Ginkgo biloba is an herb that has been extensively studied and researched throughout the world. Ginkgo has been used for centuries in traditional Eastern cultures, often to treat circulatory disorders and to improve memory. The ginkgo tree is the oldest living tree species in the world and ginkgo biloba extract is made from dried leaves of the tree. Some research has suggested that ginkgo can improve sleep in certain patients.
Ginkgo is made up of over 40 different components, including bioflavonoids, flavonoids and terpenoids. Flavonoids are antioxidants that protect the heart, blood vessels and the nervous system and appear to be an essential component in the herb. Terpenoids help to dilate the blood vessels and increase blood flow. Ginkgo is commonly used for a number of ailments. Ginkgo supplements are one of the best-selling herbal medications in the United States and Ginkgo is a commonly prescribed medication in France and Germany.
Benefits and Uses
Ginkgo is commonly used to treat or prevent dementia. Research has been conflicted concerning the exact benefits of ginkgo on patients with dementia. Many clinical trials suggest that ginkgo improves memory and cognitive functioning in people with Alzheimer's disease. However, some well-controlled research found that ginkgo was no better at reducing dementia symptoms than a placebo. Ginkgo is also used to improve memory in healthy adults, to treat altitude sickness, to improve concentration in people that have attention deficit disorder and for treatment of circulatory problems.
Research on Sleep
A 2001 pilot study published in "Pharmacopsychiatry" found that ginkgo improved sleep in depressed patients. The participants taking the ginkgo extract noticed significant improvement in their sleep patterns and woke up less during the night. The researchers also noted that non-REM sleep was enhanced in those that took the ginkgo extracts. The improvement in sleep was reversed when patients discontinued the ginkgo. However, another 2001 study published in "Pharmacopsychiatry" found no noticeable improvement in sleep for healthy adults.
Like other herbal supplements, ginkgo is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Speak to your physician before taking ginkgo. Ginkgo is generally considered to be safe and only has a few mild side effects, such as headaches, dizziness and skin rashes. Internal bleeding has been reported in some patients that take ginkgo but it is not clear if ginkgo was the cause or if there was a drug interaction. Ginkgo can interact with a number of prescription medications such as blood thinning medications, anti-depressants, medications for seizures and blood pressure medications.
Is This an Emergency?
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Ginkgo Biloba; Steven D. Ehrlich; March 2009
- Herbal Safety; Ginkgo; Armando González Stuart; 2005
- Pharmacopsychiatry; Polysomnographic Effects of Adjuvant Ginkgo Biloba Therapy in Patients With Major Depression Medicated With Trimipramine; U. Hemmeter, et al.; March 2001
- Pharmacopsychiatry; The Effect of Li 1370, Extract of Ginkgo Biloba, on REM Sleep in Humans; B.J. Murray, et al.; July 2001