The ginkgo tree is truly a marvel of nature. It epitomizes brains and brawn. The brains part comes from the ginkgo leaf's many purported medical properties, one of which—in capsule, tablet or liquid extract form—is believed to help with cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and memory loss, especially in older people, according to webmd.com.
As for the bit about brawn? A ginkgo tree is one tough hombre. It has been around a very long time, with a lifespan of a thousand years or more—some trees in China are said to be more than 2,500 years old. The tree has been described as a "living fossil," which means it has survived beyond major extinction events dating back millions of years, if we are to believe that the earth is even that old. The Chinese, who have taken gingko for centuries for its cognitive and anti-asthma benefits, have also eaten ginkgo nuts for their apparent strengthening properties, says medicalnewstoday.com.
Talk about survival of the fittest! That characteristic of ginkgo might be why it is considered so useful in so many medical ways because of its apparent therapeutic properties. These are attributed to its high levels of flavonoids and terpenoids, antioxidants that help protect against oxidative cell damage caused by damaging free radicals.
An interesting side note about ginkgo is that it has some smarts of its own—it can synthesize one set of chemicals to fight an insect pest and release another set of compounds that attract the insect pest's enemies. Double trouble for pest.
Among other conditions that ginkgo, or ginkgo biloba, are used for include treating glaucoma, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), heart disease and heart complications, high cholesterol, PMS, chronic fatigue, schizophrenia and for controlling blood pressure and for treating asthma, allergies and bronchitis
Still, though, as best as we can recall, ginkgo has been most closely linked to its reported benefits with memory/cognitive issues because of its ability to improve blood flow to the brain. It certainly can claim a really long track record when it comes to medicinal uses. Recorded uses of ginkgo for treating asthma and bronchitis date back to as early as 2600 B.C., and its reputation has held up well into present-day as one of the top-selling herbs in the United States.
There are no known claims that ginkgo can actually cure dementia, let alone anxiety, schizophrenia and cerebral insufficiency (insufficient blood flow to the brain), although there is evidence, according to Mayo Clinic, that ginkgo can help in managing those conditions. A study published by the journal Pharmacopsychiatry confirmed the "clinical efficacy of the ginkgo biloba special extract EGb761 in dementia of the Alzheimer type and multi-infarct dementia."
Other traditional uses of ginkgo biloba, according to the Institute for Natural Products Research as published at medicalnewstoday.com, include:
- Preventing bed wetting
- Increasing sexual energy
- Soothe bladder irritation
- Treating intestinal worms
- Treating gonorrhea