Ginkgo biloba, commonly known as the “Silver Apricot” or “Maidenhair” tree is a living fossil that remains a botanical scientific anomaly.
With genes that help it stand out as one of the few trees that live well above 1000 years, ginkgo is the botanical symbol of longevity.
Perhaps what is, even more, shocking about ginkgo is that it demonstrates resilience to maintain its exact same genetic blueprint from 300 million years ago (1).
Brain Shaped Leaves
When the traditional healers employed the “Doctrine of Signatures” (The theory that the shape of a plant tells you what it is good for) they were looking for practical ways to engrave the wisdom of years of trial and error into the mind of the upcoming generations.
Some plants appear to fit the doctrine of signatures while others happen to be less perfect fits.
For ginkgo, the fit is almost astonishing as the plant’s leaves look exactly like a cross-section of the two lobes of the brain.
Faithful to its theme of longevity, Ginkgo biloba is shown to enhance brain health, help with memory, protect against geriatric diseases,and protect against neurodegenerative diseases (2).
The Most Studied Extract of Ginkgo Biloba
The best-studied extract of Ginkgo biloba is a standardized extract known as EGb 761. The following are the criteria of an EGb 761 Ginkgo extract:
24% flavonoid glycosides
6% terpene lactones
Less than 5ppm ginkgolic acid (3)
Other Active Constituents Include
Flavones, flavonols, tannins, biflavones (amentoflavone, bilobetol, 5-methoxybilobetol, ginkgetin, isoginkgetin and sciadopitysin), and associated glycosides of quercitin and kaempferol attached to 3-rhamnosides, 3-rutinosides, or p-coumaric esters (4)
Mechanism of Action
Ginkgo leaf extract is active due to its:
Anti-platelet properties (Anti-PAF)
Inhibitor of amyloid peptide (a key player in the development of Alzheimer’s disease)
Preventative of neurodegeneration
Preventative of Alzheimer’s disease progression
Enhances blood flow
Has a positive effect on vascular fatty streaks
Quercetin reduces neuron apoptosis (programmed cell death) (5)
Ginkgo Biloba as an Antioxidant
Ginkgo biloba is thought to have both direct free radical scavenging effects as well as indirect free radical formation inhibiting effects.
As a scavenger of reactive oxygen species (ROS), Ginkgo biloba appears to support the body’s own ROS scavenging systems including:
Super Oxide Dismutase
Heme Oxidase (2,5,6)
Additionally, research demonstrates that Ginkgo biloba enhances mitochondrial enzymes.
The mitochondrion is a unique cellular organelle that is regarded as the battery of the cell.
As the organelle that synthesizes cellular energy, mitochondria power all the functions of the cells. Ginkgo is demonstrated to:
Increase mitochondrial enzymes
Faster, more efficient energy making
Enhance mitochondrial generation
Increase cellular ATP (energy currency) levels (4-7)
Ginkgo Biloba as a Systemic Anti-inflammatory
In addition to enhancing the mitochondria, Ginkgo is shown to help neurological health as a high-quality anti-inflammatory.
Research has demonstrated over and over again that many chronic neurological, as well as psychological issues, are helped by a reduction in overall inflammation.
In fact, some studies even refer to conditions like depression as inflammatory conditions and demonstrate that controlling overall inflammation significantly helps with symptoms and with disease etiology.
Ginkgo biloba is shown to reduce inflammation by:
Inhibiting Cox 2 enzyme
Reducing prostaglandins (8,9)
Ginkgo Biloba as an Anti-Stress, Anti-Depression, Anti-PMS Agent
Ginkgo has demonstrated positive results as a supportive agent for age-related depression, and depression due to neurodegenerative diseases.
Moreover, it has demonstrated favourable results as a potential treatment for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) as it acts as both an anti-inflammatory that reduces premenstrual physical symptoms as well as an agent that enhances mood and supports emotional health.
Additionally, it was demonstrated to have a direct effect on receptor expression on the adrenal cortex, leading to the hypothesis that it may have a direct effect on enhancing stress adaptation (10,11).
Ginkgo Biloba for Lung Support
The original Chinese Medicine Doctors used fermented and cooked ginkgo nuts as a form of lung support.
They were used for cough and inflammatory conditions.
The leaves were used for purposes of enhancing circulation.
There also appears to be uses of the plant as a form of bladder inflammation remedy.
Some animal models point towards Ginkgo biloba acting as a lung-protective agent in periods of extreme inflammation. Further investigation is warranted (9,11,12)
Ginkgo Biloba for Cardiovascular Support
As a potent anti-oxidant, Ginkgo biloba acts as a potent lipid peroxidation inhibitor.
This means that it has the capability of stopping the fat stuck in arteries and veins from becoming oxidized and inflamed.
Thus, it prevents vascular tissue damage.
Perhaps more impressively, in animal models, it was demonstrated that the consumption of ginkgo leaf extract prior to cardiac surgery helps reduce the profusion-induced lipid peroxidation.
Thus it prevented ascorbate depletion, tissue necrosis and cardiac dysfunction.
Further research and trials on humans are warranted.
Overall, Ginkgo biloba appeared to enhance the recovery of cardiac cells after exposure to the stress of surgery (12, 14).
Use caution and never use a supplement without making your doctor fully aware as Ginkgo biloba is also known to be a blood thinner and may impede healthy coagulation after surgery (13-16).
Ginkgo biloba may safely enhance cognitive function, act as an anti-oxidant and provide healthy mood support for people of all ages.
Always look for a leaf extract supplement that is standardized and keep in mind that ginkgo may require 6 weeks to function fully in your system.
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