What is Ginkgo Biloba?
Ginkgo biloba is a tree with a very long life-span - a single tree can live for 1,000 years. The ginkgo biloba extract used in herbal medicine is made from the tree’s dried green leaves.
Supplements come in various forms including capsules, tablets, as liquid extracts or as dried leaf for teas. An average dose tends to be between 120mg per day, usually divided into doses and taken with food. You should only use the leaves of ginkgo biloba - never the fruit or the seed. Aim for products that state 24% ‘ginkgolides’, ‘ginkgo flavonoids’ or ‘ginkgo glycosides’.
It usually takes 4-6 weeks for ginkgo biloba to make a difference.
Why do I need Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo leaves contain two types of antioxidant - flavonoids and terpenoids. Antioxidants fight harmful particles called free radicals that damage DNA and other cells. Flavonoids seem to protect the heart muscle, blood vessels, nerves and retina, while terpenoids improve blood flow.
Research has shown that ginkgo improves our circulation by dilating our blood vessels and making the blood platelets less sticky. As a result ginkgo biloba supplements may be useful for people with poor circulation.
In addition, it may protect memory making it beneficial to people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Some experts believe it helps thinking, memory and learning due to improved blood flow to the brain and because it protects nerve cells. But the evidence is conflicting with some studies saying it stems off dementia and others saying it makes no difference.
Ginkgo Biloba may also be beneficial for other conditions including: anxiety, premenstrual syndrome, Raynaud’s phenomenon and eye diseases including glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. More research is needed on these.
Can too much Ginkgo Biloba be harmful?Ginkgo Biloba in large doses can cause stomach upsets, headaches, and skin reactions. Some studies have also linked ginkgo biloba use to increased stroke risk. Further studies are needed.
If you are taking blood-thinning medication such as warfarin or aspirin you should consult your doctor before taking ginkgo biloba as there may be a risk of internal bleeding.
Ginkgo biloba should not be taken by people with epilepsy as it may cause seizures. It should not be given to children or taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and you should consult a doctor before taking ginkgo biloba if you are taking insulin for diabetes as a supplement may interfere with blood sugar levels.
If you are already on medication - for example for high blood pressure - seek advice from a doctor before taking ginkgo biloba as it can interfere with certain drugs.