If you struggle with forgetfulness or have a short memory, you’ve probably seen the potential benefits of Ginkgo Biloba being tossed around the wellness community. But what is Ginkgo Biloba and how exactly can it help you be less forgetful? Well, some reports say that it improves memory functions by stimulating the growth of new neurons.
Before you take any of these claims for granted, though, let’s dig into the research available to help us understand the potential benefits of Ginkgo Biloba as a daily wellness supplement:
Ginkgo Biloba is an ancient herbal remedy derived from the Ginkgo tree, which is originally native to China but can now be found growing worldwide. All parts of the tree itself are used in natural medicine, but traditionally the leaves and nuts were used to treat a variety of different conditions, from brain and circulatory problems to cold symptoms and even stomach upset.
Now, you’ll mostly find Ginkgo Biloba tablets, capsules, powder, and liquid extracts made from the dried green leaves of the Ginkgo tree. In most cases, it’s taken daily for its purported cognition-enhancing benefits or as a potential preventative for various neurodegenerative conditions.
As a supplement, Ginkgo Biloba gives a powerful boost of antioxidants that help protect the body from free radicals, or dangerous molecules that cause damage to the body’s cellular structure, including in the brain. Free radicals are thought to lead to memory loss as we age because they damage brain cells and disrupt synapse function.
For that reason, you’ll often see Ginkgo used as a preventative for dementia and related conditions, to help the brain heal from a stroke, or as a general remedy for treating brain damage. It also contains therapeutic terpenoids that are believed to help improve circulation and provide general wellness and immunity support. That’s why you may also see claims that Ginkgo Biloba can improve eye health and circulatory problems.
Of course, Gingko is only sold as a supplement in the U.S., and research is still limited. Let’s take a deeper look at the evidence available to support Ginkgo Biloba’s potential benefits:
While there are many purported benefits of Ginkgo Biloba, there are a few areas that have been researched more heavily than others, including:
A 1996 study found a Ginkgo extract to be effective in treating Alzheimer’s Disease. Another trial the following year offered a similar conclusion–the same Ginkgo extract was shown to be effective in stabilizing and improving cognitive function in dementia patients. The extract was also shown to improve social functions and was well tolerated by all participants.
Researchers believe that Ginkgo may improve brain function by increasing circulation and preventing free radical damage, especially in the case of neurological disorders. However, one study suggests that it may not have the same impact on memory and cognition for healthy adults.
A study from 2007 evaluated the benefits of Ginkgo Biloba for people with anxiety and found that the participants who took Ginkgo reported higher levels of anxiety relief than the placebo group. It’s unknown why the supplement may have this effect on anxiety, and more research is needed to understand Ginkgo’s potential anxiolytic effects.
Some researchers believe that Ginkgo may benefit eye health because of its potential ability to improve circulation. In fact, one small study found that participants with glaucoma experienced improved vision after taking 120 mg of ginkgo daily for 8 weeks. Some evidence also suggests that Ginkgo may prevent macular degeneration that causes vision loss over time.
It’s important to note that supplements are not regulated in the same way as medications are in the U.S., so it’s important that you carefully consider the quality of the Ginkgo supplements you choose. Also pay close attention to dosing, since the dosage for Ginkgo Biloba isn’t standardized.
Here are some things to consider when designing your Ginkgo dosing routine:
The quality of your wellness supplements is incredibly important, especially since supplements are not regulated the same way as prescription medications. Ensure that the Ginkgo supplements you buy come from a trustworthy manufacturer, specifically that uses a third-party testing process to ensure quality. You may also look for a company that is experienced with wellness supplements and uses a cGMP compliant manufacturing facility.
In many cases, it’s suggested to take your daily Ginkgo dose in two divided doses daily, preferably with meals. However, some people prefer to incorporate one daily dose in the morning as part of a regular brain-boosting wellness routine. The most important thing is to ensure that you take Ginkgo daily since it may take around 3 weeks to notice the full benefits.
Studies have used doses between 120 mg and 240 mg daily, usually in divided doses. There is no standardized dosing for supplements in the U.S., so we typically suggest starting at the low end of this dosing threshold and increasing as necessary. Keep in mind that it may take 4-6 weeks to notice it’s benefits.
You can find Ginkgo as a tablet, powder, liquid extract, or in the form of dried leaf powder designed to be brewed as tea. The nuts of the Ginkgo Biloba tree are toxic and can lead to seizures or death when consumed in large quantities or when taken daily.
In most studies, Ginkgo Biloba is generally well tolerated with very few reported side effects. Still, there are a few risks we want to discuss:
Although rare, side effects of Ginkgo Biloba could include:
Ginkgo Biloba is only to be used by adults, ideally between the ages of 18 and 65, although some older adults have used it to potentially manage dementia.
Ginkgo may not be safe for anyone with a bleeding disorder or who experiences seizures or takes certain medications (see below). It’s also not been proven safe for anyone pregnant or breastfeeding, and may worsen symptoms for those with diabetes.
You should always discuss changes to your wellness routine with your doctor, especially if you take other medications or supplements daily. You may not be able to safely take Ginkgo if you already take any of the following substances:
Ginkgo has traditionally been used to treat circulatory problems, respiratory conditions, cough, toothaches, diarrhea, and more. It's more modernly used as a supplement for preventing or managing brain damage, improving memory, or boosting brain performance, but research is still widely inconclusive on it’s full benefits.
Ginkgo Biloba appears to be safe in moderate doses, including for daily use. However, there are some people who should not take Ginkgo, including those that use certain medications.
Ginkgo is generally well tolerated, but in rare cases may cause allergic skin reactions, diarrhea, digestive upset, nausea, vomiting, headaches, weakness, and fatigue.
You may need to take Ginkgo daily for up to 4 weeks to notice results, and you may only feel the full benefits after 6 weeks of daily use.
One limited trial found Ginkgo to potentially help manage anxiety, but more research is needed to confirm these benefits.
Some evidence suggests that consuming Ginkgo before bed can improve relaxation and increase sleep quality, but more research is needed.
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