Of all the wonderful plants and herbs that have mind and mood-boosting properties, few of them are more popular than Ginkgo biloba. It’s been around for centuries and has a long history of being used to treat memory and blood disorders. In recent years, Ginkgo biloba has been used for its nootropic, cognition-boosting, and memory-enhancing effects.
Ginkgo biloba, often simply referred to as “ginkgo,” is the most commonly used supplement for brain health.1 It’s been used for thousands of years all over the world to treat a number of conditions.2 The scientific community has taken an interest in ginkgo and recent studies have started to shed some light onto how this fascinating herb works.
We’ll look at the benefits, potential side effects, dosage, and where to buy Ginkgo biloba shortly. First, lets examine what exactly ginkgo is.
What is Ginkgo biloba?
Ginkgo biloba, sometimes simply referred to as ginkgo (sometimes spelled ‘gingko’) and also known as the maidenhair tree, is one of the oldest species of trees on the planet.3 It has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine and has been used for its health benefits by many other cultures.
Some of the conditions that ginkgo has been used for include dementia, anxiety, glaucoma, macular degeneration, premenstrual syndrome, intermittent claudication, Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive decline, high blood pressure, altitude sickness, tinnitus, and peripheral artery disease45. As more and more scientific studies are done on ginkgo, its effectiveness at treating some of these conditions is being rigorously explored.
In recent years, Ginkgo biloba extract has been consumed for its nootropic benefits. Users report improved memory, reduced anxiety, increased reaction time, improved blood flow, and general cognitive enhancement, among other benefits. Let’s take a detailed look at some of these benefits and the science that support them.
Ginkgo biloba benefits
Ginkgo users have reported a variety of cognitive and physical benefits. Some of these benefits are backed by scientific studies, while others are not. Here are some of the Ginkgo biloba benefits that have been studied.
Improved Memory – This is one of the most common reasons that people use ginkgo. But, is the claim that Ginkgo biloba can improve memory backed by science? The answer is a resounding yes! There have been several studies that have proven ginkgo to be a powerful memory enhancer.
In one study, researchers gave healthy adults 240 mg of a ginkgo extract daily for six weeks. After taking the ginkgo extract, the participants were able to remember more things and remember things clearer.6
In another study, researchers looked at what effects ginkgo had after just a single dose. They gave some participants only the Ginkgo biloba extract, others only a ginseng extract, some received both, and others a placebo. The participants in the ginkgo, ginseng, and ginkgo/ginseng groups showed improvements in memory performance, in addition to improved math performance. The participants in the ginkgo only group also showed an improvement in mood.7
These are just two examples, but there are at least a dozen other studies that also show Ginkgo biloba’s ability to improve memory.1 This may be ginkgo’s most well-known benefit, but there are several others.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety – Users typically don’t use ginkgo for its anxiety-reducing effects, but it can be a nice additional benefit. Some people who supplement with ginkgo extract report reduced anxiety and stress, which has been noticed in a couple different studies.
In one study, participants with anxiety were given either 480 mg of ginkgo extract, 240 mg, or a placebo for four weeks. Their anxiety levels were checked throughout the study and those that received the high dose of ginkgo showed the greatest improvement. The low dose group also improved, but not by quite as much. And, while there was improvement in the placebo group, it was significantly less than in the groups receiving the Ginkgo biloba extract.8
In another study of healthy volunteers, the effects of ginkgo on stress were examined. A single dose of 120 mg of Ginkgo biloba extract was shown to improve acute stress reaction, by preventing blood pressure and cortisol levels from rising.9
Slowed Cognitive Decline – There have been well over a dozen scientific studies that have examined the effect that ginkgo has on slowing cognitive decline in the elderly and the results have all been very positive.
One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study (the standard for studying medicine) took patients with Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia and gave them either a ginkgo extract or a placebo for 22 weeks. After that time, the participants were assessed using a couple different tests. Those in the ginkgo group showed significant improvements in cognition. The study also noted that the participants in the ginkgo group had no more side effects than the placebo group.10
These are just three Ginkgo biloba benefits that have been studied. It may also be useful for glaucoma, intermittent claudication, macular degeneration, and other conditions. Now, let’s look at some possible side effects.
Potential Ginkgo biloba side effects
Ginkgo is generally very well-tolerated. Most people that take it do not experience any side effects. However, Ginkgo biloba side effects are possible, just like with anything you put in your body.
Some of the most common side effects include upset stomach, headache, dizziness, and skin reactions.5 These side effects are usually mild and go away shortly after discontinuing ginkgo.
Ginkgo may increase the risk for internal bleeding. There have been reports of ginkgo and internal bleeding, but it’s not clear what role it played, if any. If you are taking “blood thinners” like Coumadin (warfarin sodium), you may want to use extra caution when using ginkgo. However, ginkgo has been shown to have no effect on INR (International Normalized Ratio) in people taking warfarin.11
If you are taking prescription antidepressants, especially MAOI’s, it is especially important that you talk to you doctor before taking ginkgo. If you have seizures, ginkgo may not be right for you, as it may make you more likely to have one. And lastly, you should not take ginkgo if you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant.
How to take Ginkgo biloba
There are no official guidelines for taking Ginkgo biloba. However, between clinical studies and anecdotal reports, we can look at what seems to work for most people.
Studies have used dosages from 120 milligrams a day and up. In the studies that compared the effectiveness of more than one dosage, the higher dosage usually showed greater results. Many users report the best results from a dosage of 500 mg per day, either once a day or divided into two doses.
Ginkgo extract can be taken with or without food. It may be slightly more effective if taken on an empty stomach. However, this can cause upset stomach in some people. If this happens to you, try taking ginkgo with a small meal. Most users like to take it early in the day.
As with all supplements, you should probably consult your doctor before taking Ginkgo biloba. Though side effects are rare and usually mild, it’s always a good idea to talk with a licensed physician before taking anything new.
Where to buy Ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo is one of the most common nootropics and can be found in a variety of places. It’s often carried by supplement shops like Vitamin World, GNC, and others. Ginkgo can also be found in pharmacies and large department stores like Wal Mart and Target. And, of course, it can be found from a variety of retailers online, including Amazon.
Our favorite Ginkgo biloba extract is from Absorb Health. Their products are always of the highest quality and their prices are always very reasonable. But, the thing we like best about Absorb Health’s Ginkgo biloba is that each capsule is 500 mg. That means you only have to take one cap every day. You can check them out HERE.
As you can see, Ginkgo biloba offers a number of nootropic benefits. Ginkgo can be effective on its own and it makes a great addition to any nootropic arsenal. It’s been scientifically shown to improve memory and reduce anxiety, among other benefits. Ginkgo is very affordable and, for most people, is free of side effects.
If you haven’t tried Ginkgo biloba yet, what are you waiting for? If you’re interested in other memory-boosting nootropics, check out The Best Nootropics For Memory.
1Ginkgo biloba. (n.d.). From Examine.com. Retrieved November 9, 2016 from https://examine.com/supplements/ginkgo-biloba/
2Michel, P.F., & D. Hosford. 1988. Ginkgo biloba: from “living fossil” to modern therapeutic agent. In Gmkgohdes 2014 Chemistry, Biology, Pharmacology, and Clmlcal Perspectives, vol. 1, P. Braquet (ed.), pp 1-8. J. R. Prous, Barcelona.
3“Ginkgo biloba”. Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS database. USDA.
4Ginkgo biloba. (n.d.). From Wikipedia.com. Retrieved November 9, 2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginkgo_biloba
5Ginkgo biloba. (n.d.). From University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved November 9, 2016 from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/ginkgo-biloba
6Kaschel, R. (2011). Specific memory effects of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 in middle-aged healthy volunteers. Phytomedicine. 18(14):1202-7.
7Kennedy, D.O., Scholey, A.B., & Wesnes, K.A. (2002). Modulation of cognition and mood following administration of single doses of Ginkgo biloba, ginseng, and ginkgo/ginseng combination to healthy young adults. Physiol Behav. 15(75):739-51.
8Woelk, H., Arnoldt, K.H., Kieser, M., & Hoerr, R. (2007). Ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in generalized anxiety disorder and adjustment disorder with anxious mood: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Psychiatr Res. 41(6):472-80.
9Jezova, D., Duncko, R., Lassanova, M., Kriska, M., & Moncek, F. (2002). Reduction of rise in blood pressure and cortisol release during stress by Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) in healthy volunteers. J Physiol Pharmacol. 53(3):337-48.
10Napryeyenko, O., Borzenko, I., & GINDEM-NP Study Group. (2007). Ginkgo biloba special extract in dementia with neuropsychiatric features. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Arzneimittelforschung. 57(1):4-11.
11Jiang, X., Williams, K.M., Liauw, W.S., Ammit, A.J., Roufogalis, B.D., Duke, C.C., Day, R.O., & McLachlan, A.J. (2005). Effect of ginkgo and ginger on the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of warfarin in healthy subjects. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 59(4):425-32.