Thursday, June 3, 2010
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is one of the oldest living tree species and its leaves are among the most extensively studied botanicals in use today. In Europe and the United States, ginkgo supplements are among the best-selling herbal medications. It consistently ranks as a top medicine prescribed in France and Germany.
Ginkgo has been used in traditional medicine to treat circulatory disorders and enhance memory. Scientific studies throughout the years have found evidence to support these uses. Although not all studies agree, ginkgo may be especially effective in treating dementia (including Alzheimer's disease) and intermittent claudication (poor circulation in the legs). It also shows promise for enhancing memory in older adults. Laboratory studies have shown that ginkgo improves blood circulation by dilating blood vessels and reducing the stickiness of blood platelets.
Ginkgo leaves contain two types of chemicals (flavonoids and terpenoids) believed to have potent antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that scavenge free radicals -- compounds in the body that damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. Free radicals occur naturally in the body and grow in number as we age. But environmental toxins (including ultraviolet light, radiation, cigarette smoking, and air pollution) can also increase the number of free radicals. Free radicals are believed to contribute to health problems including heart disease and cancer as well as Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Antioxidants such as those found in ginkgo can help neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.