(5), pp.345-370.
Mahadevan, S. and Park, Y. (2007). Multifaceted Therapeutic Benefits of Ginkgo biloba L.: Chemistry, Efficacy, Safety, and Uses. Journal of Food Science, 73(1), pp.R14-R19.
Nathan, P., Tanner, S., Lloyd, J., Harrison, B., Curran, L., Oliver, C. and Stough, C. (2004). Effects of a combined extract of Ginkgo biloba and Bacopa monniera on cognitive function in healthy humans. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 19(2), pp.91-96.
UK, NHS. (2019). Cardiovascular disease. [online] nhs.uk. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cardiovascular-disease/ [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].