Can This Super-Healing Plant Help Halt Alzheimer’s?
There’s a remarkable story I want to tell you.
Amid the ashes of the horrific World War II bombing of Hiroshima stood a lush, green tree, unmarred by the blast. In fact, it continued to spring the same healing leaves that had been revered by the Chinese for more than five centuries.1,2
Now that’s resilient!
Even more impressive? Today, scientists are learning that this tree, the world’s oldest living species, may hold the answers to Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and other age-related woes.
There’s no doubt about it. Ginkgo biloba is a survivor. And a growing body of research suggests that this incredible plant may help us weather life’s health problems, too.
A “Living Fossil” That’s the Tree of Life…
Ginkgo biloba isn’t new. Actually, the ginkgo tree was first used medicinally in China nearly 5,000 years ago, where it was chiefly used as a treatment for asthma, coughs, and irritable bladder, as well as sexual dysfunction. 1,2,3
Even back then, the tree was known as the “living fossil” – a moniker that was notoriously strengthened when a ginkgo tree was found alive 1.1 km away from the blast in Hiroshima, Japan. The plant continued to grow and thrive without apparent damage.1
Today, ginkgo is touted as a remedy for a wide variety of conditions – everything from Alzheimer’s disease, poor circulation, and vertigo to glaucoma, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
Ginkgo is among the top plant-based medicines prescribed in Europe for the treatment of peripheral vascular disease and age-related cognitive decline.
A Memory Booster and More…
A number of studies have linked ginkgo to positive effects on memory and problem-solving ability in people with Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia.
And the research shows a bevy of benefits:
- Improvement in problem solving , learning, and memory (cognitive function)
- Improvement in activities of daily living
- Improvement in social behavior
- Fewer feelings of depression
How can a tree do all this?
Well, ginkgo is chock full of healthful compounds, including flavonoids. These antioxidants protect against free radicals, molecules that damage the body’s cells in a process called oxidative stress. Flavonoids also act as anti-inflammatories and protect nerve cells from injury.
Several double-blind, placebo-controlled trials have found that gingko has cognitive benefits in people with Alzheimer’s disease. For example, a study of 309 patients with mild to severe impairment from Alzheimer’s disease-related dementia showed that patients who took 40 mg of ginkgo extract three times a day had improved cognitive function, activities of daily living, and social behavior. People who didn’t take ginkgo not only didn’t improve in these areas – they got worse.5
One groundbreaking study put ginkgo head-to-head against donepezil, the standard treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. People with mild to moderate dementia took either Ginkgo biloba (160 mg daily), donepezil (5 mg daily), or a placebo (dummy pill). And guess what? Researchers found that ginkgo was as effective as donepezil for easing mild to moderate dementia.
On the other hand, ginkgo doesn’t appear to prevent Alzheimer’s or dementia, so it’s best reserved for people who have already been diagnosed with these problems.
The Heart of the Matter…
Ginkgo may help the heart, too. See, compounds in the gingko leaf called ginkgolides appear to prevent blood from clotting. This improves blood flow and circulation, while the flavonoids strengthen the vessel walls.
But let’s look at the research.
One study of 60 healthy elderly people found that ginkgo extract significantly improved blood flow in the coronary arteries.7
Another study of 80 patients with coronary artery disease found that ginkgo significantly improved coronary artery blood flow and also restored the ratio of nitric oxide and endothelin-1, which is thought to be imbalanced in patients with heart disease.8
Plus, a study of 15 patients undergoing heart valve replacement showed that taking 320 mg of ginkgo helped protect against the oxidative stress that can occur after such a procedure.9
Ginkgo is also a powerful tool against excess inflammation, which puts stress on the cardiovascular, immune, and nervous systems, as well as the brain, speeding aging and disease.
Using Ginkgo Wisely…
Ginkgo can be a useful supplement if you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, dementia, or Alzheimer’s. Like all supplements, you should only use products from trusted, reliable sources. Specifically, look for products standardized to 24 to 32 percent flavonoids (also known as flavone glycosides or heterosides) and 6 to 12 percent terpenoids (triterpene lactones).
The standard dose of ginkgo for most conditions is 120 mg a day. People with existing cognitive problems (such as Alzheimer’s disease) may want to take up to 240 mg in divided doses.
Because ginkgo naturally thins your blood, it can increase the effect of blood thinners (anticoagulant drugs) like warfarin, heparin, and aspirin and may trigger uncontrolled bleeding, so be careful not to mix it with these medications. Certain herbs, such as angelica, clove, danshen, garlic, ginger, and ginseng can also increase the risk of bleeding if combined with ginkgo.
You should also avoid ginkgo or use it with caution if you also take medications for diabetes, seizures, and blood pressure. You should stop using ginkgo prior to surgical or dental procedures.
Clearly there’s a lot to be said for this age-old remedy. However, there are no magic bullets when it comes to health. To change your health for good, including helping to protecting against cardiovascular issues and Alzheimer’s disease, you need to permanently change your lifestyle for the better.
This includes eating nutrient-dense, low glycemic fruits and vegetables, plenty of pastured protein, and include healthy fats from fish, coconuts, avocado, and other sources. This in conjunction with moderate daily exercise with bursts of intense physical activity 2-3 times a week is an excellent prescription for wellness.
As positive as all this research is, it is important to keep an open mind to new ideas, ALWAYS do your own homework…and combine that with common sense to figure out what’s best for YOU.
5 . Le Bars PL, Kieser M, Itil KZ. A 26-week analysis of a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of the ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 in dementia. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2000 Jul-Aug;11(4):230-7.
6 Mazza M, et al. Ginkgo biloba and donepezil: a comparison in the treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia in a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study. Eur J Neurol. 2006 Sep;13(9):981-5.
7 Wu Y, et al. Ginkgo biloba extract improves coronary blood flow in healthy elderly adults: role of endothelium-dependent vasodilation. Phytomedicine. 2008 Mar;15(3):164-9.
8 Wu YZ, et al. Ginkgo biloba extract improves coronary artery circulation in patients with coronary artery disease: contribution of plasma nitric oxide and endothelin-1. Phytother Res. 2008 Jun;22(6):734-9.
9 Pietri S, et al. Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) pretreatment limits free radical-induced oxidative stress in patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 1997 Apr;11(2):121-31.
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