Is there a botanical that can offer protective effects against the ravages of modern-day living, while protecting our treasured memory processes and cognitive function?
The Ginkgo biloba tree is the story of longevity, of survival, and regeneration. This plant’s origins are China and Japan, where it is used in traditional medicine. It’s referred to as the ‘living fossil’ of the plant world, because it’s the only surviving member of the Ginkgoales family of plants. It has an interesting shaped leaf too, with two ‘lobes’ (hence biloba).
It became the symbol for renewal after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Out of the carnage, sadness and debris, a ginkgo sprouted new buds from the ground. The trunk was gone but its resilience wasn’t. It has the ability to live on, and it’s the ability of this plant to survive that increases the appeal of this herb for botanical medicine research.
To date there are plenty of studies that have been conducted on Ginkgo. In-vitro studies have shown antioxidant activity against free radicals like superoxide anion and hyroxyl radical.
Part of the activity of ginkgo comes from its ginkgolides, which have been found to be platelet activating factor antagonists, meaning it has blood-thinning capabilities. The hypothesis has been made that platelet activating factor formation might be involved in the beginning stages of nerve cell degeneration in brain cells in separate animal brain cell studies, but this is not conclusive.
Ginkgo has been shown to improve memory processes, in particular working memory processes, memory consolidation, executive functioning, and working memory speed. These findings were from a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 61 healthy volunteers aged 18-40 years. Taking ginkgo orally has been reported to improve the cognitive function of some elderly people with mild to moderate age-related cognitive or memory impairment.
Ginkgo biloba has been recommended to be effective for cerebral insufficiency confirmed by a meta-analysis. Cerebral insufficiency is not a precise syndrome per se. It’s regarded as a number of cerebral disturbances like confusion, lack of recent memory, lack of initiative and changes in social behaviour. These symptoms have been associated with impaired cerebral circulation, and have been considered sometimes to be early signs of dementia.
Ginkgo warrants further study, and its clinically proven full capabilities as a therapeutic botanical are just at the budding stage. With its promising actions to improve cognitive function, memory and concentration, ginkgo is a herb to watch.
There’s the possibility of an interaction with blood thinning medications like Warfarin because of its platelet activating factor antagonising activity. If you are on these types of medication, speak to your qualified health care professional prior to taking any supplement to avoid the possibility of any interaction.
1. European Scientific Co-operative on Phytotherapy – ESCOP monographs. Ginkgo folium. 178.
2. European Scientific Co-operative on Phytotherapy – ESCOP monographs. Ginkgo folium. 181.
3. Wren. Potter’s New Cyclopedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations. CW Daniel Company limited. 1988. Ginkgo. 129.
4. European Scientific Co-operative on Phytotherapy – ESCOP monographs. Ginkgo folium. 188.
5. Pharmacists letter: Natural Comprehensive medicines data base. 2009. 728.
6. Pharmacists letter: Natural Comprehensive medicines data base. 2009. Ginkgo. 728.
7. European Scientific Co-operative on Phytotherapy – ESCOP monographs. Ginkgo folium. 191.
8. Wren. Potter’s New Cyclopedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations. CW Daniel Company limited. 1988. Ginkgo. 129.
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