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Ginkgo biloba: health uses, dosage & background

Siski Green / 16 July 2020

Ginkgo biloba is said to improve the blood circulation throughout the body, slow down ageing and improve the memory.

Ginkgo Biloba plant
Ginkgo Biloba improves the blood circulation throughout the body

This decorative tree, also known as the maidenhair tree (its leaves are similar to the maidenhair fern) is an ancient species, with fossils of the tree dating to 270 million years ago.

What is gingko biloba used for?

Dried leaves are used to create extract of gingko biloba, and that extract is used for a huge variety of problems, from improving cognition, cardiovascular health and other blood-related health issues, and also for vision.

What’s the history of gingko biloba?

Often called a living fossil, because of its long history, the gingko biloba is native to China and that’s where it has been used for centuries for various health issues. The Chinese name for it is translated to silver fruit, named for the fruits that grow on it and the gingko seeds (or nuts) inside the fruit are eaten. Amazingly, it is one of the few living things to have survived the atom bomb dropped in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, an indicator, along with its lengthy history, of its tenacity in survival.

What’s the best way to take gingko biloba?

Gingko biloba extra is available in supplement form, along with tea products. As it is not regulated like other medications it’s difficult to know how much extract you are getting in each supplement. In studies looking at whether it works a common dosage is 40mg of extract three times a day, with the extract containing 24% flavone glycosides and 6% terpene lactones, so look for those details on the label.

Do not attempt to eat the leaves from the tree as they are toxic.

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Does gingko biloba really work?

While many of the claims for gingko biloba haven’t been proven, there is evidence that it does have an impact on blood flow. One study, published in Current Opinion in Opthamology suggests that blood flow to the eye was improved after taking gingko. This could perhaps explain why it would also have an impact on cognitive function and/or Alzheimer’s symptoms – with better blood flow the brain also receives more oxygenated blood and so would be in a more alert state. However, recent studies haven’t been able to show any significant benefit. The Gingko Evaluation of Memory study, a large-scale long-term study, found no benefits for those taking gingko over a period of 6 to 7 years in terms of preventing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

There is some evidence that gingko may help with headaches and/or migraine – and this is one of the most common uses for the extract in China – but available studies are limited. Similarly there is limited evidence supporting its use for anxiety relief, and also sexual dysfunction.

There is insufficient evidence to support any of the other claims of gingko biloba.

Where can I get gingko biloba?

Extract supplements, as well as tea are available at healthfood shops and online. You may also find beauty products containing the extract, although there is little evidence to support the benefits of including it in such products.

How long does gingko biloba take to work?

The results of studies varies so widely that it is difficult to say. It’s not recommended that you take the supplement for more than six months, however, as the extract is not regulated and it is not known what effects might occur with long-term usage.

What are the side effects of taking gingko biloba?

Side effects aren’t common but may include gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, diarhhoea, headaches, dizziness and heart palpitations.

Are there any contraindications when taking gingko biloba?

Anyone taking medications for cardiovascular disorders should see a GP before taking gingko biloba extracts. Similarly if you are diabetic or pregnant you should avoid taking it too.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.