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Ginkgo Biloba benefits, side effects and interactions

For nearly 2800 years the Chinese have used extracts from the ginkgo biloba tree as natural medicine to treat a variety of conditions.

Ginkgo contains numerous antioxidants such as the proanthocyanidins, flavonoids, that counteract free-radical activity. Flavonoids are also known to strengthen capillaries, which can promote healthy blood flow to the brain, helping to maintain cognitive health and improve memeory.*

This ginkgo extract is a pharmaceutical ginkgo extract guaranteeing the removal of a toxic component of the ginkgo leaf called ginkgolic acid. The German Commission E, which regulates the manufacture of ginkgo drugs, has established an upper limit of 5 ppm as the maximal concentration of ginkgolic acid that can be contained in the medicinal extract. As a result, most high-quality ginkgo preparations on the market are under 5 ppm. What is so remarkable about this new highly purified Japanese ginkgo extract is that it is standardized to contain an even lower level of undesired ginkgolic acid, 1 ppm or less. Not only does this new ginkgo extract provide more of the active constituents, but it is virtually devoid of a toxic (ginkgolic acid) part of the ginkgo leaf.

Ginkgo biloba extract, from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree, has been shown through centuries of use and many scientific studies to be a free radical scavenger and antioxidant that supports the body’s natural systems. Each tablet of Dr. Koch's Ginkgo contains 50.0 mg of a 50:1 extract (which means it takes 50 pounds of the dried leaves to make I pound of extract) standardized to a 24% Ginkgo flavone glycosides content including the Ginkgolides and bilobalides.


Ginkgo biloba one of the oldest surviving tree species it is resistant to insects, drought etc.. Research through the centuries has shown that the extracts from the natural herbal remedy Ginkgo supplements are beneficial for many different health problems. Following are a few of the many health conditions and diseases:

Ginkgo Biloba and its Health Benefit effects on the body

Ginkgo is gaining recognition as a brain tonic that enhances memory because of its positive effects on the vascular system, especially in the cerebellum. Ginkgo works as a blood thinner to increase blood flow to the brain and blood vessels that supply organ systems. It also increases metabolism efficiency and boosts oxygen levels in the brain which uses twenty percent of the body's total oxygen.

Health benefits of ginkgo may include improved short and long term memory, increased reaction time and improved mental clarity. A variety of imbalances and deterioration in the brain and body can be alleviated by incorporating ginkgo into your daily regimen. While the leaves are used in most standardized treatments, the seeds of gingko are said to possibly contain anti-cancer properties and are sedative and astringent. Most ginkgo extracts inhibit a common allergen in the body, known as platelet activity factor (PAF). PAF production, which derives from poor food choices and physical stress, can lead to cardiovascular disease, brain damage, hearing disorders and other immune and inflammatory diseases. It has also been confirmed that ginkgo increases blood flow to the retina, while also slowing retinal deterioration Ginkgo may also help control the conversion of cholesterol to plaque and aid in the relaxation of constricted blood vessels.

Components of Ginkgo Biloba: flavonoids and terpenes

The typical 120 milligram dosage of dried ginkgo extract contains two groups of natural compounds flavonoids and terpenes. On average, a standard supplement contains twenty-four percent flavonoids and six percent terpenes. Flavonoids, polyphenolic compounds possessing 15 carbon atoms, are a characteristic class of compounds found in higher plants. These substances allow the body to combat the activity of free radicals that can cause cerebral oxidative damage. However, the antioxidant properties of flavonoids are dependent upon the amount ingested. Arachidonic acid, an unsaturated fatty acid needed by cells, is also regulated by flavonoids. Flavonoids contribute to the improvement of circulation, strengthening of capillary walls and the reduction of blood coagulation. Terpenes within the substance are found in the form of bilobalides and ginkolides. As highly oxidized terpenes, many of the medicinal properties of ginkgo have been attributed to ginkgolides. On the whole, terpenes improve circulation and metabolism, while also enhancing memory and mental function. All of these mechanisms of the extract allow for the increased blood supply to dilating blood vessels, reduced blood viscosity, modification of neurotransmitter systems, and reduced density of oxygen free radicals

The brain: mechanisms of ginkgo biloba that cause cognitive impairment

Studies have shown that this extract can affect the brain in four major ways – through blood circulatory and neurotransmitter systems, as an antioxidant, and a component of glucose utilization. In both antioxidant activity and in the circulatory system, ginkgo allows for increased blood flow to the brain. In the circulatory system, blood vessels are widened, allowing for increased blood flow as well as reduced risk of stroke. The aggregation of blood platelets and the formation of clots are also inhibited.

Ginkgo biloba extract plays a role in the body’s use of glucose by increasing its absorption in the frontal and parietal cortex. As a result, areas of the brain that are vital for processing sensory information are made more efficient. Neurotransmitters in the brain undergo changes when ginkgo enters the body. The production of norepinephrine is increased as well as the release of gamma-amino butyric acid. Lastly, as an antioxidant, ginkgo biloba lessens free radical activity that can damage neurons and alleviate the effects of cerebral ischemia.

Ginkgo and memory enhancement in the elderly

Over-the-counter treatments often claim to improve memory, attention and cognitive function. In a six-week double-blind study (placebo-controlled with parallel group), two hundred and nineteen participants over the age of sixty were randomly assigned to receive a treatment of ginkgo (40 mg, three times per day) or a matching placebo. Outcomes were measured by tests of verbal and nonverbal learning and memory, attention and concentration and also questionnaires. After analyzing this sample, no significant differences were seen between the two groups. These results show that ginkgo biloba did not alter the performance of elderly adults on neuropsychological tasks.

Ginkgo biloba Heath Benefits to those without previous cognitive impairment

Although ginkgo is known to affect older adults, its effect on those without mental impairments is still questionable. For six weeks, a group of healthy adults was given 40 mg of ginkgo extract three times a day or a placebo. The results showed no difference in memory scores, self-reported perception, or rating by spouses, friends, and relatives after the duration of the trial. Ginkgo provided no short-term benefits in people with healthy cognitive function.

However, a similar study that was conducted has conflicting results. Again using healthy people, a group received 180 mg a day of ginkgo for six weeks. Compared to placebo, the supplement improved memory score and significantly improved self-perception of memory. In this study, those who received ginkgo rated their overall ability to remember as "improved" compared to those receiving the placebo. This correlates well with previous studies indicating a potential short-term benefit to ginkgo supplementation.

Cerebral Insufficiency

Since the mid-sixties, ginkgo biloba has been used to alleviate symptoms of cerebral insufficiency in Europe. Cerebral sufficiency was a blanket term coined to describe a myriad of symptoms such as impaired concentration, reduced alertness, confusion, anxiety and dizziness. An extract (50 mg) containing at least twenty five percent flavonglycosides and six percent terpenes was administered three times daily to the test group of sixty participants. In this twelve week double blind trial, the effects of ginkgo on long and short term memory, concentration power and mental flexibility were tested. Results showed that regular administration of ginkgo biloba has a positive influence on patients with cerebral insufficiency in respect to performance on simple speed and comprehension tasks. After comparing results among the groups, it was determined that is beneficial to administer ginkgo over a minimal time period.

Ginkgo Biloba Side Efeects and Possible Interactions

Ginkgo may alter the metabolism and effectiveness of some prescription and non-prescription medications. If you are being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use ginkgo without first talking to your health care provider:

Anticonvulsant medications -- High doses of ginkgo could decrease the effectiveness of anticonvulsant therapy, such as carbamazepine (Tegretol) or valproic acid (Depakote), in controlling seizures.

Antidepressant medications -- Taking ginkgo along with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs) antidepressants -- including fluoxetin (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), and escitalopram (Lexapro) -- may cause serotonin syndrome. This condition is characterized by rigidity, tachycardia (fast heart rate), hyperthermia (low body temperature), restlessness, and diaphoresis (sweating). Ginkgo may enhance the effects (both good and bad) of antidepressant medications known as MAOIs, such as phenelzine (Nardil).

Antihypertensive medications -- Ginkgo may decrease blood pressure, so use of ginkgo along with prescription antihypertensive medications should be monitored by a health care provider. There has been a report of an interaction between ginkgo and nifedipine (Procardia), a calcium channel blocking drug used for blood pressure and arrhythmias.

Blood-thinning medications -- Ginkgo has blood-thinning properties and therefore should not be used if you are taking anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medications, such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), dipyridamole (Persantine), heparin, ticlopidine (Ticlid), or warfarin (Coumadin). There has been bleeding in the brain reported when using a ginkgo product and ibuprofen (Advil), a non-steroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID).

Blood sugar lowering medications -- Ginkgo was reported to increase insulin levels in healthy subjects and to decrease insulin levels in diabetic patients. Use ginkgo supplements under the supervision of a health care provider if you are diabetic and taking insulin or oral blood sugar lowering drugs.

Cylosporine -- Ginkgo biloba may help protect the cells of the body during treatment with the immunosuppressive (decreases immunity) drug cyclosporine.

Thiazide diuretics -- Although there has been one literature report of increased blood pressure associated with the use of ginkgo during treatment with thiazide diuretics, this interaction has not been verified by clinical trials. Nevertheless, you should consult with your health care provider before using ginkgo if you are taking thiazide diuretics.

Trazodone -- There has been a report of an adverse interaction between ginkgo and trazodone (Desyrel), an antidepressant medication that resulted in an elderly patient going into a coma.

The most serious side effect associated with ginkgo biloba is the increased risk of bleeding as it acts as a blood thinner. For this reason, it is not suggested that individuals taking anti-coagulants, such as aspirin, should try this supplement. In addition, those taking MAOI anti-depressent drugs or pregnant women are in danger. Convulsions are also a possible side effect after consuming a large amount of gingko nuts. The seeds of this plant are toxic and can potentially destroy vitamin B within the body.

Other side effects of Gingko biloba, it may cause spontaneous hyphema (bleeding from the iris into the anterior chamber of the eye) in rare cases. Restlessness, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting can result from taking this supplement. Other severe side effects, although rare, can include headaches and GI tract and dermatology reactions. In a double-blind placebo study, the adverse effects of ginkgo were tested. There was no difference found between the control and experimental group in terms of adverse effects. Although positive effects were seen as a result of consuming the extract, outcomes varied with duration of the treatment.

Interaction with Other Supplements

Although very few, there are some possible interactions for ginkgo biloba and other supplements. For example, if used in conjunction with St John’s wort, side effects such as muscle stiffness, rapid heartbeats, fever, restlessness and sweating may occur. The combination of ginkgo and hawthorne can possibly affect blood pressure levels. When taken with products that also increase the risk of bleeding, such as garlic and vitamin E, the risk for the symptom is merely amplified. Oppositely, blood sugar levels can be lessened if ginkgo is taken with a bitter melon supplement. However dosage may have to be altered when taken more than one supplement concurrently.

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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

The information provided on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. Nor is any of the information contained on or in any product label or packaging. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem. You should not stop taking any medication without first consulting your physician.

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