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Ginkgo Biloba

Review of Ginkgo Biloba

What is Ginkgo Biloba?

The leaves of the Gingko biloba tree have been used in traditional medicine to improve mental function and memory. Ginkgo biloba is the most widely used phytomedicine in Europe and one of the 10 best-selling herbal medicines in the United States (Sierpina et al., 2003).  It is often used to treat the early stage symptoms of Alzheimers disease, dementia, raynauds disease (pain and poor circulation in hands and feet in cold conditions), and tinnitus.  In order to enhance its effectiveness Ginkgo biloba is standardized to contain a concentrated extract.

Who Should Consider Taking Ginkgo Biloba?

Ginkgo biloba may be beneficial for people looking to enhance memory and mental focus. It may also be useful for people suffering with tinnitus and raynauds disease.  Some nutritional companies also claim that it is beneficial for exercise performance.

Summary of Ginkgo Biloba's Phyiological Effects:

  • Has potent antioxidant properties
  • Protects the brain from damage
  • Stabilizes cell membranes
  • Reduces the stickiness of the blood
  • Helps to preserve brain function during Alzheimers disease
  • Can improve mental function in normal healthy patients
  • Lowers cholesterol levels
  • Lowers cortisol (a stress hormone) levels
  • Helps to keep blood pressure normal
  • Improves blood flow to extremities

Ginkgo Biloba Research

Ginkgo biloba has a number of positive effects on brain function by having a neuroprotective effect, being a potent antioxidant, stabilizing cell membranes, dilating blood vessels, and reducing blood platelet stickiness (Sierpina et al., 2003).

In patients suffering with Alzheimers disease, Ginkgo biloba helped to prevent a loss of brain function over a 6-month period (Bidzan et al., 2005).  In fact Ginkgo biloba has proved to be as effective as cholinesterase inhibitor drugs in the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimers (Wettstein, 2000).

However, the effectiveness of Ginkgo biloba appears to be dose dependant. Two studies using 120mg of Ginkgo biloba extract failed to find a positive effect on mental function (Solomon et al., 2002; Nathan et al., 2004).  When a higher dose (180mg) was used positive cognitive benefits were observed (Mix and Crews, 2002).

Positive effects are less likely to be observed following Ginkgo supplementation in normal healthy subjects.  In normal healthy subjects Ginkgo biloba improves mental function at higher doses (240mg) (Cieza, 2003) but not at lower doses (Nathan et al., 2004).

Ginkgo biloba may also prove useful for the treatment of Raynauds disease (Sierpina et al., 2003) for the treatment of tinnitus (Ernst and Stenison, 1999) and peripheral vascular disease (Peters et al., 1998).

Ginkgo biloba also acts as a powerful antioxidant (Huang et al., 2004; Ilhan et al., 2004), protecting against the oxidation of low density lipoproteins (Bad cholesterol that increases storage of fatty deposits on artery walls) (Huang et al., 2004), lowering cortisol levels and protecting against blood pressure rises (Jezova et al., 2002).  It may even help to protect against oxidative damage caused by mobile phone usage (Ilhan et al., 2004).

Some nutritional companies include Ginkgo biloba as a performance enhancer or to improve mental alertness.  However, at present there is no evidence to support the use of Gingko biloba to enhance sporting performance.

Research shows that Ginkgo biloba appears to be safe with few adverse effects (Le Bars et al., 1997; Sierpina et al., 2003; Bidzan et al., 2005; Jiang et al., 2005).  However, it should be discontinued from 14 days before surgery (Sierpina et al., 2003). If combined with feverfew, garlic, ginseng, dong quai, red clover their may be an increased risk of bleeding.

Is Ginkgo Biloba effective?

Ginkgo biloba has proved to be effective at enhancing memory when taken at an effective dose level.  It also improves circulation and reduces the pain associated with some circulatory diseases like Raynaud's disease.

How to take Ginkgo Biloba?

Research suggests that, for memory enhancement, you should take around 120-240mg daily, in 2-3 divided doses.  For peripheral vascular disease, or to improve circulation 60-120mg per day, in 2-3 divided doses, is generally suggested.

Ginkgo Biloba References

Bidzan, L., Biliekiewicz, A. and Turczynski, J. (2005) Preliminary assessment of ginkgo biloba (Ginkofar) in patients with dementia. Psychiatr Pol. 39 (3), 559-566. 

Cieza, A., Maier, P. and Poppel, E. (2003) Effects of Gingko biloba on mental functioning in healthy volunteers. Arch Med Res. 34 (5), 373-381.

Ernst, E. and Stenison, C. (1999) Ginkgo biloba for tinnitus: a review. Clin Otolaryngol. 24, 164-167. 

Huang, P., Feng, G., Zhang, S., Wang, H and Jin, Y. (2004) Effect of Ginkgo biloba leaves on oxidation of human low density lipoproteins in vitro. Wei Sheng yan Jiu. 33 (4), 453-454. 

Ilhan, A., Gurel, A., Armutcu, F., Kamisli, S., Iraz, M., Akyol, O. and Ozen, S. (2004) Ginkgo biloba prevents mobile phone oxidative stress in rat brain. Clin Chim Acta. 340 (1-2), 153-162. 

Jezova, D., Duncko, r., Lassanova, M., Kriska, M. and Moncek, F. J. (2002) Reduction of rise in blood pressure and cortisol release during stress by Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) in healthy volunteers. Physiology and Pharmacology. 53, 337-348. 

Jiang, X., Williams, k. M., Liauw, W. S., Ammit, A. J., Roufogalis, B. D., Duke, C. C., Day, R. O. and McLaughlan, A. J. (2005) Effect of ginkgo and ginger on the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of warfarin in healthy subjects. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 59 (4), 425-432. 

Le Bars, P. L., Katz, M. M. and Berman, N. (1997) A placebo controlled, double-blind, randomised trial of an extract of Ginkgo biloba for dementia. North American EGb Study Group. J AM Med Assoc. 278, 1327-1332. 

Mix, J. A. and Crews, W. D. Jr. (2002) A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 in a sample of cognitively intact older adults: neuropsychological findinfs. Hum Psychopharmacol. 17, 267-277. 

Nathan, P. J., Tanner, S., Lloyd, J., Harrison, B., Curran, L., Oliver, C. and Stough, C. (2004) Effects of combined extract of Ginkgo biloba and Bacopa monniera on cognitine function in healthy humans. HUM psyuchopharmacol. 19 (2), 91-96. 

Peters, H., Kieser, M. and Holscher, U. (1998) Demonstration of the efficacy of ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 on intermittent claudication—a placebo controlled, double-blind multicenter trial. VASA. 27, 106-110. 

Sierpina, V. S., Wollschlaeger, M. D. and Blumenthal, M. (2003) Ginkgo Biloba. Am Fam Physician. 68, 923-926. 

Solomon, P. R., Adams, F., Silver, A, Zimmer, J., DeVeaux, R. (2002) Ginkgo for memory enhancement: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 288, 835-840. 

Wettstein, A. (2000) Cholinesterase inhibitors and Ginkgo extracts – are they comparable in the treatment of dementia? Comparison of published placebo-controlled efficacy studies of at least six months’ duration. Phytomedicine. 6, 393-401.