Gingko Biloba – A Living Fossil

ginkoOne of the leading herbal products being prescribed by physicians in Europe today is Gingko Biloba. This article will help you understand the benefits of this living fossil and give you insights about how to use it. Gingko has a long history of being on this planet. It can be traced back over 200 million years, which is why it is called a living fossil. Once a common tree in North America and Europe, it was nearly destroyed by the Ice Age except in China where it is considered a sacred tree. It is very common now in this country as an ornamental, and you can find it in many yards or along streets. Gingko is a very hardy tree. It is resistant to harmful insects and micro-organisms and even survives modern day pollutants. One interesting bit of history is that it survived the atomic blast in the center of Hiroshima Japan in 1946. It began to sprout the following spring after the explosion.

The medicinal uses of Gingko date back over 2000 years ago in Chinese Materia Medica. It stated that it is beneficial to the brain and relieves symptoms of asthma and cough. As mentioned earlier, it is one of the leading prescription medicines in France and Germany where it accounts for over 1% of total prescription sales. Approximately 10 million prescriptions were written worldwide.

Gingko Biloba extracts are marketed under different names in Europe but only 5 meet the German E Commission standards for therapeutic preparations. This is a standardized herbal drug. The monograph states that only acceptable extracts are those that have an herb to solvent ratio of 35:1 to 67:1. This is averaged out to be 50:1 ratio or 50 pounds of leaf to 1 part of solvent. This is very potent, and you will see later in the article the relationship to therapeutics conditions.

This does not mean that a cup of gingko tea is valueless; but if used in clinical applications for specific conditions, the concentrated extract will perform differently in the body.

Gingko has been the subject to over 300 scientific clinical and experimental studies. Let’s look at some of the aspects of how it works in the body and the conditions for which it is recommended. Gingko extracts exert a widespread influence on tissues of the body. Meaning it stabilizes them. It works as an anti-oxidant and enhances utilization of cellular oxygen and glucose (sugar). The stabilization effects are most evident in the nerve cells and the brain tissue. The extract prevents metabolic disturbances that affect the blood supply mainly to the frontal lobes of the brain. It basically aids the circulation to the arterial and vein system of the brain. Gingko’s vascular effects are attributed to its toning ability of blood vessels structures. It also has a relaxing effect.

Another factor about this plant is its ability to have anti-platelet factors, meaning that it inhibits red blood cells from becoming too sticky, thus enhancing blood flow and reducing the risk of coronary problems.

Now let’s look at some of the applications where Gingko can be applied in relation to specific health conditions. The following are documented pharmacological actions:

  * Helps prevent oxygen starvation
  * Inhibits fluid build-up due to toxins or post-traumatic injury.
  * Improves memory and learning capacity
  * Scavenges free radicals which are cancer causing
  * Has anti-platelet factors.

The clinical applications of the plant have great potential in helping disorders associated with:

  • Vascular Insufficiency: Due to the fact that as we age vascular insufficiency becomes a problem for many of us with hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) being the main one. Symptoms attributed to this are short-term memory loss, vertigo, headaches, ringing in the ears (Tinnitus), lack of vigilance and depression.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease: Many of the studies in Germany have been with patients with senile dementia or Alzheimer’s. Its main action is in delaying mental deterioration in early stages of this disease.
  • Tinnitus: This is a very difficult problem for many people that has become more prevalent in the last few years. Gingko has been shown to be somewhat effective as a treatment. Even though some studies have not shown that great of an improvement there have been many people reporting that it has helped them. It is worth the try.
  • Senile Macular Degeneration: This disorder of the eye specifically in elderly has again seen some improvement with the use of Gingko extracts. This is mainly due to the ability to prevent free radical damage to the macula.
  • Intermittent Claudication: Better known as peripheral arterial insufficiency which is a narrowing of the arteries, thus reducing blood flow throughout the body causing leg pain, fatigue, cramping and tightness. Again Gingko has been shown effective in numerous studies to be effective.
  • Impotence: Many times this disorder is due to poor circulation to erectile tissue. Improving blood flow which is one of the actions of Gingko has shown some benefits.
  • Antidepressant Effects: These are due to the fact that depression also is due in part to low oxygen levels in brain tissues. By enhancing blood flow, more oxygen is present. This has been used concurrently with some anti-depressant medications with good success.
  • Antiallergenic Properties: Due to antiplatelet factors and the constituent Quercetin which is present in gingko leaves, those suffering from allergies, asthma, and eczema have seen some benefits of using gingko.

The future is promising for this particular botanical. Research is ongoing for conditions like angina, congestive heart failure, and acute respiratory distress syndromes, multiple sclerosis, thrombosis and burns.

The recommended daily dose of this extract is 120-240 mg 2-3 times per day, depending on the individual condition. Most of the clinical studies ranged from 120mg-160mg/day. A minimum of eight weeks is the recommended treatment protocol with reevaluation within a three-month period of time. Side effects are rare and consist of mild gastric upset, headaches, dizziness or allergic skin reactions. There are no known interactions with other drugs at this point in time.

Gingko is a very safe and effective plant and has many positive attributes. Be sure to consult with a qualified health care professional when considering the use of this product. This will insure you are taking a researched product with a potential for beneficial outcomes.

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