Ginkgo boosts brain function via its ability to increase blood flow to the brain and improve impaired memory and mental performance, especially in the elderly. Increasing blood flow increases oxygenation, metabolism and overall functioning of the brain. This is great for the natural cognitive decline that can come with aging, but can also be so beneficial for those suffering from chronic illnesses that have cognitive manifestations such as short term memory loss, word-finding difficulties, and problems with focus and concentration. It can also be very helpful for periods of extra stress which often leads to scattered thoughts, forgetfulness and so on.
WHAT IS GINKGO?
Ginkgo is a medicinal herb from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba or maidenhair tree. The ginkgo tree is an ancient plant, dating back at least 250 million years. It is the oldest living species of tree in the world and it survived to modern times only in the mountain forests of Eastern China. The tree itself can live as long as one thousand years.
WHAT ELSE IS GINKGO USED FOR?
Gingko is one of the most researched herbs available, and it also has a number of other uses other than boosting brainpower. It can decrease platelet aggregation and prevent strokes and other diseases related to emboli. It has been used for migraines, to delay the mental deterioration in early Alzheimer’s, and in treating tinnitus, vertigo and cochlear deafness. It is also used for diabetic retinopathy, retinal insufficiency, macular degeneration, cataracts, intermittent claudication, Raynaud’s disease, varicose veins, generalized peripheral arteriopathy, and erectile dysfunction. It can also decrease asthma symptoms.
WHO SHOULD NOT TAKE GINKGO?
Ginkgo leaf extract is very safe and its side effects are almost nonexistent. However, patients who are anticoagulant or antiplatelet medication such as Warfarin or aspirin should use ginkgo with some caution. Along the same lines, ginkgo probably should not be used in cases of excessive bleeding or hemorrhagic disorders. It also may be contraindicated in anovulatory amenorrhea and infertility. Other drug interactions include possible potentiation of MAO inhibitors and papverine. Ginkgo can increase blood pressure used concomitantly with thiazide diuretics. The RAW leaf, stem and seed can cause GI discomfort, headache, dizziness, and in severe cases convulsions.
I included gingko in my Brain Support Formula that I formulated when writing Lyme Brain last year (along with lion’s mane, pimpinella anise, vinca minor and gotu kola), and I’m seeing really good results with that formula in my patients. I also know that many of my naturopathic student friends took it and swore by it for helping with the intensive study that was required of us. Overall, it’s a very safe and useful herb and one that can help a myriad of things.