Ginkgo Biloba, sometimes called Maidenhair, has gained attention for its potential as a memory maintaining supplement in people of all ages, including those experiencing Alzheimer's. The tree is native to China and has long been lauded for its high antioxidant content. Traditional medicines frequently use the leaves and seeds, while modern approaches focus primarily on extracts made from the leaves.
Ginko boasts a high antioxidant content, as noted by several research studies. These antioxidant effects come from the high levels of flavonoids and terpenoids, which can help counteract the effects of damaging free radicals in the body.
Given the antioxidant content, the health claims surrounding Ginko are largely centered around anti-inflammatory properties. This is where claims around disease prevention, improved circulation, and maintained cognitive function come from.
There is evidence in favor of ginkgo increasing circulation, which is where its use in traditional Chinese medicine began. This may be why several studies have found that Ginko extracts immediately increase blood flow in older patients, in some cases leading to a 12% increase in circulating nitric oxide (the compound which dilates blood vessels in the body).
While the evidence for improved blood flow is encouraging, the research into Ginko’s effects on memory and cognition is fairly inconsistent.
Some studies suggest that the improved blood flow may help to support people with vascular types of dementia, by improving circulation to the brain.
As with any supplement, there are risks to taking Ginko. Side effects may occur such as allergic reactions, dizziness, stomach upset, or potentially the onset of an arrhythmia. No one should begin taking Ginko extract without discussing the risks and benefits with their healthcare provider.
The evidence for antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties is encouraging, and Ginko supplements may be a good choice for those looking to improve and maintain healthy circulation and decrease inflammatory symptoms. There is not yet strong enough evidence to support or reject the effects of Ginko on cognition or memory.
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