Published on July 2nd, 2013 | by Joe Starks0
Fitness Jargonbuster: Ginkgo Biloba
The Ginkgo plant has been of tremendous cultural and religious importance in many countries of Asia. The tree is of importance in the Buddhist religion and the beautiful fan shaped leaves can be seen in many banners and paintings of Japan and Korea. It is the male of the plant that is used in gardens, because the female produces malodorous pollen. The plant is actually a living fossil, meaning that fossils aged 270 million years back contain the same plant or some of its parts.
Ginkgo biloba as a medicine
Recently, the interest in Ginkgo Biloba has risen all over the world, because some preliminary studies have shown slight improvement in memory of individuals who consumed the extract of its leaves. Studies that followed were less positive about memory improvement, but it is considered that the effect is slightly better than a placebo. This has opened a whole new market for supplements made of the ginkgo leaf to improve one’s memory and ability to think.
If dementia or brain damage is being caused by vascular sclerosis, which means that the blood vessels leading to and from the brain have become hard, then substances that cause improved blood flow can be beneficial in treating and preventing further damage to the brain. Ginkgo has been found to improve blood flow in general, which means that it can be beneficial in people who suffer from dementia caused by problems in their blood vessels.
Since it improves blood flow it can also be beneficial in people who suffer from clogged arteries in their legs. There have been many studies that searched for benefits from Ginkgo biloba in patients that suffer from Alzheimer’s, glaucoma, macular degeneration, ADHD and many more. Until now no positive results have been found, but some researchers are adamant in searching for a dose that could be medicinal.
Side effects of Ginkgo Biloba
Since Ginkgo biloba interferes with blood circulation it should not be taken without a doctor’s advice, especially if one is taking other medicines at the same time. Medicines like warfarin and anti platelet drugs, which are supposed to regulate blood flow in people who have bad circulation or are in danger of getting blood clots, can be very dangerous to take together with ginkgo. It even interferes with simple NSAIDS like aspirin and such, making it rather dangerous to take just for a supplement.
Even without taking other medicines Ginkgo has its side effects. Some people get dizziness, headaches, nausea, gas and diarrhea. Even though the leaf extract is quite safe for healthy individuals to ingest, the cooked seed can cause strokes and death if eaten in batches of over ten pieces. The raw seed is extremely dangerous, causing death and stroke to anyone who dares consume it.
It is unsafe to take Ginkgo extract during pregnancy, since it may cause early labor and extra bleeding during delivery. There isn’t enough knowledge about how ginkgo interacts with breastfeeding, so it should never be consumed during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Children should never eat ginkgo seeds, not even the cooked ones. If you ever had a seizure you should not take ginkgo, because there are fears that it might be causing or aggravating seizures. Ginkgo might also make it difficult for you to become pregnant, since some studies suggest that it lowers fertility. If you suffer from blood disorders or you have a planned surgery you should stay clear away from the stuff.
Ginkgo has become such a hit as a supplement that it becomes hard to believe that there are NO formal studies backing up any of its benefits, while there are a lot of studies showing that it can be right out dangerous to ingest for some people. Taking this substance just to improve your diet is great folly, since it interacts with many over the counter medicines and even more prescribed ones.
It is unsafe for people with blood disorders, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, people with diabetes and it will hinder getting pregnant, since it can lower fertility. All in all the fuss about Ginkgo is highly overstated. It is too expensive and not very useful for most to be taking it at all. The plant makes a nice garden tree if you like fan shaped leaves though.