A tree native to China is Ginkgo biloba (commonly referred to simply as ginkgo). It is one of the oldest living species on earth. Known as a living fossil, it coexisted among the dinosaurs and has a unique evolutionary history. Ginkgo has been used medicinally by humans for centuries for a variety of ailments. Current in vivo research on its therapeutic effects supports our historical knowledge of this plant. Currently, ginkgo is most well-known for its support of brain health, but it has also been shown to impact many other systems of the human body.
A recent review details the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of ginkgo. It contains a constituent called ginkgolide A, which has been shown to downregulate the inflammatory process through suppression of cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2) and 5-lipo-oxygenase (5-LOX), in addition to a reduction of endoplasmic reticulum stress. Ginkgo also contains flavonoids such as quercetin and has been shown to decrease the oxidative process.
In addition, ginkgo has been shown to have an impact on metabolic pathways. A recent review included 84 separate studies regarding the effects of ginkgo on metabolic syndrome. The study concluded that ginkgo may have a protective effect on lipid profiles, and it may support healthy glucose metabolism.
A recent clinical trial assessed the effects of a nutraceutical blend that included ginkgo on individuals with essential hypertension. The nutraceutical contained extracts of Bacopa monnieri, Ginkgo biloba, green tea leaves, and phosphatidylserine. In previous studies, the nutraceutical has been shown to improve both cognitive function and arterial compliance. This study continued the exploration of its potential support of arterial health. This placebo-controlled trial assessed serum nitrite levels and endothelial function, and after 4 weeks, the treatment arm experienced a significant reduction of systolic blood pressure. By contrast, the systolic blood pressure of the placebo group remained unchanged. Additionally, the nutraceutical was shown to improve exercise tolerance and reduce cardiovascular risk. The researchers of this study suggest that this nutraceutical may have an additive effect with some anti-hypertensive drugs.
Another recent randomized controlled trial explored the effects of Ginkgo biloba extract on individuals who suffer from tinnitus, a syndrome that is historically difficult to treat. Study participants in the treatment arm were given 240 mg of ginkgo extract daily for 90 days. Ginkgo was shown to be effective in reducing tinnitus symptoms either alone or in combination with a hearing aid.
Ginkgo has been reported in clinical trials to be generally safe and well-tolerated for most individuals. There is promising evidence of ginkgo support for brain health in Alzheimer’s disease, cerebrovascular disease, mild cognitive impairment, and vascular disease. In addition, ginkgo may support a healthy metabolism, cardiovascular health, and other systems in the human body.
By Colleen Ambrose, ND, MAT