Ginkgo: Herbal Remedies


©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Ginkgo can be used in herbal remedies to help  improve circulation, memory and more.

The lovely gingko tree is one of the oldest living species of tree. Once it may have covered the globe, but it became nearly extinct after the Ice Age, surviving only in parts of Asia. Ginkgo was a favorite plant of Chinese monks, who cultivated the tree for food and herbal remedies.

The ginkgo tree now has established itself as a useful urban landscape plant, gracing city streets and parks. Because ginkgo is resistant to drought, disease, and pollution, it can live as long as a thousand years. Ginkgo is now grown on plantations to supply the ever-increasing demand for this beautiful and useful tree.

But beauty isn't ginkgo's only asset. The seed or nut is used in Chinese medicine. The nuts also are used in Oriental cooking. And Ginkgo's leaves are also used as a valuable herbal remedy for ailments such as improving circulation, and, as a result, even memory.

Uses for Ginkgo

Ginkgo leaf has been the subject of extensive modern clinical research in Europe. Its most striking clinical effect is its ability to dilate blood vessels and improve circulation and vascular integrity in the head, heart, and extremities. Reduced circulation to the head is responsible for many of the mental and neurological symptoms of aging, including memory loss, depression, and impaired hearing. Double-blind clinical trials -- considered the most reliable method of scientific research -- have shown that ginkgo can help ease these conditions when they are due to impaired circulation.

Ginkgo also has other actions on the brain, including strengthening the vessels and promoting the action of neurotransmitters -- chemical compounds responsible for the transmission of nerve impulses between the brain and other nerve cells.

Because it increases circulation in the heart and limbs, ginkgo may be useful for ischemic heart disease or intermittent claudication, conditions that can occur when blood flow to the muscles is reduced because atherosclerosis has narrowed the arteries. Ginkgo dilates the clogged arteries and allows more blood flow to the muscles. Ginkgo also affects the blood by reducing its tendency to clot, another benefit in atherosclerotic disease.

Constituents in ginkgo also are potent antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects. A common current scientific theory attributes many of the signs of aging and chronic disease to the oxidation of cell membranes by substances called free radicals. These may arise from pollutants in the atmosphere or from the normal production of metabolic by-products and wastes. Antioxidant vitamins and other substances, including ginkgo, currently are being investigated for their ability to counter inflammation and destruction or damage to cells from oxidation.

To learn how to safely take ginkgo and other precautions, read the next section.

To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.

Preparations and Warnings for Ginkgo

Like all herbs, gingko should be handled and taken with care.

Ginkgo Preparations and Dosage

Ginkgo leaf is available in teas, tinctures, extracts, and capsules. Ginkgo leaves, however, contain toxic substances called alkylphenols. It is best to take ginkgo in capsules, which are standardized for their flavonoid content, because manufacturers remove the alkylphenols during the standardization process.

The unstandardized forms frequently cause headache and gastrointestinal upset. Look for capsules with 24 percent flavonoid content. To receive the same benefits attributed to standardized ginkgo capsules, you would have to consume large quantities of tincture, tea, or powder. These quantities would place you at greater risk for side effects, such as serious headaches and gastrointestinal upset. Most of the studies used 120 mg per day of the 24-percent extract, though some studies used up to 240 mg. Two 60-mg capsules per day or three 40-mg capsules per day is enough for most people.

Ginkgo Precautions and Warnings

For most people, ginkgo is considered safe in recommended doses. If you have memory loss, depression, or the symptoms of atherosclerosis, you should see a physician for a diagnosis and treatment before starting a ginkgo supplement, as these may be signs of serious medical conditions. Patients with a diagnosis of benign senility may safely take ginkgo.

If you have had a stroke or think you are prone to them, don't take ginkgo without your physician's permission. Although it thins the blood, which could be beneficial for one kind of stroke, it also increases circulation to the brain, which could promote another kind.

Side Effects of Ginkgo

Ginkgo promotes circulation in the head and possibly could worsen congestive headaches in those who are prone to them. Because ginkgo inhibits platelets from grouping, it may cause problems for people with clotting disorders or those who take blood-thinning medications. Large quantities of ginkgo may cause irritability, restlessness, diarrhea, and nausea and vomiting.

To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:

Jennifer Brett, N.D. is director of the Acupuncture Institute for the University of Bridgeport, where she also serves on the faculty for the College of Naturopathic Medicine. A recognized leader in her field with an extensive background in treating a wide variety of disorders utilizing nutritional and botanical remedies, Dr. Brett has appeared on WABC TV (NYC) and on Good Morning America to discuss utilizing herbs for health.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.