Ginkgo Biloba Protects Brain from Stroke Damage
New research shows that taking ginkgo biloba on a daily basis might help prevent or limit stroke-related brain damage. A stroke occurs when there is an interruption of the blood supply to the brain. This interruption may be caused by a clot or bleeding in the brain from a ruptured blood vessel or significant injury. Damage to brain tissue can occur rapidly during and after a stroke, and may result in permanant disability or death. Taking immediate action when a stroke is occuring is key to improving the outcome, since getting medical treatment within 2-3 hours of symptoms can reduce damage to the brain.
According to a study done at Johns Hopkins University, daily doses of a standardized extract of ginkgo biloba can prevent or reduce brain damage after a stroke. In a report published in Stroke, the researchers said that their work supports evidence that taking ginkgo can trigger a cascade of events that neutralizes the free radicals known to cause cell death.
“These results strongly suggest that further research into the protective effects of ginkgo is warranted,” says lead researcher Sylvain Doré, PhD. “If further work confirms what we’ve seen, we could theoretically recommend a daily regimen of ginkgo to people at high risk of stroke as a preventive measure against brain damage.”
Doré and his team found that mice given the ginkgo before a stroke was induced had about 51% less neurological dysfunction and areas of brain damage about 48% smaller than untreated mice.
“Our results suggest that some element or elements in ginkgo actually protect brain cells during stroke,” says Doré.
The majority of people who have strokes have what is known as an ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blocked artery in the brain. Some brain damage occurs simply from the lack of blood getting to brain cells, however it is known that an increase in the presence of free radicals at the site of an ischemic stroke—once the clot is cleared and the blood supply returns—is a major cause of brain cell damage.
According to Doré and his team, ginkgo increases levels of the enzyme HO-1 (heme oxygenase-1). HO-1 breaks down heme, a common iron molecule found in blood, and acts as an antioxidant. It seems that HO-1 is able to eliminate free radicals from the regions of the brain surrounding the stroke site.
“Ginkgo has long been touted for its positive effects on the brain and is even prescribed in Europe and Asia for memory loss,” says Doré. “Now we have a possible understanding for how ginkgo actually works to protect neurons from damage.”
The Anti-Aging Bottom Line: Roughly 700,000 people experience a stroke in the U.S. annually. The brain damage caused by a stroke can be devastating and full recovery can be difficult or impossible. While this study offers only preliminary evidence that ginkgo may prevent some of this damage from occurring, the beneficial effects of ginkgo on cognitive health are widely accepted and backed by clinical research, so including a standardized ginkgo extract in your daily routine may not be a bad idea.