Ginkgo biloba trees are very old. In fact, the species has been around since the time of dinosaurs (even predating them). This fact has earned them the name “living fossils.” Ancient civilizations have used ginkgo for thousands of years for culinary and medicinal purposes. Today, the positive effects of gingko on cognition are of interest to researchers.
Ginkgo Biloba: The Living Fossil
Researchers have concluded that these trees were widespread during the Jurassic period (251 million years ago).1 However, evidence points to their presence in the Permian period (about 300 to 250 million years ago), the last period of the Paleozoic era.2
Ginkgo biloba belongs to the family Ginkgoaceae, which is comprised of around 15 genera—ginkgo is the only surviving species in existence today.
It was assumed these trees were extinct in the wild; however, two wild populations were discovered growing in China’s Zheijiang province. According to legends, Tibetan and Chinese monks started growing ginkgo after realizing its importance to health.
Sadly, after surviving major geological extinction events, some of which decimated 95 percent of species, today, this tree finds itself on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.3
Having survived millions of years, the ginkgo species is facing a real threat of extinction today, mainly due to deforestation.
Ginkgo biloba was given several names throughout history. The Chinese called it “yinxing” (silver almond tree), which is also its formal botanical name in the country. The modern western names “ginkgo” and “ginkgo” come from Japanese terms “gin” (yin: silver) and “ko” (guo: nut).4 “Biloba,” meaning with two lobes (referring to the division of lobes in the leaves), was added in 1771 by a Swedish Botanist.5
Nootropic Benefits of Ginkgo Biloba
Perhaps there is a reason why ginkgo has survived for millions of years. First, it gained success as an herbal remedy in China for ailments such as coughs and colds, vascular problems, and aging. Additionally, it displayed numerous benefits for the brain.6
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After its initial success in China, ginkgo has grown to immense popularity as a supplement that continues to be used around the world. Oftentimes, it is referred to as a ginkgo extract, as it is harvested from the leaves of the maidenhair trees.
As nootropics are being accepted more and more as a way to maintain or improve cognitive abilities, ginkgo is gaining popularity as an effective smart drug. It has shown promise in sharpening memory, increasing reasoning skills, and improving attention.7
Some of the top nootropic benefits of ginkgo are highlighted below.
Research and clinical trials have underscored ginkgo’s ability to sharpen concentration. For example, one study found ginkgo to be effective in remedying attention deficiency in children.8 In another study where combined doses of ginkgo and another herbal supplement were administered, ginkgo helped the subjects maintain their concentration for a longer period of time and increased their reaction time.9
Improves Cognitive Performance
Ginkgo may also increase the brain’s information processing speed. This means people will be able to complete daily tasks faster and with better accuracy. As a memory booster and mood enhancer, ginkgo is thought of as one of the top nootropics. It is also said to increase focus and reasoning skills and it has the research to back up these claims.
One study was conducted on subjects suffering from moderate, age-related memory impairment and showed ginkgo’s effect on increased processing speeds for visual and verbal information.10
Another study completed at Liberty University in Virginia involved 262 adults and lasted only six weeks. One group took a placebo while the other took 180 mg of ginkgo. After all the testing was completed, the trial showed that those taking ginkgo demonstrated great improvement in memory, visual recall, and verbal skills.11
Maintains Health Circulation in the Brain
If you are a fan of health and fitness, you know that after you are finished exercising, you are able to think more clearly. This is related to how the blood is circulating in your brain. Ginkgo increases blood circulation in the brain as well.12 Because of this, it would be appropriate to think that supplementing with ginkgo would bring the benefits of increased mental clarity as well.
Brains change—some quicker than others—as blood vessels shrink and less oxygenated blood is able to flow to all of the neurons. Plus, there is a certain amount of plaque that can develop in the brain over time that can greatly diminish memory, recall, and bring on the mental signs of aging. If you are concerned about these types of symptoms decreasing your quality of life or simply want to keep your cognitive function at its prime for as long as possible, consider adding ginkgo to your daily routine.
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