The Herbs Section
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Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgo biloba [Latin]), also known as maidenhair tree, is the oldest species of tree on earth today; itís been around since the days of the dinosaur. Ginkgo is immune to the effects of most diseases and parasitesóa tree can live to be a thousand years old! Perhaps itís not surprising, then, that this tree is used to promote longevity in humans as well.
For thousands of years the Chinese have used ginkgo leaves to treat disorders associated with aging. Today numerous scientific studies have shown that ginkgo does indeed help to slow memory loss in those suffering from Alzheimerís, multi-infarct dementia (MID), and age-associated memory impairment (AAMI). Some studies suggest that ginkgo may even help reverse the effects of these illnesses to some extent.
Ginkgo fights against age-related disease in two ways. First, flavonoids in ginkgo act as antioxidants in the body and fight against the free-radical damage that causes the body to break down with age.
Second, ginkgo interferes with the action of a substance produced in the body called platelet activation factor (PAF), which can lead to excessive clotting in the blood and an accumulation of cholesterolóboth conditions that may contribute to the development of atherosclerosis.
Recent research indicates that ginkgo can also help treat a condition closely associated with atherosclerosis, called cerebral insufficiency. Cerebral insufficiency is characterized by poor concentration, confusion, loss of coordination, fatigue, headache, dizziness, depression, and anxiety. It is thought to be caused by clogged blood vessels that decrease blood flow to the brain.
Ginkgo increases blood supply and circulation to all parts of the body, including the heart, eyes, brain, and penis. (There is strong evidence that ginkgo can help boost a declining libido in men and women.) It protects against a broad range of illnesses associated with aging, including macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Many laboratory studies have shown that ginkgo supplementation can improve brain function. In one study, taking 120 to 240 milligrams daily helped slow the progression of early stage Alzheimerís disease and multi-infarct dementia. It was also found to improve memory in people with Age-associated memory impairment (AAMI).
Ginkgo may help enhance the memory of healthy people as well, but only in doses of 240 milligrams or more. Commission E, a group that evaluates the safety and efficacy of herbs for the German government, recommends ginkgo for the treatment of Alzheimers, multi-infarct dementia, and memory loss. Commission E also recommends the use of ginkgo for treatment of tinnitis (ringing in the ears), stroke, and intermittent claudication, a condition that is caused by poor circulation and is characterized by leg pain and swelling.
Ginkgo has been used to treat sexual dysfunction in both men and women. Studies have shown that ginkgo helps relax blood vessels in the penis and improve blood flow to Itís ability to increase blood flow may make it an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction, based on studies that show blood vessel relaxant properties, which may improve blood flow in the penis to achieve an erection. Some studies have shown that ginkgo also helps treat sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressant drugs.
Ginkgo is available as ginkgo leaf, ginkgo leaf extract, and ginkgo seed, and the typical dose is 240 milligrams of standardized ginkgo leaf extract daily. Ginkgo is also widely available in teas, and ginkgo-fortified foods.
People taking blood-thinning medications should avoid this supplement, as it can increase the effects of this medication. Some people have also reported minor side effects, such as nausea and diarrhea, but these normally subside when the dosage is reduced or when use of the herb is discontinued.
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