Ginkgo biloba is one of the longest living tree species in the world. Some trees in China are said to be more than 2,500 years old. The species is said to have survived for more than 150 to 200 million years. It is the only surviving species of the plant family Ginkgoaceae.
Also known as the Maidenhair tree, it grows in southern and eastern United States, southern France, China, and Korea. It is believed that the leaves of the tree contain certain chemicals that are responsible for the health benefits of the ginkgo biloba.
Traditional Chinese doctors have used this herb for over thousands of years. These doctors have used ginkgo biloba to cure many illnesses such as dementia, anxiety, schizophrenia, headache, hearing disorders, depression, etc. Around the 1700's the herb was first introduced into Europe. Today, all over the world, people vouch for its health benefits.
Ginkgo Biloba Information
Ginkgo biloba is known to work by increasing blood flow to the brain and the blood vessels around the body. With improved blood circulation, the organs in the body receive more oxygen and nutrition. This boosts the bodily systems. Thus, the herb keeps the body healthy and promotes longevity.
The ginkgolides and bilobalides (also known as terpenes), and the flavonoids are the active components of the herb ginkgo biloba. They are very useful in controlling allergic inflammation and asthma. The antioxidant properties of ginkgo help in minimizing the effects of free radicals and thus reducing the signs of aging (lack of energy and mental fatigue).
However, use of ginkgo biloba is based on tradition and theory only. The effects of this herb on humans have not been thoroughly tested, and more studies need to be conducted to prove the safety and effectiveness of this herb.
- Available evidence suggests that ginkgo helps manage dementia, anxiety, schizophrenia, and cerebral insufficiency (insufficient blood flow to brain). When used properly, ginkgo can slightly improve memory, speed of thinking, and attention in healthy adults.
- This herb has known to be very useful in treating acrocyanosis (bluish or purple coloring of the hands and feet due to a decrease in the amount of oxygen delivered to the extremities), Alzheimer's disease, cerebral atherosclerosis (build-up of plaque in the blood vessels of the brain), deafness due to damaged inner ear or damaged part of the inner ear, etc.
- Studies show that a specific ginkgo extract (EGb 761) can reduce the severity of the symptoms of tardive dyskinesia (a movement disorder that is experienced as a side effect of certain antipsychotic drugs) in people with schizophrenia.
- It is also known to control the transformation of cholesterol to plaque that causes hardening of arteries, thus, relaxing the blood vessels.
- The actions of ginkgo biloba against free radicals not only slow the signs of aging, but also protect major organs from the ill effects of the free radicals.
- The herb has proven to be helpful in treatment of peripheral vascular disease. Consumption of ginkgo can lower leg pain due to poor blood circulation. It can reduce the chances of surgery.
- Traditional Chinese and Japanese doctors have used the herb to lower the symptoms of asthma and bronchitis (wheezing, cough, etc.), toothache, fever, skin diseases, diarrhea, tinnitus (ringing in ears), etc. However, evidence for these uses is either lacking or mixed. Further research is needed to prove these uses of ginkgo.
Excessive consumption of the herb can lead to certain side effects such as stomach upset, headache, dizziness, constipation, arrhythmia, and allergic skin reactions. A few people who were taking ginkgo biloba had bleeding into the eye and into the brain, and had to undergo a surgery. One should not use it prior to a surgery or dental procedure.
The fresh seed of ginkgo biloba is very dangerous. Consumption of fresh seeds can lead to seizures and death. Roasted seeds and crude ginkgo plant are also unsafe. Consumption of more than 10 roasted seeds per day can cause labored breathing, low pulse rate, seizures, loss of consciousness, and shock.
If you are thinking of using ginkgo biloba, speak to your doctor first. Taking into consideration the age, lifestyle, and overall health of patients, the doctor will prescribe ginkgo biloba supplements accordingly. If you have diabetes, then the doctor may advice a ginkgo supplement to prevent diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease that may cause blindness.
You should provide information about the medicines you are taking, along with the information about the diseases or disorders that you are suffering from. Otherwise, ginkgo biloba may interact with your medicines, and can lead to adverse effects.
In case you suffer from bleeding problems, do not take this herb as it may worsen your condition. Abstain from taking this herb, if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. People who are taking medication for seizure prevention or who usually suffer from seizures should never take ginkgo biloba.
It is very important to speak to your doctor before taking ginkgo biloba supplements. You should do thorough research, and then use this herbal supplement. Although a herbal product, anything in excess can lead to serious side-effects.
Disclaimer: This information is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.