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Health benefits of Ginkgo biloba



Ginkgo biloba is already known for being one of the most resistant tree species that ever existed on earth, being the living species left from the Ginkgoales, a group from which only fossils are left.

Ginkgo biloba belongs to a group of trees, the Ginkgoales, with an existence on earth dated more than 200 million years ago. Ginkgo biloba has resisted over the years to pests of insects, viruses, bacteria, fungi and many others without perishing, being able to live as long as 1,000 years, but how? Image: See credits below under reference [17]. 


Family: Ginkgoaceae

Genus: Ginkgo

Common name: Ginkgo biloba, 銀杏, イチョウ, pinyin, yín xìng, Hepburn, ichō or ginnan, Maidenhair Tree, Ginkgo biloba in Hindi is known as जिन्कगो Biloba.



The resistance of Gingko Biloba made scientist and doctors wonder what on Ginkgo could be so powerful to be able to defeat all kinds of pests, viruses, bacterias and so on.

We saw a similar effect on other natural wonders when we talked about caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), an active component of propolis, a honeybee product that showed its biological properties to enhance the immune response in several studies [1], being able to inhibit growth of breast cancer stem cells, and the ultimate reason for which beehives never get infected either by viruses or bacteria. 

The first studies on Ginkgo biloba were focused on identifying the active constituents of the plant, mainly to be able to separate those ones and study them apart in order to evaluate its effectiveness.

The first studies on this plant concluded that Ginkgo contained more than 40 different active constituents, but further research on those ones found that only two of them have a major impact on the traditional medicinal effects claimed by the users of this plant extract, terpenoids and flavonoids.


As only those two active constituents were found to be effective for the treatment of certain affections and also to improve certain human functions (blood circulation, cognitive function...etc.), laboratories and research centres concentrated their efforts on producing extracts of this plant-rich in those two active constituents, flavonoids and terpenoids.

GINKGO LEAVESIn spite Ginkgo biloba is one of the most sold traditional herbal medicines in the world, only very few companies manufacture Ginkgo biloba standardized leaf extracts, EGb761 from Dr. Willmar Schwabe GmbH is one of them, containing a 22 to 27 % of flavonoid glycosides and 5 to 7 % terpene lactones [7]. Image Right: Ginkgo by Kazuhiko Teramoto under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0).

Some studies concluded that EGb 761 was even able to inhibit the progression of human colon cancer cells [8]. In another large placebo-controlled study EGb 761 demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of dementia [9]. But let's see what are those two active constituents and which effects they have on our health:



Flavonoids are natural antioxidants found in plants, and responsible for some of the health benefits of Ginkgo biloba. For example, apigenin, a natural flavonoid found in many herbs as for example:

  • Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), 
  • apples,
  • celery

and also in some spices as:

  • oregano,
  • tarragon,
  • cilantro,
  • basil and 
  • parsley,

Apigenin is a flavonoid believed to have some influence over the mild sedative effects claimed by this herb. In recent scientific studies, this flavonoid, apigenin, was found to also act as an anti-inflammatory agent [1]. The National Toxicology Program from the US Government cited in one of its articles[3].

Anthocyanidins are the most abundant type of flavonoid [4] and they are responsible for the blue or purple colour present in blueberries, cherries, grapes, blackberries and others[5]. Actually, a little bit more than 500 anthocyanidins have been found [6] in different herbs, plants and natural sources.



Terpenoids are known for their anti-bacterial, anti-neoplastic and scent properties [2]. They are also giving this yellow characteristic colour to flowers and contribute to the flavour of cinnamon and the scent of eucalyptus [2].  




Scientists and researchers knew how important is the protective effect of astrocytes in all areas of hippocampal formation.

Astrocytes are glial cells in the brain and spinal cord and are the most abundant cell of the human brain [13]. Image left: Ginkgo leaf by Herbcyclopedia under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0).

Astrocytes perform many functions, they are in charge of the provision of nutrients to the nervous tissue, they repair the brain and spinal cord following traumatic injuries and are involved in the scarring process that follows [13], but it seems some type of oxidative stress appears to be responsible for the mitochondrial damage within these specialized astrocytes.

Astrocytes also possess neuroprotective properties in disorders like hypoxia, ischemia, seizure activity and peripheral nerve damage a potential cognitive enhancer for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease [11].



This oxidative stress and mitochondrial failure promote altered protein degradation, reduced neurotransmission, synapse loss and tau/hyperphosphorylation, which are early stages in the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD) [12].

Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) reduces oxidative stress and improves mitochondrial respiration and thus may be useful in preventing or slowing down the progression of Alzheimer's disease, increasing also the production of adenosine triphosphate in neurons [12].



At least one study on the subject has shown inhibitory effects of Ginkgo biloba against influenza A (H1N1 and H3N2) and influenza B viruses, results that demonstrated interesting and important insights into the screening system for anti-influenza virus activity [14].

INFO: Ginkgo biloba extract is ingested primarily to improve mental focus but it possesses a blood thinning potential. Several studies have proven that Ginkgo significantly reduces platelet aggregation and, therefore, its ingestion should be carefully considered in certain cases [16].

Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is not intended to prescribe or give in any way or form medical advice, recommend or diagnose. Please read the disclaimer at the bottom of this page for more info.



[1] The effects of propolis on antibody production by laying hens. Freitas JA, Vanat N, Pinheiro JW, Balarin MR, Sforcin JM, Venancio EJ. Department of Pathological Science.
[2] Wikipedia: Terpenoids
[3] National Toxicology Program. NIH-sponsored study by UC Riverside biochemists published in the online edition of the National Academy of Sciences [4] The Science of Flavonoids By Erich Grotewold.
[5] The Condensed Encyclopedia of Healing Foods By Michael T. Murray, Joseph PIZZORNO, Lara Pizzorno.
[6] Fruit and vegetable phytochemicals: chemistry, nutritional value, and stability By Laura A. de la Rosa, Emilio Alvarez-Parrilla, Gustavo A. González-Aguilar.
[7] Mahady et al., 1999; Van Beek et al., 1998.
[8] Effects of Ginkgo Biloba Extract EGb761 on Human Colon Adenocarcinoma Cells. Chen XH, Miao YX, Wang XJ, Yu Z, Geng MY, Han YT, Wang LX. Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Marine Drug and Food Institute, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, China.
[9] Napryeyenko O, Borzenko I. Ginkgo Biloba Special Extract in Dementia with Neuropsychiatric Features. A randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial.
[10] Plant names Porcher Michel H. et al. 1995 - 2020, Sorting Ginkgo Biloba Names. Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database (M.M.P.N.D) - A Work in Progress. School of Agriculture and Food Systems. Faculty of Land & Food Resources. The University of Melbourne. Australia. < http://www.plantnames.unimelb.edu.au/Sorting/Ginkgo.html > (2007).
[11] Protective effects of Ginkgo Biloba extract (EGB 761) on astrocytes of rat hippocampus after exposure with scopolamine. Jahanshahi M, Nikmahzar E, Yadollahi N, Ramazani K. Neuroscience Research Center, Department of Anatomy, Golestan University of Medical Sciences, Gorgan, Iran.
[12] Mitochondrial effects of Ginkgo Biloba extract. Eckert A. Neurobiology Laboratory for Brain Aging and Mental Health, Psychiatric University Clinics, Basel, Switzerland.
[13] Wikipedia article on astrocytes.
[14] Anti-influenza virus activity of Ginkgo Biloba leaf extracts. Haruyama T, Nagata K. Department of Infection Biology, Faculty of Medicine and Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences, University of Tsukuba, 1-1-1 Tennodai, 
[15] Herbcyclopedia article on Ginkgo biloba effects on Multiple Sclerosis.
[16] Effect of the ingestion of Ginkgo biloba extract on platelet aggregation and urinary prostanoid excretion in healthy and Type 2 diabetic subjects. Kudolo GB, Dorsey S, Blodgett J. Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, MSC 6246, School of Allied Health Sciences, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, 78229-3900, USA.
[17] Pixibay image under Public Domain License CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0).