Ginkgo contains two potent compounds — terpene lactones and flavone glycosides — which make blood platelets less sticky and combat free radical damage. Ginkgo is commonly used as an antioxidant to help improve circulation and brain function.
At the Department of Psychobiology at Sao Paulo Medical University, researchers tested how ginkgo affected elderly functional individuals. In this double-blind study, 48 men aged 60 to 70 years were given either a placebo or a ginkgo extract for eight months. Before and after treatment, the men were given cognitive tests and their blood viscosity was measured. The ginkgo treatment group showed a reduction in blood viscosity and improved cognitive function, while the control group showed an increase in blood viscosity and a decrease in cognitive function. The researchers recommended further study.
At the Institute for BioScience in Massachusetts, both laboratory and human studies show that ginkgo extracts may also have anticancer properties. In laboratory tests, ginkgo’s terpene constituents inhibited the spread of highly aggressive breast and bladder cancer cells. Researchers theorized that ginkgo inhibits DNA damage and alters the cell differentiation process.
In humans, ginkgo extracts can reduce the oxidative (free-radical) damage caused by ultraviolet light. The researchers concluded that the flavonoid and terpenoid constituents of gingko may work together to inhibit several cancer-related processes. Further study in this new area was also recommended.
Sources: Pharmacopsychiatry. 2003 July;36(4):127-33; Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 2003 Aug;17(4):405-17