What is Ginkgo Biloba?
Ginkgo Biloba is a species of plant which has been estimated to have survived in its current form for millions of years. The tree is considered to be a living fossil and the only remaining species of its type. The leaves and fruit of Ginkgo Biloba have a long history of culinary and medical use throughout Asia, and today, Ginkgo extract is a popular supplement with an array of benefits.
Where does Ginkgo Biloba come from?
The fossil record tells us that this remarkable plant has been around for 270 million years. These early fossils were found worldwide, but by 2 million years ago, distribution had shrunk to a small area in China. The tree has been cultivated throughout Asia for the last thousand years, and has in some areas become naturalised. It has also been cultivated throughout Europe and the US over the past 200 years. Ginkgo Biloba extract is produced from the leaves of this plant, which is considered to be a type of herb.
Ginkgo Biloba Benefits
Over the thousands of years it has been used by people, a huge number of benefits have been attributed to Ginkgo Biloba. One of the most popular uses has been the improvement of memory and cognitive function and the treatment of dementia. Studies have shown that Ginkgo increases blood flow to the brain (1). It has also been shown to boost nitric oxide levels and therefore blood flow in the body (2). The plant has a long history of use as a male libido enhancer and there is some evidence that it may increase testosterone levels (3) and reduce levels of prolactin, an inhibitor of testosterone production, while increasing levels of mood-boosting dopamine (4). There is some indication that Ginkgo extract may reduce inflammatory processes (5), prevent the development of atherosclerosis, increase bone strength, and reduce the development of fat cells (6), and in combination with Rhodiola, another botanical extract, it has been shown to improve exercise endurance (7). Ginkgo has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for asthma and bronchitis.
Ginkgo Biloba Benefits for Bodybuilding
Ginkgo has a lot of attributes that have the potential to enhance bodybuilding performance. Testosterone is the holy grail of bodybuilding because testosterone levels correlate with strength, drive, and the ability to lay down lean muscle. Increased blood flow increases exercise performance by removing metabolic products responsible for muscle fatigue and increasing the delivery of oxygen and other nutrients – enhanced oxygen delivery to muscles is believed to be the basis of the ability of this plant to promote endurance (7). The focus enhancing properties of ginkgo can improve training performance and strengthen the mind-muscle connection, and inhibiting inflammatory processes can help to curtail muscle damage. On top of this, the general health promoting aspects of ginkgo will be of benefit to any athlete or bodybuilder.
Ginkgo Biloba Negatives, Side effects & Safety Issues
While the many benefits attributed to Ginkgo extract are impressive, a lot of the scientific evidence behind these is patchy. Many of the studies that have shown benefit have been small human studies that have not been repeated, or carried out in animals. The only large scale trials carried out on this plant extract have looked at cognitive function and dementia, particularly in the elderly, and have concluded that ginkgo supplementation has negligible effect (8). In spite of this, Ginkgo remains a popular supplement, and there is a lot of anecdotal evidence for its efficacy.
Ginkgo has a number of interactions with other drugs, particularly blood thinning medications, medications to alter mood, and medication to treat epilepsy. Anyone taking regular medication should consult their doctor before supplementing with ginkgo if they have any concerns.
Side effects of Ginkgo are mild, and some people may experience nausea, stomach upset and headache. Some people are allergic to Ginkgo and may develop a rash. In this case, treatment should be discontinued immediately.
Ginkgo Biloba Dosage & Timing
A common dosage of Ginkgo biloba extract is 80mg, three times a day. This dosage regime is generally used for general health improvement, or treatment of a specific condition. Some people will prefer to take a larger dose prior to a workout to make the most of the positive effects on blood flow and focus.
Ginkgo Biloba Supplements
Ginkgo is common as a stand alone supplement, but it is frequently used as an ingredient in a large variety of supplements. These include supplements that promote general health, like vitamins and minerals, greens, and superfood supplements. On top of this, it makes an appearance in a number of test boosters, pre workouts, and fat burners.