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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan and Physician Luke Yau Wai on June 15, 2022

Health Benefits Of Ginkgo Biloba That Will Surprise You

If there's one supplement you should add to your health and wellness routine, it's Ginkgo biloba. Discover the amazing benefits of this "memory herb" here.

Gingko biloba min scaled

Known as the “memory herb,” Ginkgo biloba has numerous amazing health benefits. It functions as one of the best and oldest forms of natural medicine.

In fact, Ginkgo has a such rich history that it has outlived dinosaurs and is responsible for inspiring poetry.

In this article, we’ll highlight the health benefits of Ginkgo biloba and provide tips for how you can add it to your natural health and wellness routine.

What Is Ginkgo Biloba?

Ginkgo has been referred to as the “memory herb” due to its ability to provide neurogenerative protection.

Have you heard about this powerful herb that comes from a tree with stinky fruits? The Ginkgo biloba tree is also known as the maidenhair tree. It has fascinated humans for a long time with its unique fan-shaped leaves and lustrous yellow foliage in autumn.

Native to China and one of Earth’s oldest living fossils, the Ginkgo biloba tree has remained the same for over 200 million years. It’s the last surviving species of its lineage.

Its kernels and leaves have been used for hundreds of years as herbal medicine to prevent cognitive impairment, cardiovascular disease, and many other ailments.

History Of Ginkgo Biloba

The earliest reference to Ginkgo biloba was in poems written during the Song Dynasty in the 11th century, followed by more references in 13th and 14th-century Chinese literature.

The Ginkgo Biloba tree subsequently found its way to other parts of Asia including Japan, thanks to a Dutch East India Company physician named Engelbert Kaempfe. He became fascinated by the tree and wrote about it in 1712.

The Chinese have been using Ginkgo biloba for many decades for culinary and medicinal purposes. In many Eastern cultures, it is considered a sacred tree.

It has numerous health benefits, owing to two primary active compound groups: terpenoids and flavonoids. Today, both manufacturers in the East and West produce herbal supplements that use the standardized extracts of the plant. 

Health Benefits

An increasing number of meta-analytical and systemic reviews of smaller studies indicate that the herb has therapeutic action on neurodegenerative, cognitive, and cardiovascular diseases. 

Historically used in the East to treat bronchitis, asthma, and renal dysfunction, Ginkgo biloba has great health benefits for modern-day illnesses.

May protect against neurodegenerative diseases

Research has demonstrated the herb can help prevent or treat aging-related neurodegenerative conditions, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. It works by increasing blood flow to the brain and helping brain cells utilize glucose and oxygen more efficiently.

May contain cardioprotective properties

In China, injections containing Ginkgo biloba extract are used to treat heart attacks. Animal studies have also shown that the herb extract has potent protective properties.

It inhibits apoptosis (programmed cell death) of heart tissue cells, which is a precursor of heart failure.

In addition, there is an indication that the herb has a lot of potential in the reduction of strokes by improving blood plasma viscosity.

May help fight cancer

Research on Ginkgo biloba has also shown promising answers in the area of anti-cancer drug development. A 2019 study observed the actions of five active compounds within it against cancer cells. It found that two of them are particularly anti-proliferative.

May reduce the complications of diabetes

Animal studies have shown that Ginkgo biloba extract can improve renal (kidney) function. It reduces damage to the tubular structures within the kidney due to diabetic complications. It has also been shown to help prevent and reduce the symptoms of glaucoma

How Is Ginkgo Biloba Used In TCM?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is no stranger to the medicinal powers of Ginkgo biloba. Roasted ginkgo seed kernels are a local delicacy in Eastern countries, such as China, Korea, and Japan.

In fact, paleobotanists who study the herb and its extinct relatives believe that its survival had something to do with the early consumption of its kernels by humans and other animals. 

Since TCM is a robust medical philosophy and practice, TCM-based therapy includes Ginkgo Biloba leaf extract for numerous ailments.

According to TCM Physician Luke Yau Wai, this herb can present as neutral, sweet, bitter, and astringent in TCM terminology. It enters the Heart and Lung meridians.

“Ginkgo biloba helps in calming the nerves. It also eliminates Heat and is a diuretic, which helps promote fluid excretion from the body and remove Blood Stasis,” Physician Luke states. It regulates Qi by dredging collaterals, essentially clearing an obstruction from meridian pathways.

Other ailments that this herb can address include: 

  • Dizziness caused by Liver Yang (active energy) 
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Insomnia 
  • Oliguria (abnormally small amounts of urine) 
  • Hypertension 
  • Neurasthenia (a general condition of neurotic disorders that include symptoms like fatigue and irritability) 
  • Nephritis (an inflammatory kidney condition that prevents it from properly filtering blood) 
  • Edema 
  • Peripheral vascular disease (a circulation disorder) 

“Ginkgo biloba is particularly beneficial for individuals who like eating meat, rarely exercise, or have high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, memory loss, or poor concentration,” Physician Luke further shares.

Of course, a balanced diet and regular exercise should be the first resort to maintaining good health. However, it is good to know we have nature’s gift to help us get to better health along the way.

How To Use It

You can take Ginkgo biloba orally as a supplement or add it to soups.

Most Western preparations of Ginkgo biloba supplements come in tablet form, which is easier to administer orally. 

On the other hand, TCM preparations include Ginkgo biloba extract as part of an existing TCM liquid essence, such as chicken essence. It’s also a common ingredient in many healing soups.

Safety Precautions

Owing to its potency, extracts of Ginkgo biloba interact with other commonly used medicines. These include blood thinners like aspirin and warfarin, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain and fever-like ibuprofen and naproxen.

Ginkgo biloba supplements can also interact with medication for blood disorders, antidepressants, and even other health supplements, such as St. John’s wort, Panax ginseng, cedar leaf, folic acid, and melatonin.

“Patients with senile arteriosclerosis and fragile blood vessels should not consume it long term to avoid cerebral hemorrhage. It is advisable to consult a professional doctor or TCM physician before taking it. Individuals with low blood pressure should take it with caution,” cautions Physician Luke.

A potent powerhouse plant with many great benefits, Ginkgo biloba remains a revered sacred tree in the spiritual practices of Eastern cultures. It adorns old temples, lines urban streets, and inspires poetry.

While modern-day sentiments may separate sacred knowledge from medical knowledge, it is not surprising that this herb holds the fancy of monks, poets, emperors, healers, scientists, and physicians alike. This living fossil is nature’s gift for the mind and body. 

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