The Great and the Good of Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo Biloba is one of the world’s favourite supplements. For many years now it has featured as one of the top ten selling supplements in Europe and the US and in Germany is used by many doctors as a licensed medicine. Over 1.5 million kilograms of Ginkgo leaves are harvested for medicinal purposes worldwide every year, about a third of which are used in Germany.
A historical herb
Ginkgo Biloba comes from the leaves of the Maidenhair Tree, a tree which is something of a biological curiosity. It is widely reported to be one of the oldest existing plant species, fossils of which have been found dating back 250 million years. It is also said to be one of the few things to have remained intact after the nuclear explosion in Hiroshima in Japan in 1945, where a Maidenhair Tree situated less than a kilometer from the blast survived seemingly unharmed.
The herb has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years and it was first brought to Europe in the 1700’s where it was used for the treatment of many conditions including asthma, increasing energy, and improving memory. Over the past 30 years there have been several hundred clinical studies looking into the health benefits of Ginkgo across a range of conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke prevention and sexual dysfunction.
What are the benefits?
Ginkgo works primarily by regulating the tone and elasticity of the blood vessels throughout the body’s network. This improves the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the organs and outer extremities. The benefits of this can be seen most obviously in the brain where increased blood and oxygen supply can lead to improved short and long term memory, increased reaction time and improved mental clarity. Ginkgo Biloba Extract is often recommend to treat elderly persons with Alzheimer’s Disease or Cerebral Insufficiency. Cerebral Insufficiency is a general term for a collection of symptoms that include difficulties in concentration and memory, absentmindedness, lack of energy, depressive mood, anxiety, dizziness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and headache. This occurs most commonly as people get older and is usually caused by a narrowing of blood vessels to the brain.
“This improves the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the organs and outer extremities.”
In addition to treating people with ecognised clinical conditions relating to cognitive function, Ginkgo can be used across all adult age groups by anyone wanting to improve their memory or mental performance. Sometimes Ginkgo Biloba Extract is combined with Ginseng to increase it’s effectiveness and this is particularly good for people under stress. Taking Ginkgo in combination with Omega 3 or Lecithin is also a good idea for helping with memory and concentration as these other supplements work to improve the structure of the brain cells and the communication system, also enhancing memory and concentration.
As well as helping with cognitive function, Ginkgo can be very beneficial in many other conditions related to circulation problems. It is often used to treat Raynaud’s Disease, a condition where insufficient blood supply to the hands and feet causes numbness, pain and occasionally gangrene.
It can also be helpful in treating erecticle problems, improving the blood flow to the penis thus prolonging erections in men with Erectile Dysfunction. Ginkgo can also benefit eye health, reducing early stage Macular Degeneration and the risk of Cataracts by improving the blood supply to eyes. It is also thought to be particularly helpful in people with Diabetes, helping to reduce the risk of the severe problems that can associated with this disease, such as blindness and limb amputation.
Aside from its powerful effect on circulation, Ginkgo can work in a similar way to Aspirin, helping to lessen the ‘stickiness of the blood’, reducing the risk of heart disease and strokes. Also, taking Ginkgo after a stroke has been shown to increase the speed of recovery.
Last and by no means least, Ginkgo is a powerful antioxidant. This means it will help reduce the risk of premature ageing and degenerative diseases. New research has shown that it can help reduce the risk of certain cancers and also arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Ginkgo Biloba is clearly a very powerful and versatile herb, deserving to be one of the most popular supplements on the market. Just one word of caution to anyone thinking of taking this supplement, if you are on any medication, particularly any drugs for blood thinning or to lower blood pressure, please check with your doctor before taking Ginkgo. Also, please be aware that it can sometimes take up to 3 months to notice significant improvement. Otherwise this is a great supplement to take on a long term basis as millions of people around the world have already discovered.