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Ginkgo biloba, the ancient plant that protects the brain

March 17, 2021
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Ginkgo biloba, the ancient plant that protects the brain

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action, counteracts the formation of blood clots, improves blood flow to the brain, counteracts neurodegeneration, improves memory and attention

What a fascinating plant ginkgo biloba is! Tree of ancient origin, it is estimated indeed that it appeared about 250 million years ago, it is nowadays a highly appreciated ornamental plant, used in parks and gardens also because it is very resistant to pollutants. To show its degree of resistance, think that in Hiroshima there are still six specimens of ginkgo biloba that survived the explosion of the nuclear bomb. But ginkgo biloba is also appreciated for its beneficial properties on brain health. In fact, several scientific studies have been able to demonstrate these effects.

Ginkgo biloba, properties

The leaves of ginkgo biloba, in the form of extracts, are widely studied thanks to their beneficial effects on health. In fact, these extracts are a precious source of antioxidant substances, such as proanthocyanidins, but also terpenoids and flavonoids. Extracts of this plant have been observed to strengthen blood vessels, to counteract the formation of blood clots and to increase the production of nitric oxide, a vasodilator, with the effect of improving blood flow throughout the body and to the brain (Brondino et al, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, 2013 - Demarin et al, Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat., 2017).

Ginkgo biloba and its effect on the brain

Ginkgo biloba fights free radicals and inflammation and inhibits the neurotoxicity of beta amyloid protein accumulations (Brondino et al, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, 2013). Not only that, it has also been observed that extracts of ginkgo biloba increase the presence of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter essential for learning and memory and which is instead reduced in case of Alzheimer's (Silberstein et al, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med., 2011). Given these properties and the ability to improve blood flow, several studies have focused on the action of ginkgo biloba on the brain and its possible effect aimed at counteracting the development of neurodegenerations, such as Alzheimer's. What turned out was that ginkgo extracts, in case of dementia, significantly improved both cognitive function and the ability to perform daily actions (Brondino et al, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, 2013). In particular, however, this beneficial action has been convincingly demonstrated only with the intake of a high dosage of ginkgo, 240 mg per day. In addition, the beneficial action of ginkgo biloba has not been observed in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases but just in the ability to improve symptoms when already present (Zhang et al, Front Aging Neurosci., 2016).

As for healthy people, ginkgo extracts have been shown to be useful in strengthening memory, increasing concentration and the body's resistance to stress and fatigue. Finally, ginkgo counteracts anxiety and depression (Singh et al, Neurotherapeutics., 2019).

Ginkgo biloba, how it is taken and side effects

Ginkgo biloba is taken in the form of capsules or tablets, which you can find in chemist’s and herbalist’s shops. Ginkgo is generally considered safe in doses up to 240 mg per day, as this is the amount tested in experiments (Nash et al, Integr Med Insights, 2005). However, before starting any treatment, ask your doctor for advice if you are taking anticoagulant medications, as interactions may occur (Hashiguchi et al, J Pharm Health Care Sci, 2015 - Diamond et al, Arch Phys Med Rehabil, 2000). Do not take this supplement during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

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