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Ginkgo

Parts Used & Where Grown

Ginkgo biloba is the world’s oldest living species of tree. Individual trees live as long as 1,000 years. Ginkgo grows most predominantly in the southern and eastern United States, southern France, China, and Korea. The leaves of the tree are used in modern herbal medicine.

Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Medicinal use of ginkgo can be traced back almost 5,000 years in Chinese herbal medicine. The nuts of the tree were most commonly recommended and used to treat respiratory tract ailments. The use of the leaves is a modern development originating in Europe.

How It Works

The medical benefits of Ginkgo biloba extract are attributed primarily to two groups of active constituents: the ginkgo flavone glycosides and the terpene lactones. Ginkgo flavone glycosides, which typically make up approximately 24% of the extract, are primarily responsible for ginkgo’s antioxidant activity and may mildly inhibit platelet aggregation (stickiness). These two actions may help ginkgo prevent circulatory diseases, such as atherosclerosis, and support the brain and central nervous system. In addition to the cardiovascular system, ginkgo’s antioxidant action may also extend to the brain and retina of the eye. Preliminary trials have suggested potential benefit for people with macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. The terpene lactones found in ginkgo extracts, known as ginkgolides and bilobalide, typically make up approximately 6% of the extract. They are associated with increasing circulation to the brain and other parts of the body and may exert a protective action on nerve cells. Ginkgo regulates the tone and elasticity of blood vessels, making circulation more efficient.

Ginkgo is also well-known for its effect on memory and thinking (cognitive function). It may enhance cognitive performance in healthy older adults, in people with age-related cognitive decline, and in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

How to Use It

Most clinical trials have used between 120 and 240 mg of ginkgo (standardized to contain 6% terpene lactones and 24% flavone glycosides) per day, generally divided into two or three portions. The higher amount (240 mg per day) has been used in some people with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease, age-related cognitive decline, intermittent claudication, and resistant depression. Ginkgo may need to be taken for eight to twelve weeks before desired actions such as cognitive improvement are noticed. Although nonstandardized Ginkgo biloba leaf and tinctures are available, there is no well-established amount or use for these forms.

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