The use of Ginkgo Biloba is centuries old but recent research is demonstrating that this ancient herb does more than just improve memory and concentration. Research has shown that this herb can protect brain cells and enhance their survival. A number of clinical studies are also making Ginkgo biloba the number one herbal candidate for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
According to a March 2008 report from the Alzheimer’s Association, it is estimated that 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. This association predicts that 10 million U.S. baby boomers will develop this disease in the upcoming years. Quoting from the report,
“Every 71 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer’s disease. By mid-century, someone will develop Alzheimer’s every 33 seconds.”
Barring any advances in the medical community to treat this disease, this association projects that 7.7 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s by 2030 and somewhere between 11-16 million by 2050. For the estimated 78 million baby boomers, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that one is six women aged 55 and older and one in ten men aged 55 and older will develop this dreaded disease.
Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia are now the number one fear for the baby boomer population! Because of this, many are turning to Ginkgo biloba to reduce their risk in developing this dreaded disease.
When it comes to age and longevity, this ancient herb stands alone. The Ginkgo biloba tree is one of the oldest living species. It is estimated that a single tree can live as long as 1,000 years. During its lifetime it can grow to a height of 120 feet to produce a wealth of green, fan-shaped leaves. It is these leaves and their chemical properties that have been used for centuries in Chinese herbal medicine and have now become the focus of modern research.
Modern technology has been used to help concentrate and standardize this herb’s chemical properties into a Ginkgo biloba extract. It is this extract that has become a top selling herbal medication in France and Germany and a top selling herbal supplement in the United States. Although there are more than 40 different chemical components to the ginkgo tree, it is believed that most of the medicinal benefits to humans come from the flavonoids and terpenoids.
Flavonoids and Terpenoids!
This standardized extract is highly concentrated with flavonoids and terpenoids. The clinical evidence indicates that this standardized Ginkgo biloba extract is much more effective in treating health problems than the non-standardized leaf alone products. Flavonoids such as quercetin and rutin have very potent antioxidant effects. In laboratory and animal studies, these flavonoids have been shown to protect the nerves, heart muscle, blood vessels, and retina from free radical damage. Terpenoids such as ginkgolides help to improve blood flow. They do this by both dilating blood vessels as well as reducing platelet aggregation or stickiness.
To be effective, the standardized Ginkgo biloba extract must contain at least 24-32% flavonoids and 6-12% terpenoids. Sometimes you will see the flavonoids listed as flavone glycosides or heterosides. Sometimes the terpenoids will be listed at triterpene lactones.
Although Western medicine still relies heavily on pharmaceutical drugs to treat illness, herbal medicine is quite standard in Europe and other countries around the world. With this in mind, let’s look at the potential health benefits of ginkgo biloba.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – This herb is widely used in Europe for the treatment of dementia because of its ability to improve blood flow to the brain. The evidence clearly shows that this herb improves thinking, learning, and memory even in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, recent clinical studies have shown the following benefits for people with Alzheimer’s disease:
Several of these clinical studies showed that ginkgo biloba was as effective as the leading medication for Alzheimer’s disease but without the side effects. Although there is some question as to this herb’s ability to prevent and/or delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, it certainly seems to help reduce the symptoms.
The current recommended dosage for memory impairment is 120 mg daily in divided doses with a Gingko biloba extract that contains 24-32% flavonoids and 6-12% terpenoids. For more serious dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, you can up it to 240 mg daily taken in 2 or 3 divided doses.
Macular Degeneration – This eye disease is the number one cause of blindness in the United States. It is a progressive, degenerative eye disease that affects mainly older adults. The flavoniods in ginkgo biloba are powerful antioxidants that can help to lessen retinal problems and preserve eye vision.
Intermittent Claudication – This health problem results in leg pain because of inadequate blood flow to the legs. People with this ailment usually have difficulty walking without suffering extreme pain. In an analysis of eight published studies, Ginkgo biloba extract was shown to be as effective as the leading medication for improving pain-free walking. It still doesn’t replace regular walking exercises but could be beneficial in helping a person avoid significant leg pain which could cause them to stop their exercise program.
Memory – This herb has long been known as the “Brain Herb!” In a recent review of all the best published studies on memory impairment and the use of this herb, it was concluded that Ginkgo biloba extract was far more effective than a placebo in enhancing cognitive function.
Other – Although the data is not as significant, this herb has been used to help treat altitude sickness, asthma, allergic inflammatory responses, depression, high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, vertigo, headaches, mental performance, mood swings, energy and strength levels, and as a potential substitute for pharmaceutical hormone replacement drugs in treating the side effects of menopause.
This herb is not recommended for children under 12. For teenagers you should always consult a qualified medical professional who has experience with herbal supplements. If you are taking any type of medication, you should always consult with your physician and pharmacist before starting any herbal supplement. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, then avoid using preparations containing this herb. Because this herb decreases platelet aggregation or stickiness, you should discontinue its use at least 36 hours prior to any surgery. This will help to reduce the risk of bleeding complications. Do not ingest the ginkgo biloba fruit or seed.
Over the past three decades there have been over 300 new studies documenting the benefits of ginkgo biloba. Because this herb has been so effective in increasing blood flow to the brain and in boosting the oxygen levels in the brain tissue, it has been a great herbal remedy for improving brain function. Decreased brain function is a common problem as people age. If you decide to use this herb to help improve your cognitive memory and brain health, then make sure that you use a ginkgo biloba extract that contains at least 24% flavonoids and 6% terpenoids. Always start with a small dosage to make sure your body doesn’t experience any side effects. Definitely consult your physician and/or pharmacist if you are on any type of medication.
Until next time, may we both age youthfully.
P.S. Below are links to other Herbal Health and Aging articles contained on this website:
The information contained in this website and posted articles are for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam. The information contained in this website and posted articles has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.