Ginkgo biloba is widely used for its cardiovascular benefits. A research study in 2017 has now extended such benefits to include cardio-cerebrovascular diseases (CCVDs). This most recent study confirms earlier work, in 2008, showing how extracts from Ginkgo leaves can improve arterial circulation.
Focusing on vascular health automatically benefits brain health. Oxygen-rich blood flow to the brain keeps your mental gears churning like they should.
One of the keys for good vascular health is the production of nitric oxide (NO). Every blood vessel, from the largest artery to the smallest capillary, depends on NO to keep it appropriately dilated for allowing unrestricted blood flow.
What is less known is the role of small proteins called endothelins that counterbalance the effects of NO.
Whereas NO dilates blood vessels, endothelins constrict them. You need both, in an ideal balance with one another, for maintaining just the right blood pressure. This is where Ginkgo leaf extracts do their magic.
Specifically, in that 2008 study, Ginkgo leaf extracts boosted the ratio of NO to endothelin by nearly 20 percent in patients with coronary artery disease. This change led to a significant increase in blood flow within just two weeks of treatment.
These recent studies explain how Ginkgo leaf extracts probably work—i.e., their potential mechanisms of action. Scientists love to dig into how things work. It helps them, and us, understand what we can expect from certain treatment protocols.
What Does This Research Tell Us About Brain Health?
Good blood flow brings much-needed oxygen to every part of your body, including your brain. Studies showing how Ginkgo leaf extracts enhance blood flow, and thereby oxygen supply, to the brain confirm what clinical studies already show.
For example, a large-scale clinical trial in 2002 revealed that even people with normal brain health could still see cognitive improvements from a Ginkgo extract. Such improvements all centered on various measures of memory enhancement. Furthermore, these changes occurred after only six weeks of treatment.
A better memory in just six weeks? Who wouldn’t want that?
This study is particularly important because it examined older adults (specifically 60 years of age and older). You are more at risk for memory loss as you age. Anything you can do to slow it down definitely makes life better.
The Key Ingredients from Ginkgo
All green plants make a class of natural products called flavonoids. The particular set of flavonoids made by Ginkgo biloba comprises a unique profile. This mixture works best in leaf extracts that are standardized to 24% flavonoid content.
In addition to their flavonoid profile, Ginkgo leaf extracts also contain a different class of natural products, the terpene lactones. They have their own name—ginkgolides—since Ginkgo is their natural source. The ginkgolides are most active when they are standardized to 6% of leaf extracts.
Most Ginkgo supplement labels, such as the high-potency brain-boosting Supreme Brain Nutrition, state that they are standardized to 24% flavonoid content and 6% ginkgolide (or “terpene”) content. That is the composition that works in virtually all clinical studies, so make sure you’re supplementing with nothing less.