With so many supplements on the market, it’s not possible for you to thoroughly research each one. The health experts at Healthy Directions want to help you find the best choices to help you reach your goals, so today, we’ll focus on one of the most popular — Ginkgo Biloba.
Learn more about what it is and what Ginkgo Biloba benefits may be possible, as well as what potential side effects to watch out for.
What Is Ginkgo Biloba?
Ginkgo Biloba supplements come from a tree native to China, also known as the maidenhair tree. The tree is the only member left of an ancient order of plants known as Ginkgoales and is sometimes referred to as a “living fossil tree” by scientists.
The supplement has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to heal various ailments and is made out of many parts of the tree (the ginkgo leaves, stems, and seeds). The current Ginkgo Biloba supplements on the market mostly come from a concentrated extract of the tree’s fan-shaped leaves.
You can purchase Ginkgo Biloba supplements as capsules, tablets, or liquid extracts. However, there is no set standard dose for the use of Ginkgo Biloba supplements, so make sure to consult with your physician and use caution.
What Are the Benefits of Ginkgo Biloba?
Ginkgo Biloba benefits are numerous, but most focus on how the supplement can support the brain and cardiovascular system. Keep in mind that the science behind Ginkgo Biloba is still evolving, so many of these benefits come down to anecdotal evidence and are still being researched.
One of the most well-studied Ginkgo Biloba benefits is how it can improve blood circulation. In fact, the supplement’s ability to increase the blood flow to different body parts may be the reason people started to use it in the first place.
Scientifically, Ginkgo Biloba’s circulatory improvements may be tied to an increase in nitric oxide in the bloodstream, which helps to dilate the blood vessels. When the blood vessels are slightly larger, you can more effectively pump blood where it needs to go.
Circulation is really at the heart of many of the more common health issues people suffer from. Being able to control your circulation a little more, or increase the blood flow to certain areas of your body, can help you more directly deal with the signs and symptoms of many different disease processes.
Can Help With Mental Health
In addition to helping with circulatory issues, Ginkgo Biloba benefits extend into the brain as well. While research is ongoing and results have been inconsistent, there is some hope that these benefits will eventually be backed by scientific proof.
For instance, there are claims that the supplement may help reduce the rate of cognitive decline associated with dementia. It may also help improve the functional capacity of people dealing with mild Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.
Anyone personally dealing with any of these devastating conditions or who has a loved one who understands just how difficult the symptoms can become.
Even though these benefits have not yet undergone enough research to back them scientifically, anything that can help with mental clarity and reduce some of the most challenging symptoms of those disorders is hopeful.
May Help Counteract Medication-Associated Sexual Dysfunction
Unfortunately, as beneficial as antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are for mental health, they can come with a few side effects like most medications.
One of the side effects that causes people the most concern is sexual dysfunction. While it is sometimes a necessary trade-off for those who struggle with anxiety or depression, it shouldn’t have to be something they just “deal with.”
The effects of Ginkgo Biloba on the circulatory system may be able to help in this regard. Again, this is likely due to its ability to enhance circulation to various parts of the body. More blood flow, to the genitals, in this case, can also help with arousal and counteract sexual dysfunction issues.
However, the science has not yet been proven, and in other studies, the supplement may interact with certain medicines and make them less effective. Again, just like with other supplements, consult your doctor or psychiatrist before starting on any supplements to reduce the risk of interactions or side effects.
Full of Antioxidants
Most of the beneficial supplements on the market are full of antioxidants, and Ginkgo Biloba is no different. Specifically, the supplement is packed with both flavonoids and terpenoids, which offer potent benefits.
Antioxidants are excellent at helping to fend off the negative impact that free radicals can have on the body. Because they are missing an essential electron, throwing them off balance, free radicals are able to damage the body by stealing electrons from any other molecules or cells they happen to come in contact with.
Many adverse reactions in the body, like premature aging and even certain cancers, have been potentially linked to these unstable molecules. Antioxidants volunteer one of their own, helping to rebalance out free radicals and protecting other crucial cells and molecules in the process.
Improves Brain Function
One final of the Ginkgo Biloba benefits we’d like to highlight is its potential to help improve brain function. Even though the data is inconsistent, some smaller studies showed increased perceived well-being and mental performance.
These benefits are separate from the reported advantages for those with cognition changes and include help with memory, problem-solving, and attention. Although the science about what may trigger these benefits is not yet clear, some scientists believe that they are due to increased glucose in the brain. It may also be tied to Ginkgo Biloba’s ability to increase blood flow to the brain.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your brain function, combine the supplement with other activities that may help — puzzles, learning a new language, switching up your daily routine, or taking a class.
What Are the Potential Side Effects of Ginkgo biloba?
When you consider adding any medications or supplements to your routine, it’s essential to check with your primary care physician first. Certain herbs may not work well with your current medicines or have undesirable side effects.
When it comes to using a Ginkgo Biloba extract supplement, be aware that some of the possible side effects include:
- Stomach discomfort
In addition, do not use Ginkgo Biloba if you are on any of the following medications due to the potential for interaction:
- Blood thinners like aspirin or warfarin
- Certain antidepressants, including Prozac or Zoloft
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or Tylenol
Also, there is always the possibility of an allergic reaction to any new medication on rare occasions. Although unlikely, seek medical attention immediately if you notice any signs.
Ginkgo Biloba supplements may not have a lot of scientific research to back up their many potential benefits, but they can still be worth trying out in certain situations. Ensure that you consult with your medical provider before starting any new supplement to verify that there are no interactions with your current medications.
Ginkgo biloba extract improves coronary artery circulation in patients with coronary artery disease: contribution of plasma nitric oxide and endothelin-1 | PubMed (nih.gov)
Sexual dysfunction in selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and potential solutions: A narrative literature review | PubMed (nih.gov)
A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 in a sample of cognitively intact older adults: neuropsychological findings | PubMed