Ginkgo Biloba: From Health Benefits to Risks

Ginkgo bilobam has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for around 1000 years. It has many benefits, but is best known for the treatment of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and fatigue. Other conditions that this herbal remedy are used for include: anxiety and depression, schizophrenia, insufficient blood flow to the brain, blood pressure problems, altitude sickness, erectile dysfunction, asthma, neuropathy, cancer, premenstrual syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and macular degeneration.

The health benefits of ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba is high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This herb could also lead to increase blood flow and improving the way neurotransmitters operate in the brain.

Although research on herbal remedies are lacking, there was one study in 2008 that focused on the use of this herb for brain health, namely the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) study. This study aimed to investigate the link between ginkgo and reducing different types of dementia as well as Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, this study focused on the role of ginkgo on overall cognitive decline, blood pressure, incidence of cardiovascular disease and stroke, overall mortality, and functional disability.

The Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) study had a population of 3069 people, of over 75 years old. The study took place over a period of 7 years.

The results of the study indicated that there was no difference in people after taking the herb to prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s. In addition, the results indicated that ginkgo had no effect on cognitive function in healthy people. That said, another study did show that people with Alzheimer’s could benefit-taking gingko as it help the medication to be more effective.

In terms of high blood pressure, the GEM study found no link between gingko to reduce this condition, In addition, there was no link to reduce the risk of a stroke or heart attack. What they did find was that the herb could be useful to reduce the risk of peripheral artery disease caused by poor blood circulation.

In terms of blood circulation, a dated study did indicate that gingko could be useful to treat erectile dysfunction problems for men that are on antidepressant medication. That is since it is believed that the herb increases the availability of nitric oxide gas that leads to an increased blood flow to the penis.

A 2009 study indicated that gingko could help the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) by providing relief.

The risks of ginkgo biloba

Generally, ginkgo is safe for healthy people to use for six months, if it is used in moderation.

That said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States do not regulate gingko. However, to be safe, best to buy a brand that you trust and that has a good reputation.

Some people could develop an allergic reaction from this herb. If you are allergic to urushiols, which is the oily resin found in poison ivy, poison oak, and mango rind, you are higher risk for an allergic reaction.

If you have a bleeding disorder then you should avoid using gingko as it could increase bleeding. In addition, you should stop taking ginkgo at least two weeks prior to any surgery to prevent complications. Plus, if you are pregnant you should not use this herb.

Gingko should be avoided if you had any clotting. More so, you should avoid this herb if you are on drugs like ibuprofen, as it could lead to serve effects.

People with diabetes or hypoglycemia should be careful when taking gingko. This is as gingko could lower blood sugar levels.

The seeds or leaves off the gingko tree is toxic and should not be eaten.

Some of the other latent side effects of ginkgo are headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, heart palpitations, dizziness and a rash.

The bottom line

Although the word was that gingko is the miracle cure for brain and other medication conditions, the research has not come out in support of these statements. What the research has shown, although dated research, was that gingko could help to slow down the development of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, that gingko could be helpful in some sexual functions and to improve the blood flow to the peripheral arteries.

Before taking this herb, it is best to consult with your doctor or pharmacist.