The leaves and seeds of the Ginkgo biloba tree have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. Modern research has looked at ginkgo extract, which is usually made from leaves, and found some interesting health benefits and potential uses.
Improves circulation and heart health
In traditional Chinese medicine, ginkgo seeds were used to open energy channels for different organ systems, including kidneys, liver, brain and lungs. Ginkgo’s apparent ability to increase blood flow to various parts of the body may be the source of many of its supposed benefits.
A study in people with heart disease who supplemented with ginkgo revealed an immediate increase in blood flow to various parts of the body. This was attributed to a 12% increase in the levels of circulating nitric oxide, a compound responsible for the dilation or expansion of blood vessels. Likewise, another study showed the same effect in elderly people treated with ginkgo extract. More research is needed to fully understand how ginkgo affects circulation and heart health, but it looks promising.
Reduces symptoms of psychiatric disorders and dementia
Ginkgo has been evaluated repeatedly for its effects on anxiety, stress, depression and other symptoms associated with age-related cognitive decline. A review of 21 studies revealed that, when used in conjunction with conventional medicine, ginkgo extract can increase functional capabilities in people with mild Alzheimer’s. Another review evaluated four studies and found that a 22- to 24-week treatment with Ginkgo biloba extract improved the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia, except for psychotic aspects.
These positive results may be related to the role that ginkgo has in increasing blood flow in the brain, especially with regard to vascular types of dementia. But it is definitely too early to make absolute claims about the role of ginkgo in treating dementia.
Can relieve headaches and migraines
This is one of its really popular uses in traditional Chinese medicine. Very little research is available on ginkgo’s ability to treat headaches. However, depending on the root cause of the headache, it can help. For example, ginkgo is known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects .
If a headache or migraine is caused by excessive stress, ginkgo can be useful, theoretically. In addition, if a headache is related to reduced blood flow or constricted blood vessels, ginkgo’s ability to dilate blood vessels can improve symptoms. On the contrary, some migraines are caused by excessive dilation of blood vessels, so in this situation, ginkgo would have no effect. Finally, these examples are not hard evidence; therefore, if you have headaches, talk to your doctor to see if it helps. I don’t think there’s any harm, but I wouldn’t expect much.
Can reduce anxiety
Some research indicates that ginkgo can help with anxiety. In one study, 170 people with generalized anxiety were treated with either 240 mg or 480 mg of ginkgo or placebo. The group treated with the highest dose of ginkgo reported a 45% greater reduction in anxiety symptoms compared to those who received the placebo. The problem with this is that it’s the patient’s self-reported results and we just need a lot more evidence about it. So, you definitely can’t draw firm conclusions.
Helps in erectile dysfunction
Finally, I want to highlight this topic because several sources say that ginkgo can help with erectile dysfunction. Ginkgo has the ability to improve circulation by dilating blood vessels. As a result, it can also be useful in treating various symptoms, improving blood flow to areas of the body.
Some research has investigated the use of ginkgo to treat erectile dysfunction caused by the use of antidepressant drugs or SSRIs. The results indicated that ginkgo was no more effective than a placebo in these cases. Another study evaluated the use of ginkgo to increase the desire of women in psychotherapy and they found it was not helpful. The logic for using ginkgo to treat this type of dysfunction makes sense, but the research certainly doesn’t support it, so I just wanted to make that clear.
Finally, while the ginkgo plant has been used for centuries, much of the current research is inconsistent or discouraging, so I wouldn’t expect much if you choose to supplement it.Share this