Terry Willard, ClH, PhD
Most of us suffer from bouts of forgetfulnes.
Most of us suffer from bouts of forgetfulness. The standard joke in the health food industry is: “Did you forget your ginkgo?”
As 30 years of extensive research into the ancient herb has shown, Ginkgo biloba does have an incredible capacity to stimulate memory. A reliable tool for reducing mild forgetfulness, ginkgo has also been extolled for its role in aiding with moderate cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
Considered a living fossil and revered by the Chinese as a sacred tree of longevity, the ginkgo tree has survived virtually unchanged for over 200 million years.
The main modern application of ginkgo is as Ginkgo biloba extract (Gbx). Extremely concentrated to enhance a group of flavonoids called ginkgolide heterosides (ginkgosides), and a group of lactone terpenes, it requires 50 lb to 75 lb of the leaves to produce one pound of Gbx. For a product to be effective, its content should include 24 percent ginkgosides and six percent terpenes.
Flavonoids–also present in red grapes–have long been considered great antioxidants, ideal for protecting and repairing the microcirculation in small blood vessels. What makes ginkgo special is that its flavonoids have a stronger biological activity than most other flavonoids, with a specific affinity for the capillary beds of the brain.
The brain is one of the hungriest organs in our body. For proper function, it needs to be continuously bathed in oxygen and nutrient-rich blood. Little malfunctions in the circulation of the capillaries can cause all kinds of problems in the brain, including memory damage. By repairing these small malfunctions in brain circulation, ginkgo increases brain function, including memory. An excellent review of ginkgo’s extraordinary brainpower can be found in JM Snow’s Ginkgo biloba monograph in The Protocol Journal of Botanical Medicine in 1998.
In addition, ginkgo has been credited with enhancing brain neural transmitter function. Neural transmitters are the chemicals that allow one nerve to communicate with another. Ginkgo increases both the amount of neural transmission and the number of receptor sites available for neural transmission, which in turn increases memory. It also increases dopamine synthesis in the brain, catecholamine neurotransmitters, and cholinergic receptor sites in the brain, thus enhancing brain neural transmissions. Levels of glucose and adenosine triphosphate (ATP)–the molecule used by individual cells for energy–are also boosted by gingko.
By stabilizing the blood brain barrier–the system of capillary endothelial cells that protect the brain from harmful substances in the bloodstream–Gbx lowers swelling in the brain, one of the most significant causes of aging. The reduction in swelling decreases toxic build-up, ionic exchange problems, and the associated neurological consequences. Again, this dramatically improves brain function.
Even though ginkgo is one of the most beneficial herbs for the brain, its value is not confined to the brain. The ginkgosides work as herbal antioxidants throughout the entire body. As it enhances capillary circulation, gingko helps all organs that have rich blood supplies, including the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, and spleen.
Gbx also reactivates the norepinephrine and beta-receptors that produce dilation of airways in the lungs as well as dilation of peripheral blood vessels, essential for muscular circulation. Hemorrhoids have also been successfully treated by the oral use of Gbx, with patients reporting cessation of bleeding and pain.
Ginkgo has been clinically shown to be appropriate for ringing in the ears (tinnitus), a common, but difficult problem to solve. In several studies undertaken in France in the late 1970s, 40 to 74 percent of patients suffering persistent ringing in the ears, vertigo, and hearing loss noticed a significant improvement with the use of ginkgo.
The wonder-herb has also been found to be beneficial for treating headaches, hearing loss, depression, allergies, atherosclerosis, cardiac arrhythmias, diabetic peripheral vascular disease, eczema, glaucoma, impotency, retinitis, and neuralgia, as well as the first stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Ginkgo products usually come in tablet or capsule form. The normal therapeutic dosage is 40 mg to 120 mg, two to three times daily.
Over the past 30 years, gingko has proved its effectiveness for large numbers of people in increasing memory, aiding circulation, and treating a wide range of health problems.