Ginkgo Biloba: A Prehistoric Healer

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Ginkgo Biloba is one of the oldest plants in existence, as it is believed to have been unchanged for the past 270 million years.  This living fossil, which has no close living relatives, is a resilient plant, having survived several mass extinctions and was apparently the only living tree found near the epicenter of the Hiroshima nuclear blast.  It has been reported that a single ginkgo biloba tree can live more than 1,000 years and grow to a height of 120 feet.

Although you might not know much about this plant’s healing properties, Chinese herbal medicine has used both the ginkgo leaf and seed in traditional healing therapies for thousands of years.  As well, ginkgo supplements are currently some of the best-selling herbal medications in North America and Europe.

So, why is this ancient plant becoming so popular now, in the 21st century?  Well, for starters, we, in the western world, are seeing a shift in our medical practices, adopting more and more traditional herbal remedies.  As this shift occurs, we are able to use our western scientific practices to isolate and describe the chemical properties of these plants and how they can improve health and cure disease.  We now know that gingko contains two types of chemicals, flavonoids and terpenoids.  Flavonoids are potent antioxidants that can protect nerves, heart muscle, blood vessels, and the retina from damage; terpenoids improve blood flow by dilating blood vessels and reducing the stickiness of platelets.  Recently, research has identified over 100 conditions that can be improved with ginkgo consumption.  Some of those conditions are as follows:

Boosting cognitive function/fighting Alzheimers & Dementia:

Although not all studies are in agreeance, there is some evidence to support the claims that ginkgo supplementation improves memory and helps support brain health.  Ginkgo is often promoted as a brain booster in North America and is commonly used in Europe to fight dementia.  Gingko was first used to improve brain health because it increases blood flow to the brain, but now some studies suggest that it may directly protect nerve cells that are damaged in Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s suggested that Gingko supplementation can help provide improvement in thinking, learning, and memory (cognitive function), improvement in activities of daily living, improvement in social behavior, and fewer feelings of depression.

Intermittent Claudication:

Intermittent claudication is a condition of pain in the legs due to a lack of blood flow; often sufferers have a hard time walking without experiencing a great deal of pain.  Due to the fact that gingko is known to increase blood flow, it is often used to treat the condition.  Gingko is so effective at improving the low blood flow associated with intermittent claudication, that several studies indicate people taking ginkgo are able to walk approximately 34 meters farther than those taking placebo, and even suggest that gingko is just as effective as the prescription medicine commonly used to treat the condition.

Degenerative Eye Conditions:

Macular degeneration, often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), and glaucoma are conditions involving damage to the eye’s retina and optic nerve respectively.  Both conditions typically affect the older population and are degenerative in nature.  There is some evidence that Gingko supplementation can help improve or at the very least, help preserve vision in ARMD and glaucoma patients.  More research is needed on this topic.

Tinnitus:

Tinnitus is an auditory condition characterized by a ringing, hissing, or other sound in the ears.  Tinnitus is typically caused by nerve damage and certain blood vessel disorders, and is a very difficult condition to treat.  Due to its blood flow increasing properties, gingko has been investigated as a possible treatment of tinnitus, but studies have mixed results.  There is some potential here but it is clear that more research is needed.

Gingko certainly has some promise.  We encourage you to do some more research and learn more about this living fossil.  You never know, it might just be the final step to bringing you to health.

Sources:

http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/ginkgo-biloba-000247.htm

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/substance/ginkgo-biloba

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