Ginkgo biloba has long been touted as a natural way to help support memory and mental function.
One of the oldest living tree species – the ginkgo tree is considered a living fossil, since it has survived many ecological events – ginkgo biloba is one of the most popular supplements to come from Asia.
And according to new research from China, the supplement may help support brain function by increasing stem cell growth in key portions of the brain.
The study, which appeared in the journal Neural Regeneration Research, found that ginkgo biloba EGb 761 supplements (EGb 761 mean the standardized extract of ginkgo biloba leaves), may support the development of neural stem cells, which control memory and cognition.
Neural stem cells proliferate in the area of the brain that is believed to play a role in the development of memory, though there aren’t enough of the cells available and they do not develop at a fast enough rate to prevent health concerns such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Using ginkgo biloba extract, however, may help stimulate the proliferation of neural stem cells enough to slow or prevent dementia, according to Prof. Yuliang Wang and a team from Weifang Medical University in China.
Wang and his team studied the effects of ginkgo biloba on rats with vascular dementia, and found that the supplementation not only helped boost neural stem cell production enough to improve learning and memory, the effects of the supplementation lasted for four months.
A long history of benefits
A 1997 study from researchers at the New York Institute for Medical Research in Tarrytown, N.Y., found that ginkgo supplements slowed the progression of dementia in 300 volunteers with mild to moderate cases of dementia, the majority of whom were suffering from Alzheimer’s.
The results appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and it opened the door to serious consideration of ginkgo as a natural supplement worth investigation by the medical community.
Additional studies have suggested that ginkgo might be an effective tool to treat dementia because it improves blood circulation – not only by opening up blood vessels, but also by making blood less sticky – thereby increasing blood flow to the brain.
Ginkgo and Alzheimer’s
Since decreased blood flow to the brain (thanks to compromised blood supply) is common in the elderly... who are the biggest age group at risk of dementia, it makes sense that increased blood flow could help improve cognitive function and thinking for those with Alzheimer’s.
Another key factor in the slowing of dementia, according to Dr. Scott Mendelson in a blog on the Huffington Post website, is the impact ginkgo has on the growth of amyloid deposits in brain tissue. Amyloids are insoluble proteins that have been linked to Alzheimer’s, and in animal studies, ginkgo helped support the reduction of their growth.
Ginkgo may also support the health and function of nerve cells that are damaged through the progression of Alzheimer’s, researchers say.
Ginkgo in Europe
Research appearing in the journal Pharmacopsychiatry and the Journal of the American Medical Association found that ginkgo was an effective support supplement for brain function and health to reduce the impact of dementia.
Those studies suggest, though, that ginkgo supplement may only help support the prevention of progressive dementia symptoms, but do not prevent the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Too young for ginkgo?
If you think that a ginkgo supplement isn’t warranted until dementia is a risk, studies have also shown that ginkgo supplements may help support the brain function of healthy adults.
“Some studies have found that ginkgo may help improve memory and thinking in young and middle-aged people who are healthy,” according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Fighting free radicals
In addition to helping support brain health, ginkgo is a powerful antioxidant featuring two substances, flavonoids and terpenoids, that help fight off free radicals.
Free radicals – which contain unpaired molecules that make them unstable - are said to speed the progression of aging, and have been linked to a range of disorders including cancer, arthritis, atherosclerosis, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.
Antioxidants such as ginkgo are able to fight free radicals because they are capable of donating an electron to the free radical, making it stable – without becoming unstable itself.
Ginkgo biloba extract is one of the many ingredients in Xtend-Life’s Total Balance and Neuro-Natural product lines.