Can Ginkgo Biloba keep you young and healthy? Outside of vampire movies, nothing can turn back the clock. We're all going to age. It goes without saying we all want to increase our lifespans, but nobody wants to get "old" in the process. It's a classic Catch-22. As Dr Aubrey de Grey proposes: "Some people living today could be the first generation to live forever, or the last generation to die".
It would be nice if we didn't have to deal with age-related illnesses and frailty as we got older. The dark side of the mythical Fountain of Youth is that you may not enjoy being 'immortal' if you just have to deal with all the stuff your elderly body and mind have to go through. All the more reason to retain the peak performance of our brains in our 20s!
Thankfully, we can mitigate the effects of ageing and rejuvenate both the body and mind with the right micronutrients. This is where Ginkgo Biloba, a key ingredient in Simply Nootropics Elevate, comes in.
The Ginkgo Biloba Tree
Ginkgo comes from the leaves of the Ginkgo Biloba tree (also known as the maidenhair tree). It is one of the oldest trees on earth and has been dubbed a "living fossil" that dates back 270 million years.
The Ginkgo species has endured major extinction events. There are still trees standing in Shandong that are between 2,500 and 3,000 years old. In Asia, Ginkgo trees are commonly planted around Buddhist temples.
Six Ginkgo trees survived the 1945 atomic explosion in Hiroshima and are known as Hibakujumoku. These trees withstood the nuclear blast just 1,130 meters from the bomb's hypocenter (the radiation level was approximately 240 Gy). It's no surprise that Japanese people call Ginkgo "the bearer of hope". To be able to survive so much radiation exposure, that's one healthy tree!
Ancient Wisdom for Staying Young
Ginkgo has been used as a medicine for centuries, and it's one of the most common herbs found in Chinese pharmacies. It's widely popular in Europe and North America, and it ranks in the top ten dietary supplements sold in the United States.
Modern science has already confirmed Ginkgo's ancient remedies recorded in the Chinese Materia Medica (2800 B.C.). These uses include: treating asthma and coughs, lowering blood pressure, relieving swelling of the hands and feet, and vascular disorders. Its longstanding tradition of restoring health is why some call it "the Fountain of Youth".
Ginkgo Biloba might actually help us live longer and stay young at the same time. How does that work? Firstly, we've got to define our terms.
What does it mean to age?
"Old" is not an objective term. There's no clear line that says at this exact moment, the human body then becomes old. The calendar year doesn't determine your biological age or "Epigenetic Clock". (Telomeres are another element of life extension, but we'll leave that specialised subject for a future blog post!)
To many, age is a subjective concept that depends on our perception of what "old" means. The way we age is different for different people; it varies by physically and mentally active you are, whether you smoke, eat and drink healthily, how stressed you are, and so on. However, despite the old saying, age is not just a number. During the ageing process, there are several indicators of your cellular health.
In biohacking, we're interested in cognitive performance and boosting both the body and the brain. Two practical ways to measure ageing are oxidative stress and cognitive decline.
Think of this as like how wine ages when oxygen gets into it. Oxidative stress occurs when our bodies have an excess of free radicals. Free radicals are compounds with one or more unpaired electrons in their outer shell, making them highly unstable and reactive with other molecules.
Some free radicals naturally occur in your body (endogenic); others you encounter through exogenous sources like carbon dioxide, water pollution, alcohol, cigarette smoke, toxins, heavy metals and pesticides, drugs, and even radiation (think of those Hibakujumoku!)
Free radicals cause damage to the cells' DNA, proteins, lipids, sugars and carbohydrates. It's like throwing a grenade into your cell walls; it makes your cells leaky and makes it difficult for them to perform their duties. Oxidative stress, in other words, is a crucial element in poor cellular health and constitutes what we might refer to as "ageing".
The good news is that we can counter the effects of free radicals with antioxidants, which neutralise these unstable compounds before they cause more damage. Thus some of the damaging oxidative aspects of ageing can be potentially alleviated with a simple nootropic regimen.
Growing old is also marked by reduced cognitive function. To return to our wine metaphor, if a lot of oxygen is getting into your wine while it matures, it will lose much of its colour and flavour. Subtle changes in processing speed begin in your 20s. You won't notice at first, but they build up and affect how our brains function over time.
Age-related cognitive decline is very much linked with oxidative stress and can even be considered symptomatic. A decrease in our brains' antioxidant defence system as we age causes an increase in neuron loss. This can happen even if you're healthy physically, because these processes occur at different rates. Eventually, memory and processing speed decline steadily. Or put another way, the wine turns to vinegar.
How can Ginkgo Biloba stave off the ravages of time?
So what is it about Ginkgo Biloba that could help with this? Its potent antioxidant compounds, that's what! Ginkgo puts a cork in the bottle.
It also provides much more than just antioxidant activity. Ginkgo regulates neurotransmitters, prevents brain cell deterioration, and promotes blood vessel microcirculation. This assists with memory loss, cognitive function and mental sharpness. Specifically, Ginkgo helps:
- Neurotransmitters. By inhibiting monoamine oxidase, Ginkgo Biloba allows more beneficial neurotransmitters (like dopamine, which reduces anxiety) to remain in the brain, elevating mood.
- Circulation: By dilatating blood vessels, Ginkgo encourages cerebral blood flow and reduces blood vessel blockages. This can help deter memory loss from lack of oxygen. It also increases the supply of glucose availability to neurons for health.
- Neuroprotection. By boosting blood flow to the brain, Ginkgo helps eliminate pesky free radicals. It also helps repair brain cells and can protect neuronal cells against ischemic injury and disorders.
This can improve thinking, reaction time, energy, and memory, helping people feel fresher and turn back the clock to their peak performance. Ginkgo Biloba also has antiapoptotic (fights cell death) and antioxidant properties that are advantageous to ageing.
Ginkgo can alleviate the symptoms associated with cognitive decline. It can benefit both younger people (whose brains are sizzling with activity, and who can enjoy Ginkgo's memory-enhancing effects while safeguarding their future) and older persons (who need it most).
Note: side effects of Ginkgo Biloba
For most people, Ginkgo is well tolerated. But Ginkgo is not safe for those with bleeding disorders (it increases nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels), people with diabetes (it alters insulin secretion), and pregnant people. It can also have adverse reactions with some drugs (including antidepressants and melatonin). This blog is for educational purposes only and is no substitute for a medical professional's advice. It would be sensible to check out other side effects, precautions and warnings on WebMD and if you're unsure, speak with your doctor.
Should I worry about my cognitive function as I get older?
Oxidative stress affects how our brains work over time. However, the brain itself is a unique organ with its own antioxidant systems which can defend against oxidative damage. But there are still mechanisms associated with cognitive decline that we have control over and can biohack to ensure that our minds stay young, no matter our vintage.
The ageing process can be accelerated or slowed by various factors in your environment and lifestyle choices. For instance: exercise increases brain volume, while stress shrinks it. Similarly, our food choices can either speed up or slow down the ageing process as well.
The human body is equipped with a powerful rejuvenating system that allows us to perform perfectly well even in our later years. But we can also speed up our own biological-ageing by neglecting our diets and lifestyles. The key to staying young and ensuring the best possible cognitive function for as long as possible is maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
By improving your diet, managing stress better, getting more/improved sleep, and supporting cellular health with the right supplementation of nutrients – such as Simply Nootropic's Elevate – you will hopefully find that your biological age responds in a positive way.