Ginkgo Biloba For Migraine Prevention

  • Rahaf Kasem BSc degree in Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Chemistry from Tishreen University, Syria

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Introduction

What is ginkgo biloba?

Ginkgo Biloba, a species of ancient tree, is renowned as one of the oldest living trees. The majority of ginkgo-based products are derived from the extract obtained from their distinctive fan-shaped leaves. 

Ginkgo seeds have a rich heritage in traditional Chinese medicine spanning many centuries. In ancient times, members of the venerable royal court were given ginkgo nuts as a cure for ageing. Moreover, ginkgo has historically been used to alleviate diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, as well as kidney and bladder disorders.

What is a migraine?

Migraines usually last for two to three days, as certain symptoms (such as severe fatigue) may appear for up to two days before the onset of head pain and persist even after headaches recede. There are different types of migraine with different symptoms.

The frequency of migraines varies among individuals, with some experiencing it several times a week, while others face it infrequently.

As individuals age, migraines are commonly observed to ease and gradually improve.

Mechanism of action

The standardized extract of gendarmerie biloba (EGb) 761 (EGb761) is commonly used in studies aimed at examining the effect of ginkgo biloba. This extract contains a combination of terpene lactones, such as ginkgolides and diterpenes, as well as flavone ginkgo glycosides, including ginkgetin, pelopetin and skidopetecin. These compounds possess antioxidant and effective properties in the vessels.1 It should be noted that the EGb761 was drafted by a German pharmaceutical company in 1964.2

The standard extract contains 6% terpenoids and 24% flavonoid glycosides.3 Animal studies have shown that ginkgo biloba affects the pathways of neurotransmitters and brain structures. Flavonate has been shown to prevent fat peroxide, absorption of serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and platelet accumulation. Turbine lactones may act as powerful anti-platelet activation agents and have anti-ischemic and decomposing effects of ferrin. They have also been found to reduce the regulation of adrenal peripheral benzodiazepine receptors and increase levels of the hormone directed at the adrenal peel. In addition, ginkgo inhibits biloba inversely oxidase monoamine A and slightly prevents anti-cholinesterase activity, which promotes choline transmission in the brain.4

Benefits of ginkgo biloba for migraine prevention

There is limited research into the effects of ginkgo on individuals with migraines. In a small study conducted in 2009, 50 women with migraines with aura or migraine without aura were given ginkgo biloba supplements for four months. The study revealed a significant decrease in the total number of migraine attacks. However, the results of the study may not be entirely convincing due to the lack of comparison with an inactive placebo or any other form of treatment. In addition, both participants and investigators were aware that ginkgo biloba was being administered, which could affect the results.5 

Another small study was conducted in 2011 on schoolchildren with migraines. Children were given a combination of ginkgo biloba and coenzyme Q10, magnesium and riboflavin for three months. While the study showed a decrease in migraine attacks in patients, the results of the study are not reliable as supplements were not compared with placebo.6 

Ginkgolide B forms a plant element found in the extract derived from ginkgo biloba leaves (GB). Ginkgolide B is often referred to as the most commonly used nutrient in the treatment of migraines.7 In migraines, the primary way it works is to influence the transmission of glutamatergic in the brain and act as an antibiotic to the receptor of the platelet activation factor (PAF).8 In addition, the literature states that it possesses antioxidant properties. This is particularly important given changes in oxidation and reactivity during migraines. Besides Ginkgolide A, C and terpene, Ginkgolide B is also an important active ingredient found in GB plant leaf extract, which has shown positive effects on memory.9

Available formulations

Ginkgo biloba, a natural treatment, can be obtained over the counter in various forms, such as:

  1. Capsules
  2. Tablets
  3. Liquid extract
  4. Herbal Tea
  5. Cosmetics.

Safety and side effects 

Ginkgo biloba is generally viewed as safe, although it has the potential to cause adverse effects and interact with other medications. It may lead to minor side effects such as stomach discomfort, headache, dizziness, and allergic skin reactions. Additionally, there are concerns that ginkgo leaf extract could increase the risk of bruising or bleeding or even cause an irregular heartbeat.

It is important to note that consumption of roasted seeds or oral ginkgo plants may be unsafe. Eating more than 10 roasted seeds per day can lead to serious side effects, including seizures. Moreover, the consumption of fresh seeds can be fatal because they are toxic and considered dangerous.

FAQs

Is it safe to take ginkgo biloba every day?

There is no definitive guideline regarding the appropriate dosage of ginkgo biloba for individuals. Nevertheless, numerous studies have indicated that daily intakes ranging from 60 to 240 mg are commonly utilized, with the doses often being divided into smaller increments throughout the day to minimize any potential adverse reactions.

In most cases, ginkgo biloba is safe when consumed daily in moderate quantities. However, it is important to contact your healthcare provider before use, especially if you have any current medical conditions or are taking prescription drugs or dietary supplements.

Is ginkgo biloba safe for the heart?

Ginkgo biloba positively affects cardiovascular physiology, improving blood dynamics and organ irrigation.10

 Ingredients, such as flavonoids and terpenoids, help protect blood vessels and promote blood circulation. However, as with any supplement, it is necessary to use it moderately.

Does ginkgo biloba make you sleepy?

The findings regarding this matter are inconclusive. According to the study, ginkgo has been shown to enhance non-REM sleep and improve sleep in depressed patients.11 However, a separate study discovered that there was no significant improvement in sleep for healthy adults. If your aim is to achieve better sleep, it may be worth considering taking ginkgo at night, approximately 30 minutes before going to bed.

Summary

The ginkgo biloba, extracted from the leaves of the ancient ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba), captured the attention of both traditional practitioners and modern researchers. Its potential health benefits include a wide range of areas, such as memory improvement and cardiovascular assistance. However, the effectiveness of ginkgo biloba in preventing migraines remains uncertain.

Ginkgo biloba contains terpene lactones (ginkgolides) and flavone glycosides (kercitin, routine), which are responsible for their antioxidant and potent properties in the vessels.

Various studies have researched the effect of ginkgo biloba on migraines, but there is a lack of strong evidence. A 2009 study in Italy showed a decrease in migraine attacks, although the study had its limits (no placebo group).

Ginkgo biloba is available in various forms, from capsules to herbal tea. Although they are generally considered safe, it is advisable to seek advice from a healthcare professional before incorporating ginkgo biloba into your daily system. Ginkgo biloba is still a great plant material, but further research is necessary to determine its role in migraine management.

References

  1. Brondino N, De Silvestri A, Re S, Lanati N, Thiemann P, Verna A, et al. 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; 2013:915691.
  2. Diamond BJ, Shiflett SC, Feiwel N, Matheis RJ, Noskin O, Richards JA, et al. Ginkgo biloba extract: mechanisms and clinical indications. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2000; 81(5):668–78.
  3. Nguyen T, Alzahrani T. Ginkgo Biloba. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 [cited 2024 Feb 19]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541024/.  
  4. Silberstein RB, Pipingas A, Song J, Camfield DA, Nathan PJ, Stough C. Examining brain-cognition effects of ginkgo biloba extract: brain activation in the left temporal and left prefrontal cortex in an object working memory task. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011; 2011:164139.
  5. D’Andrea G, Bussone G, Allais G, Aguggia M, D’Onofrio F, Maggio M, et al. Efficacy of Ginkgolide B in the prophylaxis of migraine with aura. Neurol Sci. 2009; 30 Suppl 1:S121-124.
  6. Usai S, Grazzi L, Bussone G. Gingkolide B as migraine preventive treatment in young age: results at 1-year follow-up. Neurol Sci. 2011; 32 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S197-199.
  7. Li R, Chen B, Wu W, Bao L, Li J, Qi R. Ginkgolide B suppresses intercellular adhesion molecule-1 expression via blocking nuclear factor-kappaB activation in human vascular endothelial cells stimulated by oxidized low-density lipoprotein. J Pharmacol Sci. 2009; 110(3):362–9.
  8. Tulsulkar J, Shah ZA. Ginkgo biloba prevents transient global ischemia-induced delayed hippocampal neuronal death through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mechanisms. Neurochem Int. 2013; 62(2):189–97.
  9. Ma L, Liu X, Zhao Y, Chen B, Li X, Qi R. Ginkgolide B reduces LOX-1 expression by inhibiting Akt phosphorylation and increasing Sirt1 expression in oxidized LDL-stimulated human umbilical vein endothelial cells. PLoS One. 2013; 8(9):e74769.
  10. Silva H, Martins FG. Cardiovascular Activity of Ginkgo biloba—An Insight from Healthy Subjects. Biology (Basel) [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2024 Feb 19]; 12(1):15. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9855530/.
  11. Murray BJ, Cowen PJ, Sharpley AL. The effect of Li 1370, extract of Ginkgo biloba, on REM sleep in humans. Pharmacopsychiatry. 2001; 34(4):155–7.

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Rahaf Kasem

BSc degree in Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Chemistry from Tishreen University, Syria, Medical Laboratory Internship

I have several years as a Hospital Pharmacist and community pharmacist, and as an accomplished one, I bring a wealth of expertise in medication management, and patient care. My background spans both community and hospital pharmacy settings, where I've optimized patient outcomes. Additionally, my experience as a medical laboratory assistant has enriched my knowledge of diagnostic testing and laboratory procedures, allowing me to approach healthcare holistically. I am committed to continuous learning and enthusiastic about innovative pharmaceutical research and patient-centered care.

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