In any given year a plethora of drugs are tested for the treatment of cognitive impairments. With an aging population, cognitive decline, dementia and disorders like Alzheimer’s have become major health care concerns and science has risen to the challenge of lowering their impact, testing and manufacturing hundreds of drugs every year. But has science gone looking for the magic bullet when a simple Chinese remedy is already available?
Gingko biloba holds the title of being the oldest tree species, living up to 1000 years and growing up to 120 feet. It also boasts leaves that are among the most studied in botanical medicine. Traditionally, gingko has been used to improve circulation, enhance memory and treat dementia. It dilates blood vessels and reduces the stickiness of blood platelets so keeps blood flowing smoothly. It also contains two very powerful antioxidants. These fight free radical damage, the scourge of aging.
Free radicals are short lived, highly reactive molecules that can damage any other molecule in the body, whether they are protein, fat or DNA. They can even cause cell death or the inappropriate production of cancerous cells. As a by-product of metabolic processes they occur naturally.
However, today we are exposed to higher levels of free radicals than ever, through ingestion and inhalation of toxins from the environment, like smoke, radiation, air pollution, and ultraviolet light.
“The amount of antioxidants in your body is directly proportional to how long you will live.” Dr. Richard Cutler, Director of the National Institute on Aging, Washington, DC. USA.
Antioxidants scavenge free radicals, neutralizing their detrimental effects. The more antioxidants you have in your body, the less free radicals are roaming around and therefore the less free radical damage. The two antioxidants contained in gingko extract are flavonoids and terpenoids. Flavonoids protect nerves, heart muscle, retina and blood vessels from damage, while terpenoids or gingkoloids improve blood flow.
Originally used in the treatment of dementia because it improved blood flow, research shows that it also protects nerves that are damaged by the Alzheimer’s disease process. It has also been shown to lower the incidence of depression in Alzheimer’s patients as well as improving social behaviour, daily functioning, thinking and learning.
In addition to helping with brain health, Gingko is beneficial in the treatment of macular degeneration, glaucoma and MS. It protects sensitive nerves and keeps a steady flow of blood and nutrients moving to affected areas.
Having been tested by Chinese medicine doctors for thousands of years, this herb has few side effects. However, if you are taking medications, or have specific health issues, it is always recommended that you speak with a naturopathic doctor before starting any supplement, including gingko.
Mind Medicine Prescription
Make sure when you purchase a gingko supplement that it is standardized to ensure quality and quantity of flavonoids or gingkoloids: 24-32% flavonoids and 6-12% terpenoids.
Children do not need to take this supplement unless under the care of a board certified Naturopathic or Chinese medicine doctor. For adults the dose varies from 120-240 mg.
Stop this herb or any other herb prior to surgery or dental procedures. Side effects from this supplement are rare, but if you are concerned see your primary health care provider.