What is Ginkgo?

What is Ginkgo?

Ginkgo, a genus of unusual non-flowering plants has its scientific name, is also used as its English name. The genus first appeared in the Permian period Circa 250 million years ago. It was possibly derived from “seed ferns” of the order Peltaspermales. The rate of evolution within the genus has been slow and most of its species had become extinct by the end of the Pliocene; the exception being the sole living species, Ginkgo, which was found only in the wild in China but is now cultivated all over the world (Diamond et al., 2017).

The relationships between ginkgos and other groups of plants are not fully resolved. It is referred to as a “living fossil” due to an ancient seed plant. This large tree lives for over 1000 years and reaches a height of 40 m. It is originally a native of China, but now Ginkgo biloba is cultivated all over the world. Traditional Chinese medicine for centuries made use of the extract from these leaves to treat circulatory disorders, asthma, tinnitus, vertigo, dementia, Alzheimer and cognitive problems. Today, Ginkgo biloba extracts are one of the most commonly taken phyto-medicines globally, which are commonly prescribed in Europe as a nootropic agent in old age and dementia (Isah, 2015).

Description of Ginkgo plant

Ginkgo is one of the oldest tree species. A single tree can live as long as 1000 years and can grow to a height of 120 feet. It has short branches with fan-shaped leaves and inedible fruits that have a foul smell. The fruit has seeds that are poisonous. These trees are tough, hardy and are planted along urban streets of United State. The leaves turn brilliant colors in autumn. Although Chinese herbal medicine has used both the ginkgo leaf and seed for thousands of years, modern research has only now focused on the standardized Ginkgo biloba extract made from the dried green leaves. This ginkgo biloba extract is highly concentrated and used in the treatment of health disorders particularity mental and circulatory problems that are better than the non-standardized leaf alone (Hori et al., 2012).

Potential uses of Ginkgo

  • Ginkgo is known to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Some studies seem to show that taking ginkgo leaf extract by mouth improves symptoms of Alzheimer’s, vascular or mixed dementias (Yuan et al., 2017).
  • Another aspect is improving the thinking problems caused by old age. Taking ginkgo leaf extract by mouth improve thinking skills in some elderly people with mild-to-moderate age-related memory loss or thinking problems (Alimoradian et al., 2018).
  • Ginkgo leaf extracts also shown to improve short-term visual memory and speed of mental processing in non-demented people with age-related memory loss. Improving thinking in young people is another important aspect of this plant.
  • Some studies have been reposted that combination of ginkgo and panax ginseng is more effective for improving memory than alone (Reay et al., 2010).
  • Painful response to cold, especially in the fingers and toes (Raynaud’s syndrome), is mitigated by taking ginkgo.
  • Research claims that taking ginkgo leaf extract by mouth seems to decrease the number of painful attacks per week in people with Raynaud’s syndrome. Leg pain when walking due to poor blood flow (claudication and peripheral vascular disease) is also treated by this plant.
  • Taking ginkgo leaf by mouth also significantly reduces the symptoms of vertigo and dizziness (Sokolova et al., 2014).

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Alimoradian, A., Ghasemi, S., Zahiri, M., Saeedi, A. H., Miladi, H., & Sadegh, M. (2018). Investigation of the effect of Ginkgo biloba leaf extract on spatial memory impairment and hippocampal neuronal loss caused by diabetes induced by streptozotocin in rats. Scientific Journal of Kurdistan University of Medical Sciences, 23(2).

Diamond, B. J., & Mondragon, A. (2017). Ginkgo biloba. Complementary and Integrative Treatments in Psychiatric Practice. Washington: American Psychiatric Association Publishing, 149.

Hori, T., Ridge, R. W., Tulecke, W., Del Tredici, P., Trémouillaux-Guiller, J., & Tobe, H. (Eds.). (2012). Ginkgo biloba a global Treasure: From biology to medicine. Springer Science & Business Media.

Isah, T. (2015). Rethinking Ginkgo biloba L.: Medicinal uses and conservation. Pharmacognosy reviews, 9(18), 140.

Reay, J. L., Scholey, A. B., & Kennedy, D. O. (2010). Panax ginseng (G115) improves aspects of working memory performance and subjective ratings of calmness in healthy young adults. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 25(6), 462-471.

Sokolova, L., Hoerr, R., & Mishchenko, T. (2014). Treatment of vertigo: a randomized, double-blind trial comparing efficacy and safety of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 and betahistine. International journal of otolaryngology, 2014.

Yuan, Q., Wang, C. W., Shi, J., & Lin, Z. X. (2017). Effects of Ginkgo biloba on dementia: An overview of systematic reviews. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 195, 1-9.