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Ginkgo Biloba - The Longevity Herb

by Klaus Ferlow(more info)

listed in herbal medicine, originally published in issue 187 - October 2011

Words Of Wisdom
When we open up our consciousness and dwell in the beauties of Nature, we allow healing to enter our lives.


History
It is also called the Elixir of Youth - modern medicine from an ancient tree. Think you have lost a little spring in your step? What about a little bounce in your brain? As long as you don't have any serious medical problems, exercising and eating right will ward off some of the physical signs of ageing. Mental fitness is much more difficult to maintain - unless you know the secrets of the ginkgo biloba.

In China, the ginkgo tree is considered sacred, and it's easy to see why. The name comes from the Chinese word "Sankyo" or "Yinkuo" (Yin Guo), meaning " apricot "or silver fruit."

The Latin name ginkgo biloba L (formerly Salisburia adiantifolia Sm) was bestowed in 1771 by Linnaeus, the famous Swedish botanist. Engelbert Kaempfer, (1651-1716) a German botanist, physician and traveller was the first European to discover and  categorize the ginkgo biloba tree, discovering the tree in China in 1690. He lived from 1690-1692 in Japan and described the ginkgo biloba tree in his book Amoenitatum Exoticarum  in 1712 using the Japanese name ginkyo. In Europe, where the tree has gained immense popularity especially France and Germany nowadays, in Germany Medical doctors prescribe ginkgo biloba in increasing numbers. The oldest European ginkgo biloba tree, found in Holland in the Utrecht Botanical Gardens in 1730, was introduced in England in 1754 and into America in 1784.

The ginkgo, or maidenhair tree, is one of the oldest living species on this planet! During the last ice age, however, it nearly became extinct and survived only in China and other parts of Asia where they stayed until at least 1000 years ago, when they were planted around monasteries in Japan and these trees are still living. It is estimated that the tree survived in parts of China for 200 million years; a single tree can live up to 1500 years. Ginkgo biloba tree is known to have existed between 150 - 250 million years ago according to recent geological studies, the scientific name is ginkgoaceac belongs to the ginkgophytes class. It is so hardy that a solitary ginkgo was the only tree to survive the atomic blast of Hiroshima. It therefore seems only natural that anything that's survived so long hold some secrets to longevity. Ginkgo biloba is a worldwide herbal star offering top medicine and this youth promoting herbals has been used safely for over 3000 years and has undergone extensive laboratory testing.

One way gingko increases longevity is by helping your body get rid of cell-destroying free radicals (cancer cells - we all have them in our bloodstream). The extract from the tree is a 'free radical scavenger' and antioxidant. It inactivates free radicals, protects the genetic material in cells, and helps slow down aging. Let's investigate what the ginkgo biloba tree can offer us all.

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

Second, it also makes the blood vessels sticky by keeping platelets separated. Platelets normally help blood clots by clumping together at the site of a cut or scrape. The clotting is triggered by a substance called platelet activating factor or PAF. White PAF is a good thing to have in your body when you have a injury, it can also cause the platelets to clump with your blood vessels. Normally, there it is not enough clumping to cause a problem. But if you already have reduced blood flow, this platelets clumping can gum up the works even further. Ginkgo make the platelets keep their distance by blocking PAF. Medical doctors often prescribe blood thinning drugs for people as they get older to avoid thickening of the blood and you need to drink enough fluid every day which many elderly don't. But by blocking PAF, ginkgo acts as a natural blood thinner.

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

Boosting Brain Power
Like any 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 kitchen sink. Over time, water begins to drain through the pipe a little slower and it happens in everybody's kitchen. If you pour a little drain opener down the sink, the water starts to flow faster. That's exactly what ginkgo can do for your blood flow to your brain!

Clinical studies show that the extract of the ginkgo tree can increase blood flow to the brain. What's more, the older you are, the better ginkgo appears to work. One study found that blood flow to the brain was increased by about 20% for people ages 30 to 50, but for people ages 51-70 and older, the increase was a astounding 70%!

More blood flow means brain power and better short-term memory. It especially means protection against what doctors call 'cerebral insufficiency' or dementia. Many people, especially women have some degree of dementia in their later years.

Here are the twelve symptoms of cerebral insufficiency which ginkgo may improve:

  • Difficult concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Tiredness
  • Sadness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Absent mindedness
  • Lack of energy
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased physical performance
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
  • Depression

Alzheimer's Disease
One of the studies came to the conclusion that women receiving for three years or more HRT  (Hormone Replacement Therapy) increase their risk to become a Alzheimer's patient by 50%, broadcasted on CKNW 98 (Vancouver Radio Show) by Art Hister MD!!

Though it remains controversial, evidence points toward ginkgo as preservation or early natural therapy for Alzheimer's disease. One study followed 40 people with Alzheimer's and some took 80 milligrams of ginkgo extract three times a day, while others took a placebo, a harmless unmedicated pill. The people who took ginkgo had improved memory and were able to pay attention more than those who took the placebo. Some researches speculate that ginkgo actually increases the number of brain receptors responsible for memory. People who are just beginning to experience symptoms of Alzheimer's might consider taking ginkgo to boost brain power 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 have shown that ginkgo extract relieves the symptoms of this disease.

Raynaud's Disease
People who have this disease of the blood vessels react very strongly to colder temperatures. Even moderately cold temperatures can trigger spasm 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, ginkgo helps to the tips of the fingers to relieve pain and restore he normal colour to the skin.

Varicose and Spider Veins
One of the compounds in the ginkgo extract 'tebonin', is particularly helpful in relieving the unsightly and sometime painful varicose and spider veins that plague people, especially women in their prime.

Lowers Cholesterol
Ginkgo can cut some of the guild out of Thanksgiving dinner. In one study researchers tested peoples 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 ginkgo had lower cholesterol levels  than those who did not take it. Other studies confirm that ginkgo can lower blood cholesterol levels. If you have high cholesterol , ginkgo may help you to bring it under control.

Heart Disease
Like other flavonoids, ginkgo can reduce the risk of heart disease. One study showed that people who get the most flavonoids have one third the risk of heart disease compared to people who get the least flavonoids since they are helpful, natural compounds found in citrus fruits, onions, apples, teas, as well as supplements like ginkgo, grapeseed extract, bilberry, and others.

Dizziness
Is a natural side effect of reduced blood flow to the brain. That's why it is so common among older people. Dizziness can lead to falls, and that is especially dangerous if you have osteoporosis. It does not take much a fall to break a hip or crack a vertebrae if you have brittle bones. While ginkgo won't strengthen your bones (Mexican Wild jam cream and tincture may help to).,it can increase your blood flow, reduce 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 of their sight as they get older. Since ginkgo increases blood flow, more oxygen can get to the eyes.

Headaches & Migraine
You don't have to be old to have headaches, but the reduced blood flow associated with ageing can certainly make headaches and migraines more common. Ginkgo can help alleviate this type of pain.

Impotence
It may comforting to know that many men experience impotence or decreased rigidity as they age, but only real comfort is something that restores the vigour to your sex life. Ginkgo may be just what you are looking for. Even men who have not been helped by conventional drug treatment such as Viagra and/or Cialis, their negative side effects could cause other health problems, have responded to ginkgo, but the results did not happen overnight! Since not all cases of impotence are caused by decreased blood flow to the penis, ginkgo will not work for every man. But if your Medical doctor says you have arterial erectile impotence, you may discover a real aphrodisiac in ginkgo. And remember: it will only work if body, mind and spirit go together!

Tinnitus & 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 conventional medicine. That is why some Naturopathic doctors are turning to ginkgo; there is a ginkgo spray and also a herbal ear oil to help their patients. People who have hearing disorders related to low blood flow to the ears can also find relief after taking ginkgo for several months. Vertigo, a type of dizziness sometimes related to problems in the inner ear, might be also relieved by ginkgo.

Diabetes
Though there is no evidence that ginkgo can cure diabetes, it can be useful treating a heart problem called 'diabetic angiopathy', that is often associated with diabetes. And it can help to prevent one of the most common problems faced by people with diabetes - poor circulation which creates insomnia problems by having cold feet and legs whereby people can't fall asleep easily. In some cases, poor circulation can lead to amputation of limbs. Ginkgo has been shown to increase blood flow to the arms and legs with people by 45%.

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, ginkgo can prevent spasms and make it easier to breath properly.

And here are a couple of recipes:
Brain & Circulation Tea
Ginkgo leaves 1 part, lavender 1/2 part, wood betony 1 part, lemon balm 1 part, stevia herb 1/8 - 1/4 part. Adjust the amount and according to how sweet you want the tea. Since stevia is very sweet, you might start on the low side.

Ginkgo Nut Porridge
Take a cup of rice and 1- 15 ginkgo nuts, cook in 2.5 cups of water with slow heat, until tender. Remove ginkgo nut, blend rice until creamy, than add ginkgo nuts. Warm and serve, add honey, butter, olive or hemp oil for taste.

Ginkgo 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 supplement for four to six week before you may notice any difference in your health. As a closing comment, you might be interested to know that there is some evidence that ginkgo may useful in a topical herbal cream or to prevent inflammation such as sunburn, acne, psoriasis, rashes , rashes, skin allergies and as a spray for hay fever or inflammation of the sinus cavity.

References
Christopher Hobbs. Ginkgo - Elixir of Youth.  Brumby Books & Music. ISBN 0961847034. Reissue 15 Sep 1994.
Dr. Desmond Corrigan. Ginkgo Biloba - ancient medicine ISBN 9890951772348, Amberwood Publisher, July 1993
Frank Murray. Ginkgo Biloba. ISBN 9780-879837709, Keats Publisher, November 1996.
Tracy Smith. Facts al about Ginkgo Biloba ISBN 978-0895298911, Avery Publisher, January 2002.
Ginkgo - Elixir of Youth, Christopher Hobbs, L.A.C. ISBN 0-9618470-3-4, Botanica Press, February 1991.

General reference on Ginkgo
Agnoli, A., et.al Effects of Ginkgo Biloba Extract on organic cerebral impairment. London: Eurotext. 1985.
Fuengfgeld EW. Roekan - Ginkgo biloba, New York, Springer-Verlag. 1988.

Braquet, P., (ed),  Ginkkgolides - Chemistry, biology, pharmacology and clinical perspectives, Vol.1 Barcelona JR Prous Science Publishers. 1988.

Note
The information is offered for its educational value only and should not be used to diagnose, treatment, or prevention of disease, please contact your health care practitioner.

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About Klaus Ferlow

Klaus Ferlow HMH HA (Honorary Master Herbalist, Dominion Herbal College, Burnaby, British Columbia est. 1926), is a traditional herbalist, innovator, lecturer, researcher, writer, President, founder and co-owner with his two sons Harald, CH (Chartered Herbalist) and Peter of Ferlow Botanicals, Div. of Ferlow Brothers Ltd, Vancouver, B.C., manufacturing/distributing herbal medicinal and personal care products without harmful ingredients to professional health and wellness practitioners in traditional medicine in Canada and parts of USA since 1993. The company was founded in 1975. His educational articles have been published in Health & Women's Magazines, newspapers, newsletters in Canada, United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and numerous websites around the world.

Klaus is also President of the "Hearts to Health Foundation" and on the Board of Directors of the Health Action Network Society (HANS), Burnaby, British Columbia, Member of the Neem Foundation, Bombay India and Professional Herbal Advocate of the Canadian Herbalist's Association of British Columbia, Canada,  member of the Natural Health Federation, Monrovia, Ca., USA. Klaus is Advisory Board member of the Life Transformation Institute, Richmond Hill, Ontario, www.life-transformation-institute.org and co-author of the book Seven holistic steps to dental health, www.dentalhealth.maxharoon.org and may be contacted via    klausferlow1@gmail.com   www.ferlowbotanicals.com

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