Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest living tree species, dating back over 300 million years, and individual trees can live for over 1,000 years. In China extracts of the fruit and leaves of the ginkgo tree have been used for over 5,000 years to treat lung ailments such as asthma and bronchitis, and as a remedy for cardiovascular diseases.
Recently western researchers have been studying ginkgo biloba as a treatment for senility, hardening of the arteries, and as a treatment for oxygen deprivation. More than 34 human studies on ginkgo have been published since 1975, showing, among other things, that ginkgo can increases the body’s production of the universal energy molecule adenosine triphosphate, commonly called ATP. This activity has been shown to boost the brains energy metabolism of glucose and increase electrical activity.
Scientists also discovered that ginkgo contains an abundance of useful compounds including the antioxidants Vitamin C and carotenoids, but it is the flavonoid compounds collectively known as “ginkgolides” that are the most remarkable. The ginkgo flavonoids act specifically to dilate the smallest segment of the circulatory system, the micro-capillaries, which has a widespread affect on the organs, especially the brain. Researchers have also reported that Ginkgo extracts effectively increase blood circulation and increase oxygen levels in brain tissues. Ginkgo is also a powerful antioxidant that prevents platelet aggregation inside arterial walls, keeping them flexible and decreasing the formation of arteriosclerositic plaque.
Ginkgo’s ability to improve blood flow has been shown in numerous studies with the elderly, leading German researchers to study ginkgo as a treatment for atherosclerotic peripheral vascular disease. This condition can cause a condition marked by decreased blood flow to the limbs caused by hardening of the arteries. One indicator of this condition is severe pain felt in the legs when attempting to walk even short distances, referred to as intermittent claudication. German researchers found that treatment with ginkgo extracts improved circulation to the extremities and made it possible for patients with atherosclerotic peripheral vascular disease to walk further with much less pain.
Ginkgo biloba extracts are relatively considered safe and free of side effects, though taking very large doses may lead to diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, which can be controlled by reducing the amount consumed.