By Pamela Avonne Williams, M.P.H.
Sometimes when life slows down and we have a moment to think, we often wonder about our health. We think about health care, we think about our health status and we think about ways to stay healthy.
A quick mental review of some of the top ten diseases in the United States reminds us that heart disease is still number one. So we wonder how to successfully combat heart disease and the rest. And there are quite a few things we can do. We can eat a generous supply of fruits and vegetables everyday. We can get 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity each day. We can monitor our blood pressure or make sure the fat levels in our blood are within normal range. The list goes on.
Here’s one idea that may not have made the list: Ginkgo biloba. That’s right. This is the herb has been reported to fight for us in several disease and disorder processes. It is one of the top selling herbs in the United States and there is good reason. Ginkgo has been studied for an impressive list of possible benefits. The list reads like a who’s who on what we want to achieve in the battle against disease.
For example, researchers report positive results in the early stages of dementia and in a disorder called claudication or painful legs due to clogged arteries. Both of these areas have a stack of research papers behind them and the subjects who used ginkgo reported benefits.
Cerebral insufficiency is another area that has been studied. This syndrome is characterized by poor concentration, confusion, fatigue and other symptoms. Researchers suspect that poor circulation to the brain just might be the problem. And of course, ginkgo to the rescue has been shown to improve blood flow1
This improvement of blood flow has led other researchers to believe that ginkgo just might be beneficial for the cardiovascular system. Presently, early animal and human data are leading researchers to believe that ginkgo might help improve heart blood flow to help prevent heart disease. In addition, early research shows that ginkgo may be helpful right after a stroke.
What else does ginkgo do to help our cardiovascular system stay healthy? Ginkgo biloba has been reported to strengthen capillaries, decrease clotting so that blood can flow freely, increase glucose uptake in the cells, help prevent fat degradation, protect the mitochondria from free radical damage, and help reduce inflammation.2
What do we find in ginkgo that has produced these positive results? The leaves from the ginkgo tree contain two groups of compounds that have been attributed to its success. The ginkgo flavone glycosides are responsible for its antioxidant activity and terpene lactones are known to increase circulation and ultimately improve blood flow. These two attributes help our bodies and brain get the nutrients and protection they need for optimal health.2
So when we think about our health and how to win the battle against heart disease and other disorders, adding ginkgo biloba to our defense system may just give us the winning edge.
- Ginko (Ginkgo biloba L.). Mayo Clinic.com. Accessed November 22, 2009.
- Revitalize Your Circulatory System, Brain and Body with Ginkgo Biloba. Smart Publications – Accessed November 19, 2009.