Continuing breakthrough research has proven that Ginkgo biloba can revitalize the circulatory system, brain, and body in a natural, safe, gentle way. Its impressive results have made it the most popular herbal medicine in the world.
As a whole, the studies show that Ginkgo’s unique and impressive properties come from its synergistic combination of antioxidant and protective compounds, combined with the extracts’ amazing ability to induce our cells’ own natural antioxidant and protective factors. This makes Ginkgo truly unique, as it not only provides us with a source of healthful flavonoids and terpenes that possess a variety of beneficial properties, but also actually stimulates our body’s natural protective mechanisms on a genetic level.1
- Ginkgo biloba extract has been proven to stimulate blood circulation. Consequently, it has the ability to help:
- Slow down the aging process
- Protect against Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders2
- Protect against cataracts and macular degeneration, and retard their progression3
- Sharpen your mental performance
- Increase your concentration and short-term memory
- Boost your energy levels and protect against stroke
- Protect mitochondria, the tiny “spark of life” energy factories inside cells
- Improve circulation to your feet, legs, and hands
- Reduce blood pressure increases due to stress and exercise4
- Enhance your sex life as a result of increased blood circulation
What is Ginkgo?
Ginkgo biloba extract is derived from leaves of the Ginkgo tree, which is considered the oldest living tree and dates back more than 200 million years. This hardy species that once flourished around the world survived the last Ice Age only in remote eastern China. European explorers and traders brought its seeds from China to Europe, where its uniqueness and remarkable resistance to pollution, insects, and disease made it a popular ornamental plant.
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Ginkgo’s amazing history
Ginkgo trees may look like ordinary trees, but nothing could be further from the truth. Named for their fan-shaped, two-lobed leaves, Ginkgo biloba is the last surviving species of the many types of Ginkgo that once flourished on the earth, and is, in fact, a living fossil.
Ginkgo trees, of which there were then numerous species other than biloba, have been around for more than 200 million years. This hardy species thrived during the Age of the Dinosaurs but survived only in remote eastern China by the end of the last Ice Age.
According to records dating back to 2,800 B.C., the Chinese made medicinal preparations from dried Ginkgo leaves for many of the symptoms of aging, including memory loss, poor circulation, and general mental decline. Eventually, European explorers brought Ginkgo seeds back to Europe where the trees became a popular feature of cultivated gardens because of their uniqueness, and because of their resistance to disease, pollution, and pests.
Today, thanks to man’s intervention, Ginkgo trees grow all over the world, line U.S. streets and boulevards. And in return for saving this ancient tree, we have all been offered the chance to benefit from the secret that Ginkgo biloba has kept hidden in its leaves for hundreds of millions of years—unique phytochemicals with a variety of health benefits that nobody could have expected to come from just one plant!
What is Ginkgo used for?
The therapeutic use of Ginkgo biloba goes back centuries, and is described in traditional Chinese pharmacopoeia. Today, it is recognized around the world for its ability to neutralize free radicals and support healthy circulation to the brain and extremities. By increasing blood flow, Ginkgo exerts a positive effect on the entire vascular system, and particularly helps provide nourishment to the brain, eyes, ears, and heart muscle.
Ginkgo also helps prevent blood clots and has been used successfully for problems relating to poor circulation, such as phlebitis (inflammation of a vein) and diabetic peripheral vascular disease and even impotence. Since Ginkgo helps support peripheral circulation, it may provide relief to people who suffer from leg pain during or after exercise, and cold hands and feet. Ginkgo is also used to relieve the annoying ringing in the ears associated with tinnitis.
It’s in the Genes
There have been hundreds of studies done on Gingko biloba extract in the past three decades, but the most significant discoveries have just recently been made. This research has utilized new techniques that allow scientists to examine how a compound such as Ginkgo changes the expression of genes in our cells. With these methods it is now possible to examine how something affects thousands of genes at one time. In a way, this is like seeing what different buttons get pushed inside cells, and this lets scientists see how a compound truly affects how the cells function.
It would be hard to imagine a product that pushed more of the right buttons than Ginkgo. This research has shown that Ginkgo is able to induce a variety of our cells’ natural protective enzymes, including those involved in antioxidant protection, energy production, cellular maintenance, and DNA repair. Additionally, levels of important growth hormones within the brain were dramatically enhanced.5
It now seems certain that Ginkgo’s unique and impressive properties come from its synergistic combination of antioxidant and protective constituents, combined with the extracts’ ability to induce our cells’ own natural antioxidant and protective factors. This makes Ginkgo truly unique as it not only provides us with a source of healthful flavonoids and terpenes that possess a variety of beneficial properties, but also actually stimulates our body’s natural protective mechanisms on a genetic level. There is no other product that has so many beneficial and far reaching effects on our body’s health, on so many different levels.5
Ginkgo is a proven longevity supplement
Research has shown that as we age, mitochondria become less efficient at producing energy and more efficient at generating damaging free radicals. This vicious cycle is now believed to be a major contributor to the aging process, and not surprisingly, also to memory loss.
Recent research has also shown that Ginkgo biloba extract is remarkably effective at protecting mitochondria from damage. Even more impressive, Ginkgo has been shown to not only preserve mitochondria structure and function in aging animals, but to also significantly extend their life span!
Bilobalide is proving to be a major contributor to Ginkgo’s ability to protect mitochondria from the effects of aging and damage, which is a proven strategy to extend life span. All the more reason to take a Ginkgo supplement with as much bilobalide content as possible!
Ginkgo protects your brain from long-term damage
Scientists believe that aging and many diseases, including arthritis, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and atherosclerosis, are the result of oxidative stress and the accumulation of damage, especially in our mitochondria. Ginkgo’s antioxidant properties neutralize the free radicals that can damage proteins within the cell, enzymes, or the fragile lipid membranes that surround and protect the cell. Additionally, it is particularly effective at protecting and preserving mitochondrial function.
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Brain cells are composed mainly of fat, which is particularly vulnerable to free radical damage. Individuals who sustain free radical damage over a long period of time may experience deterioration in their mental capacity. Ginkgo has been proven to protect the delicate brain cells from this devastating damage.
Effective against Alzheimer’s disease
The first empirical clinical trial of Ginkgo biloba extract conducted in the United States, and reported in the October 22, 1997 Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), showed that Ginkgo was beneficial in delaying the progression of dementia in patients for six months to one year. The double-blind clinical trial involved 327 patients with dementia (caused by Alzheimer’s or stroke) in which the patients were randomly assigned to take either Ginkgo supplements or a look-alike placebo every day for one year.
According to Pierre L. LeBars, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues from the New York Institute for Medical Research, Tarrytown, N.Y., after six months of daily supplementation, almost one third of the Alzheimer’s patients taking Ginkgo showed improvement in their social behavior and on standard tests of reasoning and memory. The group that took the placebo did worse in all areas, which would be expected due to the progressive nature of Alzheimer’s.
In a recent study, LeBars and his team did another 52-week, randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study using 120 mg of Ginkgo. The results of this study were similar to the first, providing proof again that the Alzheimer’s patients who received Ginkgo showed improvement in cognitive performance and social functioning regardless of the stage of dementia, whether mild or moderately severe.
However, in patients who had more severe dementia, the Ginkgo biloba extract proved to slow down or stabilize symptoms, rather than help improve functioning and performance.6
GBE improves intelligence in healthy, young people
You don’t have to be middle-aged or older for Ginkgo to help increase brainpower! Recently, there has been much speculation that GBE may act as a ‘smart drug,’ improving intelligence in healthy, young people.
In a 30-day double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, 61 participants were given a battery of validated neuropsychological tests before and after treatment with GBE. Results indicated that due to the Ginkgo, the subjects showed a significant improvement in the speed at which they processed information and retained it.7
In another placebo-controlled, double-blind study, 20 participants received 120 mg, 240 mg, and 360 mg of a standardized extract of Ginkgo or a placebo. The results showed that the people who received Ginkgo biloba had a sustained improvement in attention, even six hours after they had received the supplement.8
How does Ginkgo biloba work?
More than 400 studies and reports have been published on Ginkgo and the research has demonstrated that its medical benefits depend on the action of two groups of active constituents: Ginkgo flavone glycosides and terpene lactones. The glycoside constituents include the bioflavonoid compounds that give Ginkgo its antioxidant activity throughout the body. The terpene lactones increase circulation and energy production in the brain and other parts of the body, allowing better oxygen and glucose uptake.
Ginkgo has been shown to:
- Increase blood circulation throughout the body
- Build capillary strength and reduce blood loss from capillary vessels
- Decrease the clumping of blood in the circulatory system
- Increase cellular glucose uptake to energize cells
- Act as a powerful antioxidant, protecting against lipid peroxidation and other diseases and chronic conditions related to the production of free radicals, including aging
- Exert an anti-inflammatory effect
- Prevent oxidative damage to mitochondria (the energy factories inside every cell in your body), suggesting that Ginkgo exhibits beneficial effects on neuron degenerative diseases by preventing chronic oxidative damage and restoring energy production 9
Choosing the right Ginkgo biloba extract product
There are hundreds of Ginkgo products on the market, and most of them aren’t worth the price of the bottle they come in simply because they don’t meet the pharmaceutical standards of the supplements that are used in clinical studies … and many contain potentially dangerous levels of ginkgolic acid. Unlike other countries that sell ginkgo extracts as pharmaceuticals, the United States’ sales of Ginkgo are unregulated and provide the consumer with no guarantee of quality or potency.
If You Take Ginkgo Extract … Watch out for Ginkolic Acid
Ginkgo biloba extract can dramatically improve your mental sharpness, improve your memory, and slow brain aging. But you’d better know how to shop for the best available product … or you may end up wasting your money on a product that has no effect at all or does more harm than good!
We want to alert you, a valued reader of Smart Publications Health & Wellness Update, to some new, vital information that has not been widely disseminated. This information has to do with two crucial issues: the safety and effectiveness of Ginkgo biloba supplements.
1) Safety: Watch Out for Ginkolic Acid!
Most people aren’t aware that Ginkgo leaves contain a toxic compound, ginkgolic acid. Pharmaceutical-grade Ginkgo extract must contain 24% flavonoids, 6% triterpenes, and less than 5 parts per million of ginkgolic acid. But in the US, you can’t be sure how much ginkgolic acid is in your product unless it is specifically stated on the label … and most manufacturers don’t list it on the label. (And the sad fact is that many Ginkgo products contain more – much more ginkgolic acid than is considered safe.)
Know what to look for
Even if the ingredients aren’t on the label, it’s important to learn what makes a Ginkgo biloba extract safe and effective … so you can intelligently ask manufacturers about their product and know what you’re buying!
Standard Ginkgo biloba products contain 24% flavonoids and 6% triterpenes, but the label usually doesn’t tell you anything about the levels of toxic ginkgolic acid.
Although Ginkgo extract must meet the standard described above, plus contain less than 5 ppm of ginkgolic acid in order to be sold as a pharmaceutical in Europe, there has been no such quality control in the US dietary supplement market. This is a major concern for consumers because Ginkgo produced for pharmaceutical use and rejected because it exceeds the 5 ppm ginkgolic acid level is often sold as a dietary supplement at inexpensive prices to unknowing consumers.
After all, supplements are not a grocery item! There is a difference in quality and, as we’ve seen, sometimes a difference in safety too. Even with something like vitamin E that might seem like just another commodity item … there is a wide spectrum of grades of vitamin E available to the nutritional supplement manufacturer. A synthetic vitamin E supplement (dl-alpha tocopherol) will be less expensive than a natural vitamin E supplement (d-alpha-tocopherol), but won’t be as bioavailable or effective.
Play it safe
Originally, scientists issued warnings that ginkgolic acid levels have to be controlled because it was found to be an allergen that can cause severe allergic reactions in certain people. We also now know that ginkgolic acid damages DNA (a risk for cancer development) and is toxic to nerve cells and the immune system.10
In one study, mice were injected with ginkgolic acid and had significant immunological reactions that appeared in the lymph nodes. The researchers concluded that every care should be taken to guarantee the most complete removal of these compounds as possible during the extraction process. 11
In fact, to the contrary, one independent examination of Ginkgo products showed that some contained THOUSANDS of times the pharmaceutical quality limit of less than 5 ppm ginkgolic acid! 12
It is important to not take Ginkgo products that don’t meet the standard of less than 5 ppm Ginkgolic acid (5 parts of Ginkgolic acid per million)!
2) Effectiveness: Make Sure Your Ginkgo has a High Bilobalide Content to Get All the Benefits
New studies have shown that bilobalide, a unique phytochemical that is found only in Ginkgo, may prove to be one of the most significant breakthroughs in brain anti-aging. Bilobalide is a substance that recent research has shown to:
- Induce important brain growth factors
- Prevent cell death from amyloid protein—a culprit in Alzheimer’s disease
- Protect mitochondria, the tiny energy factories inside cells that provide the “spark of life”
- Protect against Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders
- Prolong life span
- Work synergistically with the other compounds in Ginkgo
Buying a high-quality Ginkgo supplement that contains at least 3% bilobalide is very important, since the latest research shows bilobalide to be one of the major active components of the extract.13 But most companies don’t tell you the amount that’s in their product.
How long should I take Ginkgo biloba extract?
Ginkgo biloba extract will continue to boost your brain power and circulation for as long as you take it. One bottle is a great start. You’ll notice almost immediately that your thinking is sharper, your memory is clearer, and you have more brain power to do the things you want to do with confidence.
Recent findings that life long Ginkgo supplementation not only preserves memory, but also prevents the deterioration of the energy producing mitochondria in cells and extends the life span of animals makes taking Ginkgo every day a logical choice. The only choice.
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- Christen Y, Olano-Martin E, Packer L. “Egb 761 in the postgenomic era: new tools from molecular biology for the study of complex products such as Ginkgo biloba extract.” Cell Mol Biol(Noisy-le-grand). 2002 Sep;48(6):593-9.
- Pharmacological studies supporting the therapeutic use of Ginkgo biloba extract for Alzheimer’s disease. Ahlemeyer B, Krieglstein J. Institute for Pharmacology und Toxicology, Department of Pharmacy, Philipps University of Marburg, Ketzerbach 63, 35032 Germany. Pharmacopsychiatry. 2003 Jun;36 Suppl 1:S8-14.
- Thiagarajan G, Chandani S, Harinarayana Rao S, Samuni AM, Chandrasekaran K, Balasubramanian D. “Molecular and cellular assessment of ginkgo biloba extract as a possible ophthalmic drug.” Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand) 2002 Sep;48(6):593-9Fies P, Dienel A. “Ginkgo extract in impaired vision–treatment with special extract EGb 761 of impaired vision due to dry senile macular degeneration.” Wien Med Wochenschr 2002;152(15-16):423-6
- Jezova D, Duncko R, Lassanova M, Kriska M, Moncek F. “Reduction of rise in blood pressure and cortisol release during stress by Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) in healthy volunteers.”J Physiol Pharmacol 2002 Sep;53(3):337-48.
- Gohil K, Moy RK, Farzin S, Maguire JJ, Packer L. “mRNA Expression Profile of a Human Cancer Cell Line in Response to Ginkgo Biloba Extract: Induction of Antioxidant Response and the Golgi System.” Free Radic Res 2000 Dec;33(6):831-849
- Le Bars PL, Velasco FM, Ferguson JM, Dessain EC, Kieser M, Hoerr R. “Influence of the severity of cognitive impairment on the effect of the Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 in Alzheimer’s disease” Neuropsychobiology 2002;45(1):19-26
- Stough C, Clarke J, Lloyd J, Nathan PJ. “Neuropsychological changes after 30-day Ginkgo biloba administration in healthy participants.” Int J Neuropsychopharmacol 2001 Jun;4(2):131-4
- Kennedy DO, Scholey AB, Wesnes KA. “The dose-dependent cognitive effects of acute administration of Ginkgo biloba to healthy young volunteers.” Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2000 Sep;151(4):416-23.
- Yoshikawa T, Naito Y, Kondo M. “Ginkgo biloba leaf extract: review of biological actions and clinical applications.” Antioxid Redox Signal 1999 Winter;1(4):469-80
- Westendorf J, Regan J. Induction of DNA strand-breaks in primary rat hepatocytes by ginkgolic acids. Pharmazie. 2000 Nov;55(11):864-5.
- Koch E, Jaggy H, Chatterjee SS. Evidence for immunotoxic effects of crude Ginkgo biloba L. leaf extracts using the popliteal lymph node assay in the mouse. Int J Immunopharmacol. 2000 Mar;22(3):229-36.
AbstractBaron-Ruppert G, Luepke NP. Evidence for toxic effects of alkylphenols from Ginkgo biloba in the hen’s egg test (HET).Phytomedicine. 2001 Mar;8(2):133-8.
- Kressmann S, Muller WE, Blume HH. Pharmaceutical quality of different Ginkgo biloba brands. J Pharm Pharmacol 2002 May;54(5):661-9
- Defeudis FV. Bilobalide and neuroprotection. Pharmacol Res2002 Dec;46(6):565-8.