Written by Seong Jin Jeong; First Year Project Manager
Ginkgo is a natural product that has been promoted for use of dementia and memory disorders thinking disorders related to Lyme disease and depression, and conditions caused by a reduction in blood flow in the brain. There are many other uses for Ginkgo mainly because of its rich history and some medicinal properties such as its use for antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and vasodilator effects. There are claims of ineffectiveness for anxiety, memory function, dementia, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, schizophrenia, tardive dyskinesia, and dizziness many of which are unproven. The reason, why Ginkgo is used to treat so many diseases and symptoms, may be explained by its ability to improve blood circulation in our body which may help improve the function of our brains, eyes, etc. Two main metabolites are present in Ginkgo which are flavonoid glycosides and terpene trilactones. According to the study, Quantitative Analysis of the Flavonoid Glycosides and Terpene Trilactones in the Extract of Ginkgo biloba and Evaluation of Their Inhibitory Activity towards Fibril Formation of β-Amyloid Peptide, flavonoid glycosides and terpene trilactones are shown to have a weak inhibitory effect on Amyloid beta fibril formation, indicating it could be used to help treat Alzheimer’s disease with questionable efficacy. Other metabolites contribute to beneficiary effects of Ginkgo. Ginkgolides inhibit platelet-activating factor which increases blood circulation in CNS. Also, there are bioflavonoids, antioxidant that scavenge free radicals and may help improve eye function, and there is proanthocyanidin, which is an antimicrobial agent.
However, according to various studies, the efficacy of ginkgo overall shows mixed results. For treatment of Alzheimer disease or vascular dementia, ginkgo showed a slight improvement of cognitive performance or no improvement over the placebo group. Studies also showed that it is not effective for prevention of dementia as well. Ginkgo biloba has been shown to reduce the average total score of Hamilton Depression Scale after four weeks and to reduce anxiety levels in patients. Taking ginkgo supplements may be beneficial in many ways although there is no guarantee according to clinical studies. It is important to consult with your doctors or pharmacists when taking gingko supplements because other studies showed that ginkgo can worsen bleeding disorders due to its nature of inhibiting platelet-activating factor, and can cause seizures due to some CNS stimulant effect. There are other drug interactions with ginkgo as well. This natural supplement might not work for you, but with proper control working with health care professionals, it can benefit you in many ways over a period of time.