Have you ever seen a ginkgo tree? They have the loveliest fan-shaped leaves that seem to wave in the breeze. The leaves from this amazing tree have been used medicinally in China for over 3,500 years!
In recent years, ginkgo has become popular as an aid to memory and concentration, and research confirms its use for this and many other conditions.
Botanical name: Ginkgo biloba
Astringent, Bitter, Vasodilator
Circulation, Nervous system (particularly the brain), Extremities
Ginkgo improves blood circulation to the brain and to the extremities, which helps to improve many conditions including dementia, dizziness, erectile dysfunction, leg cramps, macular degeneration, memory and concentration difficulties, and tinnitus.
Yes, ginkgo is amazing!
Flavonoids get a lot of press in health news with good reason – they are powerful antioxidants, which means that they race through the body capturing and neutralizing free radicals, those peksy “renegade” cells that lead to signs of aging and the development of cancer.
Ginkgo is absolutely packed with flavonoids, and research has found that its antioxidant activity may be even greater than that of Vitamins C, E, and beta carotene. This is good stuff!
The plant’s antioxidant activity has been especially observed in the brain, cardiovascular system, and retina – three areas of the body that are some of the first to show signs of aging. This antioxidant activity helps to protect the brain and other organs from damage caused by poor circulation, stress, and toxic chemicals in the environment.
Ginkgo is a true friend to the circulatory system. It strengthens blood vessels and reduces any inflammation, which makes it excellent for minimizing varicose veins and preventing cardiovascular disease.
As if operating with a built-in targeting system, ginkgo specifically increases blood flow to the brain and extremities and thereby increases the amount of oxygen that reaches these parts of the body. Research proves that regularly taking ginkgo supplements can improve capillary blood flow by as much as 57 percent.
Ginkgo is useful for all sorts of issues related to poor circulation, such as Raynaud’s disease, complications of diabetes, and the pain and cramping of intermittent claudication.
Nature’s Blood Thinner
Ginkgo is also a natural blood thinner and improves the general condition of the blood. It reduces the stickiness of blood platelets, which lessons the risk of developing blood clots. It also allows for better utilization of both oxygen and glucose, bringing health and vitality to the entire body.
Because it relaxes the arterial walls, ginkgo helps to reduce elevated blood pressure and increases the amount of oxygen that reaches the heart muscle. This helps the heart to operate more efficiently with less wear and tear on the muscle.
In fact, ginkgo is one of the four major cardiovascular herbs along with hawthorn, yarrow, and garlic.
Ginkgo’s improvement of blood circulation is helpful in a number of other conditions as well:
- erectile dysfuntion
- diabetic retinopathy
- leg cramps
- macular degeneration
- tinnitus and some forms of hearing loss
Ginkgo for Stroke Patients
In addition to its affinity for the circulatory system, ginkgo helps to protect nerve cells. This is very useful for people recovering from a stroke or brain injury. In post-stroke patients, ginkgo helps improve balance and memory, as well as reducing disturbed thought processes and vertigo.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirmed ginkgo’s usefulness for stroke patients and those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Regular use of ginkgo for those at high risk may even help prevent stroke.
Help for Dementia and Alzheimer’s
Clinical studies prove that ginkgo supplementation is effective at slowing the mental deterioration associated with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Daily use of ginkgo improves the attention, memory, and mood of these people.
It’s not just useful for serious conditions like Alzheimer’s, though. ginkgo has proven beneficial in helping short-term memory and concentration in people of all ages – including children.
Ginkgo’s Role in Depression
Some forms of depression are related to less than optimal blood flow to the brain. ginkgo’s ability to improve circulation enables higher levels of oxygen and nutrients to reach brain cells. For some people, this helps reduce or alleviate their feelings of depression.
Furthermore, ginkgo helps increase the activity of the brain’s chemical messengers, which can improve mood for just about anyone.
Ginkgo for Allergies?
Amazingly, ginkgo may even help to alleviate the symptoms of allergies. It interferes with a chemical, called platelet-activating factor (PAF), produced by the body, which triggers some allergic reactions and is also associated with asthmatic bronchospasms.
Choosing the Right Ginkgo Supplement
ginkgo is one of the few herbs that is actually best when taken as a standardized extract instead of simply taking the whole herb. The reason for this is that you’d have to eat the equivalent of 50 or more ginkgo leaves daily to get any therapeutic benefit. I’m not sure any of us want to do that!
ginkgo contains at least three compounds that have known medicinal qualities: flavone glycosides, terpene lactones, and flavonoids.
A quality ginkgo supplement will contain at least 24% flavone glycosides and 6% terpene lactones – the same amounts present in supplements used during clinical studies. Check labels to make sure your supplement fits the bill.
That said, Dr. Stengler recommends also taking a whole herb ginkgo supplement along with the standardized extract. He writes that studies show using the combination of whole herb and isolated active constituents is more effective than taking the standardized supplement alone.
Personally, I’m sure this is because there are other active constituents that science just hasn’t been able to identify yet. Our God is so much bigger than science!
The daily dosage for a standardized ginkgo supplement is 120-360 mg in divided doses. For most people, taking 60 mg 2-4 times per day is best. The higher dosage of 360 mg should be reserved for severe situations, such as early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
It may take at least eight weeks to see the beneficial effects of ginkgo, and supplements can be safely taken for six months at a time. (Remember to use a dosage cycling schedule for best results.)
Dosages higher than 240 mg daily may cause diarrhea, irritability, and restlessness. In a very small number of people, ginkgo of any dosage can lead to digestive upset, headaches, or dizziness. If you experience any of these symptoms, lower the daily dosage. If the symptoms persist, discontinue using ginkgo supplements.
Which of ginkgo’s benefits is most interesting to you?
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Green, James. The Male Herbal. Crossing Press, 2007.
Hobbs, Christopher, L.AC. and Kathi Keville. Women’s Herbs, Women’s Health. Botanica Press, 2007.
Stengler, Mark, ND. The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies Medical Doctors Don’t Know. Prentice Hall Press, 2010.
This information has not been evaluated by the FDA and is intended only for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure disease. Always consult a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your healthcare routine.
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