Used for centuries to treat various conditions, the ginkgo or maidenhair tree is the oldest living tree species on Earth. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, the earliest leaf fossils date back about 270 million years. In fact, it’s considered a living fossil, a term coined by Charles Darwin himself. Because the leaves from the tree have long been used for medicinal purposes, ginkgo or gingko, as it is called, has been the subject of numerous studies evaluating its effectiveness in treating Alzheimer’s disease, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), dementia, migraines, schizophrenia, tinnitus, and more. While the results related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have been disappointing, ginkgo biloba has made strives in the skincare arena.
“Many studies of its anti-aging chemistry have shown it helps reduce wrinkles and fine lines,” says Anima Mundi Herbals’ Adriana Ayales. She adds that extracts of the leaves—when used topically and internally—have also proven effective for those with oily skin as well as those with sensitive skin on account of the high amount of flavonoids, antioxidant-rich plant pigments that help protect the skin from environmental stressors.
While most companies use extracts from the leaves, Amarte, a Korean skincare line, has a patent on ginkgo biloba nut extract, which uses the concentrated inner seed of the fruit. According to Amarte Skin Care’s Craig A. Kraffert, it takes four months to produce one batch of extract using the patented extract process. However, the end result is a highly beneficial extract. “Koreans have long been fascinated with the ginkgo tree,” says Kraffert. It’s no surprise then that manufacturers are finding new ways to reap its benefits.
Although ginkgo biloba has stood the test of time, there are some important factors to consider when using it. “It’s important to use high levels of ginkgo biloba extract in creating anti-aging formulations or else the benefits to the skin will be negligible,” says Janel Luu of Le Mieux and PurErb. “Whenever a botanical extract isn’t at a high enough percentage, it is less likely to provide the hoped for results.” According to Kraffert, fermentation is key. “Once ginkgo is properly fermented, it can be incorporated without restriction,” he says.
You will, however, want to advise certain clients to use care when using it internally or externally. Because of ginkgo biloba’s ability to stimulate tissue respiration, Pevonia’s Kim Lee cautions spa-goers not to take the herb orally if they are receiving Botox injections or other dermal fillers, as it could increase their chances of bruising. Says Luu, “As with many botanical extracts, women who are pregnant or lactating should consult with their doctor before using products containing gingko biloba extract.”