- Alternative & Natural Medicine
Ginkgo Biloba Benefits for Brain Health
What is ginkgo biloba?
Ginkgo is one of the oldest trees on the planet. Fossilised leaves, very similar to ginkgo, dating from 250 million years have been found by paleobotanists. In addition, the tree has been used by humans for thousands of years as a food source and for its medicinal properties. The popular supplement that we use today is extracted from the leaves or seeds of the tree after being collected and dried out.
Ginkgo biloba has many health uses but one of the most important is the benefits it gives to our brains.
Improve your brain power with ginko biloba
The brain, like any other organ of the body, needs a good blood supply and nutrients if it's to stay healthy and alert. Ginko biloba seems to help with the following:
- Mood balance.
- Reduces mental fatigue and increases energy.
- Helps to maintain circulation to the brain of blood and nutrients.
- Helps to maintain the neurotransmitters in nerve cells.
- Early research suggests that it may help conditions such as - cerebral artherosclerosis, cerebral oedema, Alzheimer's disease.
Research from Maryland Medical Centre USA shows that ginko biloba was also useful for patients who had intermittent claudication. In addition, it's now known that ginko biloba has very good antioxidant and detoxifying qualities.
Further research at the UCLA Brain Research Institute (USA), found that verbal recall was improved in a test group who had age related memory difficulties. In addition, the researchers used positron-emission tomography (PET) scanning and noted that the brain functioned better in memory centres for those taking the supplement.
In other studies in France, published in the Journal of Gerontology, showed that an extract from ginkgo - extract EGb 761 - seemed to help cognitive skills to be maintained longer with people who suffered from Alzheimer's disease.
Definitions of medical conditions
A condition where arteries become clogged up by fatty substances, such as cholesterol. These substances are called plaques or atheromas.
Cerebral Oedema (American spelling Odema)
A build up of fluid around the brain caused by disease or injury
Intermittent claudication - leg pain felt when walking and generally related to problems with poor blood circulation.
Is the most common form of dementia. The disease attacks nerves, brain cells and neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry messages to and from the brain).
Why does ginkgo biloba help with brain health?
Reserch over the years has found the ginkgo leaves have two chemicals within them - flavonoids and terpenoids. Both these substances are thought to have strong antioxidant properties.
Antioxidants are compounds that help to prevent harm to the body cells and/or repair cells that have been damaged. They do this by slowing down the damage caused by oxygen during a reaction called the oxidative process. This is where free radicals can be created and it is these that lead to cell damage. These free radicals are known to destroy cell membranes and interfere with DNA. In some cases free radicals are also known to destroy cells completely.
The damage to cells could possibly lead to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's and many others. Free radicals also cause ageing in cells and ginkgo biloba may help to prevent this. It is thought that the antioxidants in gingko biloba helps to neutralise many of these free radicals.
Ginkgo biloba also helps improve blood supply to the brain and all it's vessels. Not only does this ensure the brain has essential oxygen, but that necessary nutrients are also delivered to the cerebral tissues and cells. When the brain constantly has a good supply of blood and quality nutrients this has shown to increase the longevity of the cerebral cells
Poll on nutritional supplements
Do you currently take nutritional supplements such as vitamins, minerals etc., on a regular basis?
Threre are so many nutritional supplements around today. Do you often get confused by the choice available and what they do?
Maintaining brain health
Research certainly points to ginkgo biloba being a useful supplement in the diet. Elderly people can also benefit from the extraordinary leaves and seeds, as memory recall and brain activity seem to be enhanced by regular use. However as with any supplement there can be side effects. These are:
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
- Nausea & Vomiting
- People on certain medications should not take gingko biloba - especially MAOI anti-depressant tablets.
- People who have a medical disorder where they have a problem with their blood clotting should avoid gingko biloba as it may increase bleeding.
Most people however, can take gingko biloba without any bad effects. The normal range to take daily is approximately 40mg to 200mg.
If you feel that you would benefit from gingko biloba or indeed any supplement but you're not sure if they can cause adverse affects, then speak to your doctor first. For anyone on regular medications, you should always seek medical advice before taking any supplements. Many drugs and supplements interact with each other in a negative way and this could cause illness or lessen the drugs ability to work properly when you take it.
The future of supplements
Not that long ago many supplements were viewed as being sold by quacks and only used by new age dreamers or vegetarians. However, as has been proven time and time again, what science often brushes off as rubbish, frequently proves to be of greater worth than scientists could ever imagine.
If might pay us as well, not to shun our past but look more to our ancestors who used so many of these natural foods for their benefit. What other substances, with advantages for health, await to be discovered?