Ginkgo, Criculation enhancer

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Ginkgo
(circulation enhancer")
The fan-shaped leaves of this common tree have garnered lots of attention lately as a brain booster: One well-publicized study, for example, found ginkgo extract to enhance mental and social functioning in Alzheimer's patients suffering from reduced blood flow to the brain. In my experience, ginkgo can make a real difference in a number of symptoms caused by inad­equate cerebral blood flow (a common concern in older people), such as memory loss, concentration problems, and confusion. I also think it is useful for two other circulation-related conditions, ringing in the ears and vertigo, which can strike at any age. As for the many healthy younger people who are taking ginkgo as a "smart drug" to improve their memory or make them more alert, however, I'm afraid you're out of luck: I'm not convinced that this herb will offer any significant benefit to a normally functioning brain.




HISTORY & RESEARCH
Originating in China 200 million years ago, ginkgo —which you'll now find planted along many city streets in this country— is the world's oldest living tree species. In China, ginkgo seeds and fruits have been used as both food and medicine since 2800 B.C., but it's the dried green leaves, first extracted in Europe about 30 years ago, that are the source of today's herbal medicine. A number of studies conducted in Europe have shown that the herb's active ingre­dients—flavonoids and terpene lactones—exert an antioxidant effect, inhibit blood clotting, and improve circulation by making the membranes of red blood cells more elastic. One 1992 review of 40 controlled studies concluded that ginkgo was as valid a treatment for reduced blood flow to the brain (which can lead to dementia) as a widely prescribed pharmaceutical drug, and last year a major study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that Alzheimer's patients who took the herb showed improvements in reasoning ability and daily living skills over a six-month trial period. (My belief is that this effect may have been due to ginkgo's

improving symptoms of atherosclerosis in the subjects rather than affecting the course of Alzheimer's disease itself.)
There's much less evidence, on the other hand, for ginkgo as an all-purpose brain booster. One 1988 study did find that young volunteers who took a large single dose of the extract (600 mg) performed bet­ter on short-term memory tests. However, I would advise healthy adults that there are simpler, cheaper, and more reliable ways to keep your brain in top form, such as eating a nutritious diet and getting plenty of rest.
On the other hand, ginkgo can be use­ful for circulation-related conditions else­where in the body: One researcher at the University of California at San Francisco is currently studying ginkgo as a treatment for sexual dysfunction in men and women caused by antidepressants—a syndrome which may be vascular in origin—and has reported favorable early results. People with intermittent claudication (painful leg cramps due to poor circulation) may also find ginkgo helpful.
EEQESSSO In all cases, the dosage I recommend is the same: 120 to 240 mg of ginkgo leaf extract a day, in two or three separate doses. Ginkgo works slowly; however, so expect to wait at least eight weeks before seeing improvement. Older people may want to experiment with using ginkgo preventatively as a daily tonic.


buying   tips
CAUTIONS
Ginkgo rarely causes any side effects, with the exception per­haps of mild stomach upset or headache. It may have additive effects when combined with prescribed anticoagulants, especially Coumadin, so use cau­tion if you are taking this category of drug.
DR. ANDREW WEIL'S CONSUMER GUIDE TO HERBAL MEDICINES
21
Look for capsules or tablets whose labels say "24/6," which means the product has been standardized to contain 24 percent flavone glycosides and 6 percent terpenes.
The product used in most European studies is manufac­tured in the United States as Ginkgold (Nature's Way) and Ginkoba (Pharmaton Natural Health Products).
Avoid unprocessed ginkgo products such as teas: They contain ginkgolic acids, which are potent allergens related to a chemical in poison ivy.

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