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Ginkgo Biloba: A Comprehensive Scientific Guide to This Super Herb

Ginkgo Biloba and its extracts can have positive effects on cognition, memory, circulation, mood, and oxidative stress. The extract also has anti-aging effects.

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Introduction

Ginkgo biloba, known as gingko or maidenhair tree, is the only living species of the division Gingkophyta, all others having gone extinct. For this reason it has been referred to as a “living fossil” (R). Native to China, its seeds have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years and cooked seeds are occasionally eaten (R). Gingko leaf extract is used to make tablets, capsules or teas and has historically been used to treat a variety of ailments and conditions including asthma, bronchitis and fatigue (R). Gingko extracts are also used in skin products (R).

EGb 761 is a standardized extract of Gingko biloba leaves and has antioxidant properties as a free radical scavenger. It was originated by Dr Willmar Schwabe pharmaceuticals (Dr Willmar schwabe group), and has been available in Europe as a herbal extract since the early 1990’s (R).

In Norway products of Ginkgo leaf have been approved by the Norwegian Medicines Agency to improve blood circulation (R).

My Experience With Ginkgo

Gingko is a good supplement, but for me, it’s blood thinning action is too much, given that I take many other supplements.  It’s a good supplement to increase blood flow to the brain, but I already have good blood flow to my brain, so it’s not a great fit for me.

It has a good anti-inflammatory profile for me since this is not an immune stimulating herb, which means it’s good for Th1 dominant people such as myself.

The Ginkgo That I Recommend

Below, I give a bunch of different good options to buy Ginkgo, but some people want to to know which one I recommend.

Ginkgo Snapshot

Pros

  • Great Antioxidant
  • Enhances memory
  • Natural anticoagulant and good for circulation
  • Aids in healing eye and hearing problems
  • Protects the Brain

Cons

  • Interacts with anti-coagulant and anti-platelet medications
  • cannot be taken by pregnant and lactating women

Health Benefits of Ginkgo

Ginkgo Biloba is an Antioxidant

Ginkgo biloba (fresh plant extract) improved the radical scavenging capacity in elderly patients by increasing glutathione levels (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) prevented hydrogen peroxide induced cellular damage of G6PD (glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase) deficient red blood cells in patients subjected to oxidative stress (R).

Research in Animals:

Ginkgo biloba (EGb 761) increased the activity of catalase (CAT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) in the hippocampus, striatum and substantia nigra of rats (R).

Ginkgo biloba (EGb 761) could reduce injury resulting from having a body temperature greatly above normal. Pretratment with EGB 761 prevented edema and hemoxygenase production in rat brains following hyperthermic insult (R).

camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000NRXNT0&linkCode=as2&tag=selfhacked-20″ target=”_blank”>Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) as an antioxidant could inhibit or reduce the functional and morphological retina impairments observed after lipoperoxide release in rats (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) could prevent age-related increase of oxidative stress-induced apoptosis in mice (R1,R2).

Ginkgo Biloba is an Anti-inflammatory

The combination of Ginkgo and cordyceps could effectively improve micro-inflammation in patients undergoing maintenance dialysis (R).

Gingko biloba extract ginkgolide A reduced the inflammatory response of human umbilical vein endothelial cells to high glucose levels (possibly mediated by action of the STAT3 pathway). It might be a promising candidate for reducing vascular inflammation in diabetic vascular complications (R).

Compounds isolated from Ginkgo biloba stem bark inhibited TNF alpha-induced NF-kB gene production activity significantly in cellular models. It could thus be used for the prevention and treatment of inflammatory and metabolic diseases (R).

Ginkgo biloba (Bilobalide) inhibits inflammatory pain in rats (R).

Ginkgo Biloba Helps Improve Blood Circulation and is a Natural Anticoagulant

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Ginkgo biloba was effective in partially reversing the thrombogenic coagulation profile without increasing the risk of bleeding in chronic peritoneal dialysis patients (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract increased the microcirculation significantly in the skin and liver of elderly patients. It could hence be an adjuvant treatment option for patients suffering from impaired microcirculation (R).

Note: Microcirculation is the circulation of blood in the smallest blood vessels present within vasculature embedded within organ tissues (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract has been shown to be active and significantly superior to placebo in treating patients suffering from peripheral arterial insufficiency (R).

Ginkgo biloba along with parenteral therapy (Nacl) decreased the collagen-induced thrombocyte aggregation to normal range in patients suffering with atherosclerotic disorders (R).

Note: Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract (flavonoids and ginkgolides) is effective in the inhibition of platelet aggregation both in platelet rich blood and whole blood. It could thus be used as a potential oral antiplatelet therapeutic agent (R).

Gingko Biloba is Neuroprotective and Helps Improve Cognition

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Ginkgo biloba extract (Ginaton) could improve brain oxygen supply, promote Superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity to inhibit production of free radicals in patients undergoing cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) and thus shows a protective effect on brain (R).

Ginkgo biloba exerted some modest beneficial effects on selected functions in patients with Multiple sclerosis. There was an improvement in measures like fatigue when compared to the placebo (R).

Note: Multiple sclerosis is a demyelinating disease in which the insulating covers of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged mostly in young and middle-aged individuals.

Gingko biloba tablets could improve the therapeutic efficacy, cognitive ability and brain blood flow supply in patients with Vascular Cognitive Impairment with no Dementia (VCIND) (R).

Gingko biloba extract (EGb 761) has been shown to improve free recall of appointments in middle aged healthy volunteers (R1, R2).

Short term utilization of Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) may prove efficacious in enhancing certain neurocognitive functions/processes of cognitively intact older adults (R1, R2).

Tanakan a trade name for Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) improved the mental efficiency by a significant increase in the interest taken in everyday activities in elderly patients. It could be helpful in treating the early stages of primary degenerative dementia (R).

One trial showed a significant improvement of short term memory following 600 mg of Ginkgo biloba extract as compared with placebo in healthy female volunteers (R).

Previous studies have shown that taking a 240-mg of daily dose of Ginkgo biloba extract is effective and safe in the treatment of dementia (R).

Ginkgo biloba speeds short term working memory processing in normal adults (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761Ⓡ) had good efficacy and tolerability in patients of dementia with neuropsychiatric symptoms (R1, R2). Also the progression of dependency and need for care could be slowed down with Egb 761 (R).

In one study Ginkgo biloba (Tanakan) was safe and effective in treating headaches due to tension (a significant decrease of 50% was observed) in young patients (R).

Research in animals/in lab:

Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) is said to improve age related memory impairment. EGb 761 significantly increased neuronal excitability in hippocampal slices from aged mice (R).

Ginkgo biloba and Ascorbic acid were able to increase the reversal of learning and memory deficits caused by fluoride ingestion in male rats (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract may be a promising therapy on impaired memory function induced by aluminium in rats (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract has been shown to have potent and promising therapeutic effect for stroke treatment in rats that underwent middle brain artery occlusion (MCAO) (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract 761 can provide a neuroprotective/neurorecovery effect against the damage to midbrain DA (dopamine) neurons in an animal model of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract (Bilobalide) protects against neuronal death , restriction of blood (ischemia) and in glutamate induced excitotoxicity in the hippocampal regions of rat (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract could improve damaged neuronal energy metabolism and behaviour in animal models (R).

Ginkgo Biloba is an Antidepressant and Inhibits Anxiety

Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) was effective in treating elderly patients with anxiety disorder and adjustment disorder with anxious mood. Previous studies using Egb 761 have shown that it could also reduce symptoms of anxiety in people with mental decline (R).

Ginkgo  biloba extract (EGb 761) was effective in treating anxiety, depression and dementia in elderly patients (> 60 years of age) (R).

Research in animals/in lab:

Ginkgo biloba (ginkgolic acid conjugates, GAC /ginkgolide-A) exhibitan anti-anxiety activity in rats (R1, R2).

Ginkgo Biloba Could Prevent Problems with Antidepressant-Induced Sexual Dysfunction

Ginkgo biloba was found to be 84% effective in treating antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction (R).

Ginkgo Biloba Helps Improve Symptoms of Psychiatric Disorders

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Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) administered at a dosage of 240 mg/day in 20 children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) improved ADHD symptoms as well as brain electrical activity (R). Further evidence is required for firm conclusions to be made (R).

Schizophrenic patients given Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) showed an improvemnt in TD (tardive dyskinesia) symptoms (mediated by anti-oxidant activity) (R1, R2).

Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb) improves both negative and positive symptoms of chronic schizophrenia (R).

Ginkgo Biloba has a Positive Effect on Mood

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Ginkgo biloba extract (LI 1370) improved mood and self-assessed task-performance in older volunteers (R).

In one study Ginkgo biloba had the strongest evidence of positive effect on certain aspects of mood and attention in healthy subjects (R). There was a significant variation in subjective intensity scores of mood for these subjects when compared to the control (R).

Ginkgo biloba had a significant positive effect relative to control on cognition and mood in postmenopausal women (R).

Ginkgo Biloba Prevents Eye Infections and Helps Restore Vision 

Ginkgo biloba may improve blood flow to the optic nerve and hence may have a beneficial effect on glaucoma (R).

Note: Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions resulting from increased intra-ocular pressure and may cause blindness.

Ginkgo biloba extract administration appears to improve preexisting visual field damage in some patients with normal tension glaucoma (NTG) (R).

Ginkgo  biloba extract could exert a positive effect on seasonal allergic conjunctivitis in patients with symptomatic Allergic Conjunctivitis (AC) (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract significantly increased end diastolic velocity in the ophthalmic artery in healthy volunteers. Further research is required for its implication for glaucomatous optic nerve damage as well as ischemic ocular diseases (R).

Research in animals/in lab:

Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) provided a protective effect on retinal ganglion cells in rat model of chronic glaucoma (R).

Ginkgo Biloba is an Antistress Agent

A standardized extract of Ginkgo biloba (EGb 761) exhibited inhibitory effect on salivary cortisol and blood pressure response to stress in healthy young volunteers (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract possesses beneficial properties that may moderate the impact of oxidative stress on the aging nervous system (R).

Ginkgo Biloba Prevents Fatigue

A combined herbal supplement containing Rhodiola crenulata and Ginkgo biloba could improve endurance performance by increasing oxygen consumption and “endpoint ratio of testosterone to cortisol,” indicator of “overtraining and fatigue in endurance exercises” (R).

Ginkgo biloba taken one day before rapid ascent could prevent or reduce the severity of acute mountain sickness (AMS) (R1, R2).

Ginkgo Biloba Helps Prevent Infections

A chloroform fraction of Ginkgo biloba potently inhibits vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) (R).

Ginkgo biloba leaf extracts exhibited inhibitory activities against the influenza virus in Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells (R).

Alcoholic extract of Ginkgo biloba shows antibacterial activity against Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Erwinia chrysanthemi and Xanthomonas phaseoli (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract and Ginkgolic acids effectively inhibited E coli and Staphylococcus aureus biofilm formation. They represent an important resource of biofilm inhibitors (R).

Ginkgo biloba had an antibiofilm effect against Salmonella and listeria isolates from poultry. G. biloba extracts could hence be used as a food additive to promote the quality and safety of poultry products (R).

Ginkgo Biloba is Effective for Premenstrual Syndrome

Ginkgo biloba can reduce the severity of PMS symptoms in menstruating women (R).

Ginkgo Biloba Protects the Skin

Herbal anti-wrinkle cosmetics formulated from Ginkgo biloba increased skin moisturization (27.88%) and smoothness (4.32%) and reduced roughness (0.4%) and wrinkles (4.63%). When compared to other herbal formulations Ginkgo biloba significantly increased skin moisturization (R).

The association of Ginkgo biloba and Green tea (FBlend) significantly enhanced skin moisturizing effect, cell renewal and improved skin microrelief. In addition, they synergistically acted on the skin elasticity and skin barrier function (R).

Ginkgo Biloba May be Used to Prevent Cancer

Ginkgo biloba possesses the following cancer chemopreventive qualities (R).

  • It promotes apoptosis of cancer cells.
  • A powerful therapeutic effect on the treatment of fibrosis-related cancer.
  • A therapeutic effect on free-radical induced cancer.
  • A therapeutic effect on the treatment of cancer incident as a result of numerous carcinogens (a substance capable of causing cancer in a living tissue).
  • An enhancing effect on radiation therapy in the treatment of cancer.
  • A therapeutic effect on reducing the size of cancer tumors.

Ginkgo biloba exocarp polysaccharides (GBEP) preparation had some definite therapeutic effects on upper digestive tract malignant tumors of middle and late stage cancer patients. The preparation could relieve the inhibited hematopietic function and the weight loss due to radiopathy (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) has a chemopreventive effect against cisplatin ear toxicity in patients treated with cancer (R).

Research in animals/in lab:

Ginkgo biloba extract may regulate cell proliferation and induce apoptosis of human liver cell lines, therefore may have protective effects against liver cancer (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) has a chemopreventive effect against benzopyrene (BP)-induced forestomach carcinogenesis in mice (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract has chemopreventive effects Estrogen receptor independent breast cancer in human breast cancer cells (R).

Ginkgo Biloba Helps Protect the Heart

Ginkgo biloba extract improves heart blood flow in patients with heart disease which might relate to an improved endothelium-dependent vasodilatory capacity (R).

Ginkgo biloba (EGb 761) also works to maintain heart blood flow in healthy elderly subjects (R). This decreases the risk of developing heart disease in these subjects.

A 2 month therapy with Ginkgo biloba (EGb 761) in patients who had undergone an aortocoronary bypass operation reduced the formation of atherosclerotic nanoplaque. Possibly due to an increase in the body’s own radical scavenging enzymes (R).

Tanakan (trade name for EGb 761, Ginkgo biloba extract) is said to produce a positive effect on patients with primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG). There was an improved vasodilating ability of the vascular endothelium due to Tanakan use in these patients (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract could decrease the macrophage scavenger receptors (MSR) activity in patients with Heart disease (CHD) (R).

Research in animals/in lab:

Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) mediated its protective effect against Doxorubicin (DOX)-induced heart injury in rats (R).

The Terpenoid and the flavonoid constituents of Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) had complementary protective effects during restriction of blood (ischemia) and reperfusion in rat heart (R).

Ginkgo Biloba Protects the Liver

Extract of Ginkgo biloba has antioxidant and liver protective effects and can inhibit liver scarring of tissue in rats of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (R).

Ginkgo biloba phytosomes protect the liver from carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)-induced oxidative damage in rodents (R).

However, one study found that extremely high doses of Ginkgo in animals can be toxic to the liver.

Ginkgo Biloba Helps Prevent Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome patients when treated with Ginkgo biloba had a combined reduction of low grade systemic inflammation for cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and overall mortality risk (R).

Note: Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that raises risk for heart diseases and other health problems such as diabetes and stroke (R).

Ginkgo Biloba is Antidiabetic and Prevents Late Diabetic Complications

Ginkgo biloba is effective in treating patients with early diabetic kidney problems (decreases urinary albumin excretion rate, regulating blood lipids, improving kidney function) (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract ingestion by patients with Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes mellitus increased the liver metabolic clearance rate, reduced insulin-mediated glucose metabolism and elevated blood glucose (R).

Research in animals/in lab:

Ginkgo biloba extract decreased high blood glucose levels and excess lipids in diabetic rats (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) appears to be promising as an adjuvant therapeutic drug in diabetes with respect to ischemic heart injury. It may contribute to the prevention of late diabetic complications in rats (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract might be efficient in preventing and treating obesity-induced insulin signaling impairment in rats (R).

Ginkgo Biloba Has a DNA Protective Effect

Ginkgo biloba has an anti-mutagenic effect on chromosomes by repairing and reconstituting broken and damaged chromosomes.

Ginkgo biloba extract reduced the mutagenic factors in the blood of chernobyl accident recovery workers (R).

Ginkgo  biloba extract supplementation neutralized genotoxic damage induced by radioiodine treatment in patients with Graves’s disease (an immune system disorder of the thyroid gland) (R).

Ginkgo Biloba Protects from Hearing Disorders

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Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) is effective in treating patients with acute idiopathic (unknown cause) sudden sensorineural hearing loss (ISSHL).  A higher dosage appears to speed up and secure the recovery of ISSHL patients (R1, R2).

Ginkgo biloba extract combined with the traditional therapy could significantly improve tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) symptoms and the overall response rate in the treatment of explosive deafness in coal miners (R).

Oral administration of Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) and a combination of infusion therapy in patients appeared to be effective and safe in reducing the symptoms associated with tinnitus aurium (R1, R2).

Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) treatment was as effective as pentoxifylline for treating patients with sudden deafness (R).

Research in animals/in lab:

Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) protects cochlear hair cells against ototoxicity induced by gentamicin (by reducing ROS and NO-related apoptosis) in guniea pigs (R).

Renexin (RXN),  a combination of Ginkgo biloba extract (GbE) and Cilostazol, has protective effects against cisplatin (CDDP)-induced hearing loss and vestibular toxicity in rats (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761), when administered in rats with tinnitus, significantly decreased its behavioral manifestations (R).

Ginkgo Biloba Helps Prevent Respiratory Diseases and Allergies

Ginkgo biloba (along with Picrorhiza kurroa, and Zingiber officinale) may be efficacious as adjunctive therapy for patients with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic cough. Further studies are required with a larger patient population (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract could significantly decrease the infiltration of inflammatory cells such as eosinophils and lymphocytes into the asthmatic airway and relieve airway inflammation in asthmatic patients. Hence it could be used as a complement to glucocorticosteroid therapy for asthma (R).

Ginkgo biloba effectively treats patients with Pulmonary interstitial fibrosis (a group of lung diseases affecting the tissue and space around the air sacs of the lung-interstitium) (R).

Research in Animals:

Secondary products (compounds isolated from plant extracts) of Ginkgo biloba have anti-eosinophilic activity and have activity on eosinophil mediated inflammation, such as asthma and allergy in animal models (R).

Ginkgo Biloba Reduces Mucosal Damage

Ginkgo  biloba pre-treatment before ischemia reperfusion decreased malondialdehyde and myeloperoxidase levels and reduced mucosal damage (R).

In the short term, Ginkgo biloba-troxerutin-heptaminol HCE is effective, acceptable and safe in the treatment of patients with acute hemorrhoidal attacks (R).

Note: Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins in the rectum and anus that cause discomfort and bleeding (R).

Ginkgo Biloba Decreases the Symptoms of Intermittent Claudication

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Randomized clinical trials have shown that Ginkgo biloba extract was superior to placebo in symptomatic treatment of intermittent claudication (R).

Note: Intermittent Claudication is muscle pain (ache, cramp, numbness or sense of fatigue) caused by insufficient blood flow during exercises like walking and is relieved by a short period of rest (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract (Tanakan) was effective in improving walking distance and reducing pain severity in patients with intermittent claudication (R).

Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) increased pain-free walking distance in patients with peripheral arterial occlusive disease (pAOD) after 24 weeks of treatment  (R1,R2).

Note: Claudication is one of the most common manifestations of peripheral arterial occlusive disease (pAOD) caused by atherosclerosis.

Buying Ginkgo

Ginkgo (AMZN) or Ginkgo (IHERB)

Ginkgo Biloba Synergies

Long-term supplementation of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA), lycopene and Ginkgo biloba extracts improved cognitive function elderly people (R).

Mice treated with Ginkgo biloba extract and ticlopidine showed “higher recovery” from acute thrombosis than control (R).

Ginkgo biloba (bai guo) and Codonopsis pilosula improved cognitive function and overall health of sixty subjects aged 21-60 years (R).

Possible Side Effects and Interactions

A spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage occurred in a 56 year old man with no unusual drug use or medical history other than having “been in the habit of taking Ginkgo biloba leaf extract 40 mg three times a day for the previous 18 months” (R).

Ginkgo nuts contain a potent neurotoxin (4-O-methoxypyridoxine) which indirectly inhibits the enzyme glutamate decarboxylase. A reduced concentration of GABA  increases likelihood of seizure (R1, R2).biochemistry-amino-acid-oxidation-21-638Highlighting the potential adverse events and drug interactions of ginkgo may help prevent adverse reactions in vulnerable individuals.

Ginkgo biloba has been reported to cause spontaneous bleeding and may interact with anticoagulants and antiplatelet agents. A case of post laparoscopic cholecystectomy bleeding in a patient taking Ginkgo has been reported (R1, R2, R3).

Safety, Dosing, and Timing

Ginkgo Biloba Extract (GBE) is taken orally. Ginkgo biloba has no standardly accepted dose.

However, it is recommended that subjects with dementia take 40mg of the supplement 3 times a day (R).

A daily dose for healthy individuals is recommended to be between 120 mg and 600 mg (R).

Users are recommended to start with a low dose of GBE and increase the dose gradually as needed (R).

Although the supplement is considered safe, it may cause upset stomach, headacheconstipation, dizziness, and allergic reactions (R).

Because it is a blood thinner, GBE may cause excessive bleeding (R).

Do not take GBE if pregnant, as it may be unsafe. Taking GBE may cause excessive bleeding during delivery (R).

Do not consume fresh Ginkgo seeds as they are poisonous and potentially deadly (R).

Intraveneous use has not been extensively studied (R).

Molecular Targets (unfinished)

Respiratory Allergies

Decreases activation of PKCα (R).

Decreases IL-5  levels (R).

Anticancer activity

Decreases Bcl-2/Bax ratio (R).

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Comments

  1. pp

    Can you please review the below link and confirm or review your conclusions on gaba ?
    Many pple witih anxiety who have been in benzo are interested in finding active components such as l-theanine or bacopa monieri, that upregulate gaba density receptor. So there is relevance in investigating gingko. Similarly to taurine, the below article suggest it both increases gaba decarboxilase but is also a gaba agonist, potentially resulting in gana downregulation. This is not clear but your take on this would be appreciated
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10078989

  2. Paul

    Your description of ginkgo reminds me of ashwagandha’s ability to enhance the body’s production of SOD, catalase, and glutathione. I don’t take ginkgo, but I’ve been regularly taking half a teaspoon of ashwagandha powder each day. If a person had to choose between the two, which would you say is more beneficial?

  3. Jeannay

    one more negative side effect i personally experienced was getting very hypoglycemic when i would take ginkgo with a carb rich meal.

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