Ginkgo Biloba—Discover the amazing circulatory benefits of this ancient herb

Circulation is comprised of blood and the apparatus which moves it, namely, the heart and some 60,000 miles of tubing. The heart pumps blood through large vessels called arteries which divide and subdivide into a fine network of tiny blood vessels called capillaries. The capillaries permeate every tissue of the body, exchanging nutrients and metabolic end products. The blood returns to the heart through the capillaries which meet to form the larger veins. In this manner, the blood moves in a circle which is why we speak of the “circulatory system” or “blood circulation.”

“Ginkgo’s ability to improve blood circulation to the brain’s extremities makes it useful for many conditions.”

Through the circulation of blood, tissues and organs are brought food (sugars, lipids, and protein), oxygen, ions (electrically charged particles), hormones, vitamins, and minerals around the clock. Waste products, such as carbon dioxide, are carried away. The circulatory system also distributes heat where necessary. All this and it plugs its own leaks!

It is not difficult to see the importance of proper blood circulation. Healthy circulation delivers life-giving substances to all glands and organs and is thereby crucial to preventing and overcoming disease.

In most diseases related to aging, decreased blood flow is usually the culprit. An impairment of blood flow to the brain is believed to be a major cause of age-related brain disorders. The brain, although only 5% of the body’s weight, receives 20% of the blood supply along with its oxygen, glucose, and many other nutrients.

Major diseases affecting the circulatory system itself are heart disease, cerebral hemorrhage, stroke, arteriosclerosis, and phlebitis. In a single year, diseases of the heart and blood vessels kill more Americans than died in World Wars I and II and the Korean and Vietnam wars combined! Symptoms of impaired circulation may be cold hands and feet, leg or foot cramps, pain or burning sensation in extremities, slow healing of wounds, migraine headaches, ringing in ears, and momentary losses of balance. Cold hands and feet may also be a “nerve problem” and not necessarily due to corroded arteries. This problem can be alleviated by deliberate relaxation. Thyroid and adrenal deficiencies can also affect circulation as they tend to reduce the strength of the heartbeat and the amount of the blood pumped.

“The Ginkgo tree offers great hope for those suffering from circulatory disorders and symptoms of aging.”

Improving circulation is a two part program that involves eliminating the obstacles to healthy circulation while including all necessary nutrients through good diet and supplements. Risk factors for cardiovascular disease are smoking, high fat, and a lack of exercise. Dehydration, a lack of water, can also impair circulation by making the blood thicker. Nutrients that play a prominent role in circulation are vitamins C, E, niacin, and fish oils. We must realize, however, that all nutrients are important to every cell in the body, including the cells of the heart and vasculature.

As we become aware of the dangers of taking prescription drugs, especially on a routine basis, more attention is focused on herbs, our natural medicines. The Ginkgo tree offers hope for those suffering from circulatory disorders and symptoms of aging. For at least 5,000 years, Ginkgo biloba (pronounced ging-koh bi-lo-bah) has been recommended in Chinese medicine as being “good for the heart and lungs” and for coughs, asthma, and acute allergic inflammations.

Ginkgo is the world’s oldest living tree. Darwin called it a “living fossil.” A form of Ginkgo first appeared around 300 million years ago and flourished throughout the time of the dinosaurs. It is a very hardy tree, resistant to pests and pollution. Ginkgo trees may live as long as 1,000 years. In the U.S., it is often planted as an ornamental tree along freeways because of its durability. In Japan and China, it is a familiar sight around temples since Buddhists regard the tree as sacred.

Currently, Ginkgo is the subject of intense research. In numerous clinical trials involving geriatric patients, Ginkgo extract has demonstrated remarkable success in treating cerebral insufficiency (insufficient blood flow to the brain). These symptoms include short-term memory loss, dizziness, headache, ringing or buzzing in the ears, lack of alertness, and depression. In several studies without a control group, the success rate was found to be 60% to 78%. In nine double-blind studies, results were equally impressive, with an improvement rate which ranged between 44% and 92%. Participants who took placebos showed a 14% to 44% rate of improvement.

In long-term studies, Ginkgo produced no side effects and there was no decrease in its effect over time. Like nature, however, Ginkgo is slow in acting, taking four to eight weeks before benefits may be noticed. Improvements are gradual but continue up to a year or more.

The positive effect of Ginkgo biloba extract in geriatric patients has led many health practitioners to advocate its use in all persons over 50. The benefits, however, are not limited to the geriatric group. In healthy young women, reaction time in performing a memory test was significantly improved after administration of Ginkgo extract (Int. J. Clin. Pharmacol. Res., 1984). Monitoring brain waves on an EEG machine one hour after taking a high dose of Ginkgo shows both alpha and beta brain wave patterns are stronger.

Ginkgo’s ability to improve blood circulation to the brain’s extremities makes it useful for many conditions. Hundreds of scientific studies performed over the past fifty years have demonstrated its effectiveness in treating hearing and vision problems, impotence, edema (water retention), varicose veins, leg ulcers, and circulatory diseases such as stroke and intermittent claudication (pain while walking). In animal studies, ginkgo extract increased the ability of acetylcholine, a brain chemical to bind to a receptor site.

The principle mechanism for the therapeutic action of Ginkgo-lide ß appears to be its ability to inhibit PAF (platelet activating factor). PAF has been implicated in asthma and other allergic reactions.

Ginkgo extract can play an important role in improving circulation and mental acuity in people of all ages. For young people, this translates to enhanced learning ability. In the elderly, it means a keen perception of life.

This article is reprinted from a previous issue of Healthwatch with permission. We felt it deserved further consideration.

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