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We all know that incredible feeling of mental alertness. Your mind feels sharp and you can stay focused for hours – no matter the task. It’s a feeling we all strive for by crushing a morning workout or (more often) drinking five cups of coffee. However, there’s another (natural) resource that might help improve your mental functioning while yielding a myriad of other health benefits. We’re talking about ginkgo biloba.
Ginkgo biloba supplements are made from the antioxidant-rich leaves of a native Chinese tree of the same name (also called the Maidenhair tree). The ginkgo biloba tree is unique because it’s the last living species of its plant order, Ginkgoales, and dates back more than 270 million years. The tree has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries (possibly millennia) and made its way into western medicine towards the end of the 20th century.
But what exactly makes ginkgo biloba supplements so special? The main benefit is improved brain functioning, or an anecdote for that “brain fog.” Studies have shown that ginkgo extract can improve neuropsychological and memory processes of normally healthy people. In other words, you’ll likely feel sharper and more focused throughout the day. This focus also usually comes without the jittery, sleep-interfering side effects of coffee.
This improvement in mental functioning is most likely due to ginkgo biloba’s antioxidant properties, its positive effect of circulation, or both. Antioxidants help to neutralize cell waste substances called “free radicals,” essentially cleaning up your whole system for better performance.
Ginkgo supplements have some other noteworthy benefits as well, including reduced inflammation, less anxiety and, as mentioned, better circulation for heart health and better performance “down there.”
Keep in mind that, as with nearly all supplements, ginkgo biloba hasn’t been approved by the FDA and some studies haven’t found real efficacy. However, some successful studies and many happy reviews have largely solidified the benefits of ginkgo biloba.
What to Know Before Buying Ginkgo Biloba Supplements
Ginkgo biloba supplements come in a surprising range of recipes, sizes and potency from a number of brands. Here’s what to look for before picking a bottle.
Recipe: Some ginkgo biloba recipes include chemicals (usually to make the capsule), different forms of ginkgo biloba or even additional supplements. You’ll also want a recipe with extracts that are standardized to 24% glycosides and 6% terpene lactones. That might sound confusing, but it just means that the ginkgo biloba is high-quality.
Dosage: Capsules generally have around 100 to 500 milligrams of ginkgo. For most adults, the recommended dosage is around 120 to 240 milligrams a day, divided into two doses. But, as with any supplement, this amount is flexible. If you’re new to ginkgo biloba, start around 120 milligrams per day, but don’t be afraid to go higher than 240 milligrams if you don’t feel anything.
Brand: Many supplement shoppers skip over who they’re buying from. However, this is important – even if the supplement itself has good reviews. We’ve done some digging on all the brands in our roundup to make sure they’re worthy of your business.
Size: Bottle size varies pretty drastically from brand to brand. If this is your first time trying ginkgo biloba, you might want a smaller bottle.
1. Nutricost Ginkgo Biloba
Nutricost is a Utah-based company that’s dedicated to pure, straightforward supplements. This bottle of ginkgo biloba is a great example of Nutricost’s simple, effective approach.
The recipe used for these supplements is wonderfully minimal. The ginkgo biloba extract is standardized with 24% glycosides, meaning it’s the good stuff. Besides the ginkgo biloba, Nutricost has added only three ingredients: rice flower (for absorbency) along with gelatin and water (for the capsule).
Nutricost’s no-nonsense approach is maintained through the capsules’ potency and bottle size. The bottle’s 240 capsules each contain 120mg of ginkgo biloba extract, aligning the numbers with the recommended 240mg per day taken in two doses.
PROS: Simple recipe, straightforward dosage.
CONS: As with all supplements, make sure to consult with your doctor or medical provider before starting a new routine.
2. GreeNatr Panax Ginseng Ginkgo Biloba Tablets
GreeNatr did something slightly different with this bottle of ginkgo biloba tablets. In addition to ginkgo, the recipe includes ginseng, which is another herbal supplement similar to ginkgo biloba. Ginseng’s primary purported health benefits are inflammation reduction and help with erectile dysfunction.
The ginkgo biloba in GreeNatr’s tablets is also slightly different than most. Instead of delivery in the form of exclusively ginkgo biloba extract, GreeNatr included ginkgo biloba powder as well. This, along with the included ginseng, makes GreeNatr more effective for some. However, each tablet contains only 100mg of extract and 60mg of powder. This may have a lighter effect on some, especially if you’re used to a pure ginkgo biloba extract with a higher potency.
GreeNatr’s capsules also include some extra ingredients for solubility, anti-caking and binding. Some of these may lead to side effects, such as more bowel movements due to the microcrystalline cellulose and stearic acid.
PROS: Mix of ginkgo extract and powder, added ginseng.
CONS: Low dosage, extra ingredients.
3. Nature’s Bounty Ginkgo Biloba
In terms of brand reliability, Nature’s Bounty takes the top prize. They’ve been an established brand in supplements since 1995 with products that undergo multiple quality-assurance tests.
This bottle of ginkgo biloba from Nature’s Bounty boasts a fairly straightforward recipe with four ingredients on top of the ginkgo: rice flower, gelatin, vegetable magnesium stearate and silica. The vegetable magnesium stearate and silica are used for binding and filling, but the vegetable magnesium stearate may have a laxative effect for very few people. The silica, on the other hand, can actually strengthen tissue.
Dosage and potency are both standard in these tablets with 120mg of 24% ginkgo. The bottle size is the only slight downfall, as you only get 100 tablets.
PROS: Straightforward dosage, trusted brand.
CONS: Small bottle.
4. VH Nutrition Ginkgo Biloba
If you’ve already had some positive experience with ginkgo biloba, this bottle from VH Nutrition might be a good idea. Each capsule delivers a whopping 550mg of ginkgo extract, making it much more potent than most. This high dosage also makes VH Nutrition’s tablets a good once-in-a-while option if you don’t want to take ginkgo every day.
Because the dosage is so high with these capsules, the bottle is smaller with only 60 tablets. But because they’re so potent, one bottle should last around two months.
PROS: High dosage. VH nutrition’s ingredients are very straightforward with simply the ginkgo biloba extract and a gelatin capsule
CONS: The ginkgo extract isn’t specified as being standardized.