Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest known fossil plant, which is estimated to have evolved about two hundred million years ago. Unlike other medicinal herbs, it is not used directly, rather it is administered in the form of tablets, capsules, tea, or as a concentrated extract that is commonly known as ginkgo biloba extract. The extract has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of memory-related disorders. Its supplements are one of the top-selling herbal medicines in the United States and Europe.
According to research studies, it contains several antioxidants such as flavonoids and terpenoids. These antioxidants neutralize the free radicals present in the body, which are responsible for cellular damage, alteration of cell membranes, and other harmful effects. It is well known that free radicals increase the risk of dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer. The antioxidants found in this plant are believed to scavenge these free radicals, thereby reducing the bodily damages.
The extract is prepared from the dried leaves of the plant under standardized conditions. A standard supplement contains about 20% flavonoids and 6% terpenoids. The chemicals found in these supplements have profound effect in improving the vascular system, particularly in the cerebellum portion of the brain. These supplements have certain effects on the brain such as increasing the blood flow, boosting the neurotransmitter system, and enhancing the energy utilization. They also serve as blood thinners and prevent blood platelet aggregation and blood clotting.
Traditionally, the plant was used as an aid to enhance memory and treat blood circulatory problems. Scientific studies have proved the effectiveness of this plant in overcoming the diseases related to abnormal blood flow in the brain. Today, ginkgo biloba supplements are popularly used as brain tonics to treat absentmindedness, confusion, lack of concentration, short and long-term memory loss, and several types of dementia. Since the plant is believed to improve the circulatory system, the supplements are also used to treat claudication (leg pain due to decreased blood flow) and pain in the arms, neck, and back. These are also used for the treatment of tinnitus and eye problems. It might also help alleviate the distressing symptoms of menopause.
Though there have been many claims regarding the health benefits and memory-enhancing properties of this plant, most of them lack scientific evidence. More scientific studies are needed to prove its effectiveness against various diseases, and for determining the duration and proper dosage of the supplements.
Though these supplements are generally considered safe, side effects such as headache, dizziness, heart palpitations, and nausea have been observed in some cases. Due to its blood-thinning properties, the prolonged use of its supplements in higher doses may cause bleeding. Another adverse effect of its supplements is that they may alter the action of prescription drugs. Hence, in order to avoid such complications, it is always advised to consult a qualified physician before taking its supplements.
Disclaimer: This HolisticZine article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.