Ginkgo biloba, also known as maidenhair, is a tree that originates from China and has been grown for centuries for its multiple uses and benefits.
Since it is the only surviving plant from an old order, it is sometimes referred to as a fossil.
While its leaves and seeds are often used in traditional Chinese medicine, modern research primarily focuses on the leaves’ ginkgo extract.
Brain function and blood circulation are health claims associated with Ginkgo supplements.
Benefits of Ginkgo Biloba
1. Contains Powerful Antioxidants
Ginkgo contains a high antioxidant content; this may be the reason for many of its health claims. Ginkgo is also rich in flavonoids and terpenoids, known for its antioxidants effects and properties.
Antioxidants help in combating and neutralising the effects of free radicals.
2. Can Help Fight Inflammation
The natural response of your body against injury or invasion due to a foreign substance is called inflammation. In the inflammatory response, various components of the immune system are recruited to fight against the foreign invader or heal the injured area.
According to studies done on animals and test-tubes, markers of inflammation caused by a variety of disease states can be reduced by ginkgo extract.
Some specific conditions in which ginkgo extract has shown to reduce inflammation include:
- Heart disease
- Irritable bowel disease (IBD)
While this data is encouraging, human studies are needed before drawing concrete conclusions about ginkgo’s role in treating these complex diseases.
3. Improves Circulation and Heart Health
Ginkgo seeds have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to open “channels” of energy to different organ systems, including the kidneys, liver, brain and lungs.
The ability of ginkgo to increase blood flow to certain parts of the body may be the reason for its multiple benefits.
A study conducted on people who suffered from heart disease reported that ginkgo caused an immediate increase in blood flow to multiple parts of the body. This was attributed to a 12% increase in levels of circulating nitric oxide, a compound responsible for dilating blood vessels.
More research also reports that ginkgo has protective effects on heart health, brain health and stroke prevention. There are multiple potential explanations for this, one of which may be the anti-inflammatory compounds present in the plant.
4. Reduces Symptoms of Psychiatric Disorders and Dementia
Ginkgo Has been carefully studied and researched for its effect on anxiety, stress and other symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline associated with ageing.
Twenty-one studies found that ginkgo extract may increase functional capabilities in those with mild Alzheimer’s when paired with conventional medicine.
A review of 4 studies reported that when ginkgo was used consecutively for 22-24 weeks on people with dementia, a drastic reduction in the spectrum of symptoms was observed.
These positive results could be related to the role that ginkgo may play in improving blood flow to the brain, especially related to vascular types of dementia.
5. Improves Brain Function and Well-Being
Many people believe that ginkgo may enhance brain function in healthy individuals.
A small number of studies support the notion that ginkgo supplements may increase mental performance and perceived well-being. Studies like these have given rise to claims saying ginkgo improves memory, focus and attention span.
6. Can Reduce Anxiety
Research has shown that using ginkgo supplements may help you manage symptoms of anxiety.
A study with 170 participants with generalised anxiety was treated with 240mg or 40mg of ginkgo or a placebo. The group that was given the highest dosage of ginkgo reported a decrease of 45% in anxiety symptoms compared to the placebo group.
7. Can Treat Depression
A study conducted on animals showed that ginkgo might help treat symptoms of depression.
It was discovered that if mice were given ginkgo before a potentially stressful situation, they were less affected by it emotionally than the group that did not receive the supplement.
The study referred to ginkgos anti-inflammatory effects, which are responsible for the body’s ability to cope when stress levels are high.
Nonetheless, depression is a complex condition that may have a variety of root causes.
More research is needed to understand better the relationship between ginkgo and how it may affect depression in humans.
8. Can Support Vision and Eye Health
Many studies have reported that the consumption of ginkgo may be responsible for increased blood flow to the eye.
Research needs to be done to see if ginkgo can improve individuals who don’t already have vision impairment.
More research is needed to determine whether ginkgo can increase vision capacity or slow the progression of degenerative eye disease.
9. Can Treat Headaches and Migraines
For many years traditional Chinese medicine has used ginkgo as a treatment option for headaches and migraines.
Very little research is available on ginkgo’s ability to treat headaches. However, depending on the root cause of the headache, it may help.
It is widely known that ginkgo has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. If a headache or migraine is caused by excessive stress, ginkgo may be useful.
Moreover, if a headache is related to reduced blood flow or constricted blood vessels, ginkgo’s ability to dilate blood vessels may improve symptoms.
10. Treats Sexual Dysfunction
Research suggests that ginkgo can help treat sexual dysfunction, such as erectile dysfunction or low libido.
Circulation can be improved via dilation of blood vessels due to Ginkgo’s ability to improve blood levels of nitric oxide.
Hence why ginkgo can treat sexual dysfunction by increasing blood flow to particular areas of the body.
One study evaluated the use of ginkgo to increase sexual desire and contentment in women who were concurrently undergoing sexual psychotherapy.
It was observed that when paired together, ginkgo and therapy were effective over a longer-term in comparison to a placebo, but supplementing with ginkgo alone was not.
There are many benefits of incorporating ginkgo in your diet according to Eastern medicine though more research needs to be done before any factual claims can be made.
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