By regulating the tone and elasticity of blood vessels, ginkgo increases blood flow to the brain and extremities, making it particularly useful for circulatory ailments. Research has also shown that ginkgo can enhance the nervous system by promoting the delivery of additional oxygen and blood sugar (glucose) to nerve cells. As an antioxidant, ginkgo mops up the damaging compounds known as free radicals and aids in cell maintenance.
Specifically, ginkgo may help to:
Slow the progression of Alzheimer's symptoms. Controlled studies have shown that because ginkgo aids blood flow to the brain, it can improve memory in some people with this memory-robbing condition. Findings indicate that it is people already suffering from Alzheimer's (and other age-related memory problems) who benefit most, not those who are healthy. In a 12-month study of 202 patients with dementia, many of whom also had Alzheimer's, those given 120 mg of ginkgo biloba extract a day experienced a greater improvement (or stabilization in their mental and social functions) than those given a placebo. The effects were modest and of limited duration, however.
Relieve depression, anxiety, headaches, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and dizziness. Each of these ailments--like Alzheimer's--has been linked to reduced blood flow to the brain. In older adults in particular, this problem is often caused by cholesterol buildup in the arteries. By improving blood circulation (including that to the brain), ginkgo may be useful for treating these disorders in older people especially.
Alleviate the symptoms of Raynaud's disease and intermittent claudication. By improving blood circulation to the extremities, ginkgo helps ease the painful coldness in the hands and feet that is associated with this ailment. It can also reduce the calf cramping and leg weakness of intermittent claudication, a circulatory problem caused by hardening of the leg arteries.
Reduce macular degeneration and control cataracts. Some studies suggest that ginkgo may be of value in treating macular degeneration because it increases blood flow to the nerve-rich fibers of the eyes. The herb's antioxidant capabilities may also help to neutralize the cell-damaging free radicals that are considered a leading cause of this disorder. Ginkgo biloba's powerful antioxidant and circulation-promoting properties may also be of help in treating the blurring and dimming of vision caused by cataracts.
Treat complications due to diabetes. Ginkgo has been shown to be useful in treating diabetic neuropathy, the nerve damage resulting from poor circulation to the extremities that is common in diabetes sufferers. Animal studies have shown that ginkgo may also help prevent diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease that can cause blindness.
Counter impotence. Ginkgo biloba extract may enhance the treatment of erectile dysfunction due to poor blood flow resulting from atherosclerosis of the penis. Ultrasound examinations of 60 impotent men who took ginkgo biloba showed improved penile blood circulation after six weeks. After six months, 50% of the patients had regained potency. Continuing studies are investigating ginkgo's potential in treating this problem.
Reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. By reducing the "stickiness" of the blood, as aspirin does, ginkgo may lower the risk of blood clots and possibly reduce the risk of heart attacks or stroke. Studies are also evaluating the herb's effectiveness in speeding recovery from stroke.
Ease asthmatic attacks. Long used in China for this ailment, ginkgo seems to help relieve the airway spasms and wheezing associated with this lung disease.
Optimize brain power. While there are no studies showing that ginkgo can prevent memory loss in healthy people, proponents suggest it can help mental decline and optimize brain function. These effects may be due to ginkgo's ability to increase blood flow to the brain.
Note: Ginkgo biloba has also been found to be useful for a number of other disorders. For information on these additional ailments, see our Dosage Recommendations Chart for Ginkgo Biloba.
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