In the first article, we discussed the quality issues of this ancient plant with important health benefits. Indeed, a large number of products on the market may contain counterfeit extracts. We have given some examples and talked about the very ancient origin of this tree which lived alongside the dinosaurs. We ended by explaining that its use is often recommended by German doctors and pharmacists; in countries where regulations are very strict.
We will focus here on other facets; cognitive impairment, discoveries about aging, our research with Concordia University, its possible interactions with certain drugs, and the uses recommended by Health Canada for Vitoli® Memory and Cognitive Health which contains Ginkgo biloba.
For cognitive disorders
One study (2013) compared the use of Ginkgo biloba with that of piracetam, a prescription drug in the United States for dementia and cognitive impairment. This was a 20-year follow-up study in which the cognitive abilities of 3,612 people aged 65 and over were assessed. This study showed improvement in cognitive abilities in people taking a standardized Ginkgo biloba supplement (EGb 761®), while patients taking piracetam had no improvement, but rather, deterioration.
However, we should not question the use of drugs in our modern medicine, but rather know that some alternatives can be just as valid if they are supported by good science. At least it would make sense for a lot of applications to try natural products first and see if that’s good enough for us. The main use of Ginkgo biloba, which is very well supported clinically, is for memory and the prevention of cognitive decline or dementia.
Mechanisms of action and aging
Regarding the metabolic pathways of aging, standardized extracts of Ginkgo biloba have demonstrated positive effects in yeast, nematode and human neurons in culture. There would be an increase in the defenses against oxidation and an increase in the repair capacity of DNA.
In the nematode (microscopic worm), this beneficial effect resulted in an 8% increase in lifespan as well as an increase in resistance to thermal and oxidative stresses by 33% and 25% respectively. A flavonoid purified from Ginkgo biloba extract, tamarixetin, increases the lifespan of nematodes by 25%.
Ginkgo biloba extracts have also been shown to improve energy production by our mitochondria. This is one of the most important aspects that can reduce the negative effects of aging.
In the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, Ginkgo biloba is used to treat asthma, thanks to its inhibitory effect on platelet aggregation factor (PAF) (coagulation). Ginkgo biloba extract also demonstrates peripheral vasodilation (increases the flow capacity of blood vessels), as well as antioxidant and neuroprotective effects. These effects may explain its action on memory, especially in the presence of arteriosclerosis in the elderly. It also has effects on intermittent claudication (muscle cramps caused by problems with the blood circulation), senile dementia and Alzheimer’s. Note that the use of Ginkgo biloba does not necessarily prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Research in Quebec
During our research with Concordia University, we identified certain molecules in Ginkgo biloba that have a significant impact on the longevity of cells. The model chosen for this type of research, the most relevant according to published studies, is through the use of yeast (eukaryotic cells similar to human cells, but without a differentiation process). It is important to emphasize that we considered the results superior to those of calorie restriction as positive. For example, turmeric and rhodiola failed to achieve results significant enough to be considered. Ginkgo biloba is one of the 21 extracts identified so far through our work and it is at the origin of the identification of new modulators of primary aging. The extract used allows an increase in average longevity of 133% and maximum longevity of 100%.
The impacts on primary aging are confirmed by very thorough analyzes of the evaluation of mitochondrial respiration, the potential of mitochondria, oxidation of mitochondria, oxidation of proteins, oxidative damage to lipids, mutations to mitochondrial DNA, the resistance of cells to oxidative stress, their resistance to heat stress, and increased consumption of neutral lipids (the latter being a process of ensuring longevity).
Without going too deeply into details, the impact on primary aging of certain molecules of Ginkgo biloba is linked to an inhibition of the pro-aging axis of PKA (protein kinase A) and stimulation of the anti-aging axis SNF1 (sucrose nonfermenting pathway). Identifying the metabolic pathways involved also makes it possible to choose other molecules that can add very important synergistic effects on primary aging. For example, the gerosuppressive agents (suppressors of aging) that we have identified in black cohosh have a mechanism of action that is too close to those of Ginkgo biloba, which means that they do not have a synergistic effect. On the other hand, those of valerian or celery seed allow synergistic effects on longevity up to a respective average of + 367% and + 478% (compared to 133% for the molecules of Ginkgo biloba alone).
It is obvious that the gerosuppressive agents that we have identified in Gingko biloba have an effect on the mechanisms of primary aging and these effects could, at least in part, explain the many benefits of this plant used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for hundreds of years.
Possible interactions with medication
Ginkgolides have agonist effects on platelet-activating factor (PAF) receptors. These PAF molecules have the function of causing inflammatory reactions and/or platelet aggregation (blood clotting). This biological activity is related to the physiological benefits of Gingko biloba, but it modifies the effectiveness of anticoagulant drugs and therefore could cause a damaging interaction. Although the dose that could be problematic is not yet clearly established and may not be reached through the use of common supplements, it is recommended that you refrain from taking supplements that contain Gingko biloba if you are taking any anti-coagulant medication.
Vitoli® Memory and Cognitive Health
In addition to high a quality Ginkgo biloba extract at 200 mg per daily dose, Vitoli® Memory and Cognitive Health also contains:
- Olive polyphenols from the exclusive Provitol Complex (50 mg),
- Vitamin D (1000 IU),
- Vitamin B12 (400 ug), and
- Folic acid (400 ug)
Our goal was to make the most comprehensive and effective cognitive health product on the market. It is important to refer to the recognized uses for this product. Health Canada recognizes the following five health claims for Vitoli® Memory and Cognitive Health:
- Helps improve cognitive function in adults.
- Helps improve memory in adults.
- Helps prevent vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Helps prevent vitamin D deficiency.
- Provides antioxidants.
Other suggested readings:
- Why Is Vitamin D So Important?
- Vitamin B12 and the Elderly
- Prevention of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
- Amieva et al, 2013. Ginkgo biloba extract and long-term cognitive decline: a 20-year follow-up population-based study. PLoS One. 8(1):e52755.
- Brondino et al, 2013. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Ginkgo biloba in Neuropsychiatric Disorders: From Ancient Tradition to Modern-Day Medicine. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013:915691.
- Dakik et al, 2019. Pairwise combinations of chemical compounds that delay yeast chronological aging through different signaling pathways display synergistic effects on the extent of aging delay. Oncotarget. 2019 Jan 8;10(3):313-338.
- Eckert, A. 2012. Mitochondrial effects of Ginkgo biloba extract. Int Psychogeriatr. Aug;24 Suppl 1:S18-20. Review.
- Gauthier, S., Schlaefke, S. 2014. Efficacy and tolerability of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761® in dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized placébo-controlled trials. Clin Interv Aging. Nov 28;9:2065-77.
- Jiang et al, 2013. Ginkgo biloba extract for dementia: a systematic review. Shanghai Arch Psychiatry. Feb;25(1):10-21.
- Lutchman et al, 2016. Discovery of plant extracts that greatly delay yeast chronological aging and have different effects on longevity-defining cellular processes. Oncotarget. 2016 Mar 29;7(13):16542-66.
- Marques et al, 2011. Stimulation of DNA repair in Saccharomyces cerevisiae by Ginkgo biloba leaf extract. Food Chem Toxicol. Jun;49(6):1361-6.
- Sarkar et al, 2020. Therapeutic promises of Ginkgolide A: A literature-based review. Biomed Pharmacother. 2020 Dec;132:110908.
- Soulié et al, 2002. The Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 increases viability of hnt human neurons in culture and affects the expression of genes implicated in the stress response. Cell Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand). Sep;48(6):641-6.
- Wu et al, 2002. Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 increases stress resistance and extends life span of Caenorhabditis elegans. Cell Mol Biol (Noisyle- grand). 2002 Sep;48(6):725-31.