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Ginkgo Bilboa If you think you've lost a little bounce in your step or little quickness in your brain function? Then you should give ginkgo a try. As long as you don't have any serious medical problems, exercising and eating right will ward off some of the physical signs of aging. Mental fitness is much more difficult to maintain - unless you know the secret of the gingko.

In China, the gingko tree is considered sacred, and it's easy to see why. The tree has survived in that part of the world for 200 million years. A single tree can live for more than 1,000 years, surviving even on the side of a traffic-jammed city street. It seems only natural that anything that's survived so long holds some secrets to longevity.

Traditional Chinese doctors have been unlocking the mysteries of the ginkgo in the Orient for more than a millennium. The Chinese use gingko to relieve chilblains - the swelling of hands and feet after exposure to moist, cold weather. They also use gingko as a digestive aid and a preventive for drunkenness. Skin and head sore shave been treated with gingko as have diarrhea, urinary incontinence, a type of vaginal discharge, and infections.

But it's only been in the past 20 years that Western studies have proven what the Chinese have known all along -gingko offers significant health benefits that can help you live longer and better.

One way gingko increases longevity is by helping your body get rid of cell-destroying free radicals. The extract from the gingko tree is a "free radical scavenger" or natural antioxidant. Gingko inactivates free radicals, protects the genetic material in cells, and helps slow down aging. One study showed that gingko supplements were more effective than either beta carotene or vitamin E in reducing free radicals in the body.

Gingko fights aging:

Improves circulation. Gingko gets your juices flowing better in four ways.

First, it widens your blood vessels so more blood can get through. Scientists have isolated a group of compounds called flavonoids in gingko extract. These flavonoids force the blood vessels to relax, which allows them to carry more blood.

Gingko also makes the blood less sticky by keeping platelets separated. Platelets normally help blood clot by clumping together at the site of a cut or scrape. The clotting is triggered by a substance called platelet activating factor, or PAF. While PAF is a good thing to have in your body when you have an injury, it can also cause the platelets to clump within your blood vessels. Normally, there isn't enough clumping to cause a problem. But if you already have reduced blood flow, this platelet clumping can gum up the works even further. Gingko makes the platelets keep their distance by blocking PAF. Doctors often prescribe blood thinning drugs for people as they get older, but by blocking PAF, gingko is a natural blood thinner.

Third, gingko keeps LDL cholesterol from clumping up on blood vessel walls, keeping the veins and arteries wide open for maximum blood flow.

Finally, gingko keeps LDL cholesterol from clumping up on blood vessel walls, keeping the veins and arteries wide open for maximum blood flow.

Boosts brain power Like any other part of the body, the brain needs adequate blood flow, or it can't function properly. Unfortunately, your body has a hard time sending the brain all the blood it needs as you get older. Imagine the drain pipe from your kitchen sink. Over time, water begins to drain through the pipe a little slower. It happens in everybody's kitchen. If you pour a little drain opener down the sink, the water starts to flow faster. That's what gingko can do for blood flow to your brain.

Clinical studies show that extracts of the gingko tree can increase blood flow to the brain. What's more, the older you are, the better gingko appears to work. One study found that blood flow the brain was increased by about 20 percent for people ages 30 to 50, but for people ages 50 to 70, the increase was 70 percent. In another study, a group of elderly men with age-related memory loss took gingko supplements. The gingko actually sped up how fast their brains could process information taken in by their eyes.

More blood flow means more brain power and better short-term memory. It specifically means protection against what doctors call "cerebral insufficiency" or dementia." Most people have some degree of dementia in their later years.

The 12 symptoms of cerebral insufficiency which gingko may improve are:

difficulty concentrating



lack of energy


decreased physical performance

sadness or depression



tinnitus (ringing in the ears)


Alzheimer's disease, though it remains controversial, evidence points toward gingko as prevention or early therapy for Alzheimer's disease. One study followed 40 people with Alzheimer's. Some took 80 milligrams of gingko extract three times a day, while some took a placebo, a harmless unmedicated pill. The people who took the gingko had improved memory and were able to pay attention more than those who took the placebo. Some researchers speculate that gingko actually increases the number of brain receptors responsible for memory. People who are just beginning to experience symptoms of Alzheimer's might consider taking gingko to boos brainpower and delay further loss of memory.

Intermittent claudication. Do you have leg pain or constant cramping in your calf muscles after even a short walk? As many people get older, their legs don't get an adequate blood supply because of hardened or blocked blood vessels. This painful condition is called intermittent claudication. Fifteen clinical studies show that gingko extract relieves the symptoms of intermittent claudication.

Raynaud's disease. People who have this disease of the blood vessels react very strongly to colder temperatures. Even moderately cold temperatures can trigger spasms in the blood vessels of their fingers, which prevent proper blood flow. The fingers can turn blue or white and be very painful. By dilating the blood vessels, gingko helps get blood to the tips of the fingers to relieve the pain and restore the normal color to the skin.

Varicose veins. One of the compounds in gingko extract, tebonin, is particularly helpful in relieving the unsightly, and sometimes painful, varicose veins that plague people in their prime.

Lowers cholesterol. Gingko can cut some of the guilt out of Thanksgiving dinner. In one study, researchers tested people's blood levels of fat and cholesterol before the holiday season. They tested again a few weeks later after everyone had enjoyed all of the rich holiday meals and snacks. The people who took gingko had lower cholesterol levels after the holidays than those who didn't take gingko. Other studies confirm that gingko can lower blood cholesterol levels. If you have high cholesterol, gingko may help you bring it under control.

Heart disease. Like other flavonoids, gingko can reduce the risk of heart disease. One study showed that people who get the most flavonoids have about one-third the risk of heart disease compared with people who get the least flavonoids. Flavonoids are helpful, natural compounds found in citrus fruits, onions, apples, and tea, as well as in supplements like gingko, grape seed seed extract, bilberry, and others.

Dizziness. Dizziness is a natural side effect of reduced blood flow to the brain. That's why it's so common among older people. Dizziness can lead to falls, and that's especially dangerous if you have osteoporosis. It doesn't take much of a fall to break a hip or crack a vertebra if you have brittle bones. While gingko won't strengthen your bones, it can increase your blood flow, reduce the dizziness, and return you to your sure-footed self.

Prevents blindness. When the eyes don't receive enough oxygen from the blood, the retina can be damaged, often robbing people of their sight as they get older. Since gingko increases blood flow. more oxygen can get to the eyes.

Headaches. You don't have to be old to have headaches, but the reduced blood flow associated with aging can certainly make headaches more common. Gingko can help alleviate this type of headache

Impotence. It may be comforting to know that many men experience impotence or decreased rigidity as they age, but the only real comfort is something that restores the vigor to your sex life. Gingko may be just what you're looking for. Even men who haven't been helped by conventional drug treatment have responded to gingko, but the results didn't happen overnight. You'll have to take at lease 240 mg daily for several months.

Since not all cases of impotence are caused by decreased blood flow the penis, gingko will not work for every man. But if your doctor says you have arterial erectile impotence, you may discover a real aphrodisiac in gingko.

Tinnitus and hearing disorders. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears that won't go away, is an annoying problem that doctors sometimes find difficult to treat with traditional medicine. That's why some doctors are turning to gingko to help their patients.

One doctor in Texas, who treats a fair number of people tinnitus, was dead set against "alternative" medicine until his son, a distributor of herbal products, convinced him to prescribe gingko tablets. The son cited a European study that showed good results in relieving tinnitus. The doctor began recommending gingko, and many of his patients found complete relief. Others may still have some ringing, but it's much less than they had before they began taking gingko.

People who have hearing disorders related to low blood flow to the ears can also find relief after taking gingko for several months. Vertigo, a type of dizziness sometimes related to problems in the inner ear, might also be relieved by gingko.

Diabetes. Though there's no evidence that gingko can cure diabetes, it can be useful in treating a heart problem called diabetic angiopathy that is often associated with diabetes. And it can help prevent one of the most common

problems faced by people with diabetes - poor circulation. In some cases, poor circulation can lead to amputation of limbs. Gingko has been shown to increase blood flow to the arms and legs of people with diabetes by 45 percent.

Asthma relief. The same substance that causes platelets to clot, PAF, can also trigger asthma. PAF causes spasms in the sacs that make up the lungs. By blocking PAF, gingko can prevent these spasms and make it easier to breathe.

Your Action Plan. If you were in Europe, you could buy gingko extract as an over-the-counter drug, or your doctor might prescribe it. In fact, it is one of the most prescribed drugs in Germany. In North America, you'll have to make a trip to your local health food store or herb shop to find gingko.

How Much is Enough? In the health studies on gingko, researchers most often used 40 mg three times a day. You might need a higher dosage for some disorders, like impotence. Gingko is a supplement you can add to your list of daily vitamins and herbs, but don't wait until you feel bad to take it. You will probably have to take the supplements for four to six weeks before you notice any difference in your health.

The Wise Gingko Consumer. When you shop for gingko, keep in mind that all extracts are not the same. What you should look for is gingko biloba extract (gingko biloba is the scientific name for the tree, referring to the two parts or lobes of the leaf). Gingko biloba extract is sometimes referred to as GBE or GBX. The extract should be 24 percent flavoglycosides, 10 percent of which should be quercetin. It should also contain 6 percent terpenoids. Somewhere on the label, you should see "50:1 concentrate" and "tannin-free." The 50:1 ratio refers to the 50 pounds of leaves needed to produce 1 pound of extract.

Don't worry about side effects. At the normal doses, there haven't been any reports of severe side effects.

Note: It is not our intention to prescribe or make specific health claims for any products. Any attempt to diagnose and treat illness should come under the direction of your health care practitioner.

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