Your brain relies on a dependable, sufficient blood supply to keep it operating at its best. And there’s a venerable herb that has been shown to help keep that blood supply flowing.
It’s been used medicinally for thousands of years in China — which should give you a pretty good idea of how well-respected it is.
The herb, ginkgo biloba, is hugely popular – especially for memory support. In fact, 25 or 30 years ago it was the first herb that was touted in a big way as a memory booster. That made it into one of the best-selling botanicals in both the United States and Europe, which it remains to this day.1
And now it turns out the benefits go far beyond brain health. Let’s take a look…
In labs all over the world, medical researchers have been busy catching up with what traditional healers have known for ages — Ginkgo can provide impressive help for mind and body.
A joint review study of ginkgo by a team of researchers that involved scientists from California and China demonstrates it “could be considered as a multi-target drug.”2
In the brain, ginkgo can –
- Improve blood flow to the brain.3
- Reduce the accumulation of amyloid-B – the problematic protein that builds up during Alzheimer’s disease which can interfere with neurons. Ginkgo can also reduce amyloid-B’s toxicity.4
- Help mitochondria (energy-producing units in cells) work more efficiently by acting as a potent antioxidant.
- Enhance the transmission and communication of signals among the neurons in the brain.5
As for ginkgo’s effect on your memory as you age, studies here, too, have found it can give a healthy boost to the plasticity of neurons – the ability of brain cells to form new connections and retain new information, as opposed to doing the same old thing.6 Plasticity enables healthy people to master new skills, and stroke victims to develop a “work around” to replace parts of the brain that have lost function.
Related to these effects, researchers at the University of Toledo have found evidence that ginkgo can stimulate the production of new neurons – an important factor for enabling aging brains to hold on to memories. In the brain tissue of folks who have suffered strokes, ginkgo supports the rebuilding of new neurons after others have been damaged or destroyed.
The Toledo lab test on animals shows that ginkgo accelerates the activity of a gene that helps produce brand new neurons – a change in gene expression that is termed “epigenetic.” Natural chemicals in the herb also help neuroprogenitor cells (the stem cells that become neurons) link up with other neurons and become functional members of neural networks.7
With all these brain benefits, it’s no wonder that older members of the Chinese royal court were traditionally given ginkgo nuts to chew on to keep their intellectual abilities intact.8
Moving on from its brain advantages, other studies reveal further benefits of ginkgo:
Tests show that compounds found in ginkgo leaves may be used against non-small cell lung cancer. The researchers report that it shows the potential of being more effective than some chemotherapy agents.9
There’s more: Research suggests that ginkgo might offer benefits in reducing the risks and effects of age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. People in China, Germany, and France already use it for this purpose.10
Studies in England show that ginkgo can relieve some of the pain and walking problems caused by intermittent claudication, a cramping leg pain that results from clogged leg arteries.11
Since ginkgo slows blood clotting, it should not be taken if you are on blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin), or other blood-thinners like clopidogrel (Plavix) and heparin. It also interacts with ibuprofen and aspirin, which (like other NSAIDs) thin the blood.
As a matter of fact, if you regularly take any prescription medications or OTC drugs, it’s best to consult with a knowledgeable practitioner – preferably a naturopath or integrative M.D. — to see if it interacts with ginkgo before taking this herb.