Known in herbal medicine, especially for its venotonic, vasodilating, and neuroprotective properties, Ginkgo Biloba is now used in the composition of many medications and dietary supplements to strengthen brain functions, combat memory disorders and promote good circulation.
Medical properties of Ginkgo
It promotes good blood circulation: it has anticoagulant, anti-aggregation (prevents the formation of thrombosis or clots), and vasodilator (facilitates the dilation of blood vessels) properties. It strengthens brain functions, especially in senile dementia: by stimulating memory, promoting concentration, and thinking.
In Asia, ginkgo leaves are used in decoctions to relieve respiratory diseases such as asthma or bronchitis, but also as an anthelmintic. As for the seeds, they are used in the production of medicines for urinary tract diseases.
Helps to heal ulcers, bruises, burns. Many anti-aging cosmetic treatments (creams) use ginkgo as a base due to its protective and repairing properties on the skin (antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and stimulating effects), especially in the case of rosacea.
In Asia, the leaves are also used to treat frostbite.
Usual therapeutic indications
Disorders associated with arterial, venous, and peripheral capillary circulatory insufficiency: arteritis that causes intermittent limp and claudication, heavy legs, varicose veins, edema of the lower limbs, hemorrhoids, and Raynaud’s disease.
Other proven therapeutic indications
Disorders associated with cerebral circulatory failure: memory loss, lack of concentration, dizziness, headaches, hearing loss, ringing in the ears, tinnitus, senile dementia, Alzheimer’s disease (in the early stages).
History of ginkgo use in phytotherapy
Ginkgo biloba is an unusual tree, often called a “living fossil” because it is believed to have appeared long before the dinosaurs and is one of the oldest known tree species. Originally from Asia, its fruits have been used as food and medicine in China and Japan since the beginning of time. In the 18th century, it reached Europe and the American continent. First appreciated for its ornamental qualities, its extreme longevity (it can live at least a thousand years), and its remarkable resistance, which made it the only plant that survived the radiation of the Hiroshima bombing, the tree quickly seduced Westerners with its medicinal properties. Today it is cultivated mainly in Asia and the United States to satisfy the pharmaceutical industry, which uses it in numerous medicines and food supplements designed to relieve circulatory problems and improve memory.
Botanical description of Ginkgo
Although there is no evidence that Ginkgo biloba is a conifer, because its foliage is not evergreen and it has no “cones”, it is a conifer. It reaches a height of up to 40 m, has a very sweeping shape, and is covered with leaves, which change from light green to golden yellow in autumn. It is a dioecious species, with male and female trees. Only the latter bear fruits (small yellow berries about 3 cm long with an edible core), which, when ripe, give off an unpleasant odor.
Composition of ginkgo
Westerners mainly prefer leaves (fresh or dried), which concentrate most of the active ingredients. The Chinese, on the other hand, also use the seeds.
Mainly flavonoids (antioxidants) and terpene lactones (ginkgolides and bilobalides), which improve blood circulation
Use and dosage of Ginkgo
The many ginkgo-based drugs on the market (capsules, tablets, or oral solutions) generally contain the same concentration of active ingredients as those used in clinical studies (standardized ginkgo extract titrated with 24% flavonoids and 6% ginkgolides-bilobalides). It is recommended to take 120 to 240 mg of standardized extract 2 to 3 times a day with water and with meals.
Other non-standard forms (with less dosed active ingredients) are :
- Tinctures – take 20 to 40 drops in water three times a day.
- Herbal teas and decoctions – use 20 to 40 g of fresh flowers or 2 to 3 teaspoons of dried flowers per liter of water. In case of circulatory problems drink 1 cup 2 to 3 times a day. If the dose is increased to 1 teaspoon per cup, the drink becomes an anthelmintic.
Precautions for the use of Ginkgo
Because of its anticoagulant properties, a cautious attitude should always be taken when taking Ginkgo biloba. Read the package inserts carefully, do not exceed the recommended dosages, and consult your doctor or pharmacist.
Pregnant and lactating women should avoid taking ginkgo. Hemophiliacs and those who have had surgery (risk of bleeding) and epileptics (risk of seizures) must also avoid Ginkgo.
Ginkgo taken orally may cause mild stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea, headache, and rare skin reactions (itching, hives).
Interactions with herbs or dietary supplements
Do not combine ginkgo with other plants that are known to thin the blood like garlic, arnica, ginseng, sage, tonka bean, sweet clover, etc…
Do not combine ginkgo with anticoagulants such as aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (especially ibuprofen). Ginkgo biloba may also reduce the effectiveness of omeprazole (for stomach ulcers) and anticonvulsants (especially for epilepsy). Finally, interactions with antidepressants are also possible (increased sedative effect).
Ginkgo biloba facilitates and improves arterial, venous, and capillary blood circulation. It optimizes the oxygen supply to the brain, slows down cell aging, helps in the fight against memory disorders, and helps to relieve people with symptoms of senile dementia. This medicinal plant is therefore particularly recommended for the elderly.
In order to be effective, ginkgo-based remedies must be taken for at least three months. If at the beginning of the treatment certain mild side effects occur (headache, digestive or skin problems), reduce the dosage. After stabilization, gradually increase the doses until the normal dosage is restored. If in doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
Research about Ginkgo
After demonstrating that ginkgo has a positive effect on blood circulation, particularly in the brain, and alleviates age-related disorders, research is now focusing more specifically on Alzheimer’s disease and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).