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Ginkgo Biloba Extract
September 19, 2008 09:25 AM
Ginkgo biloba, also known as the Maidenhair tree, grows naturally in two small areas of Eastern China. It is believed that even these sources are artificial, and planted and maintained by monks over many centuries, and that there are no true natural sources of the tree left. Other than these, all living ginkgo trees are now artificially farmed.
The ginkgo seeds contain nuts that are a traditional food in China, served at Chinese New Year, and on other special occasions such as weddings, and is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. The seeds have been used in the treatment of coughs and asthma, and during the late 1970s and 80s, the uses of ginkgo biloba in medicine was extensively investigated with a view to determine the range of conditions that the tree could be used to treat. Given that many ancient Chinese remedies have found to be effective, and with a relevant scientific basis, this was a logical step.
It has been established that ginkgo biloba could have three possible effects on the body. These are:
* Improvement in circulation including that in the small capillaries.
The last of these has been responsible for many cardiovascular conditions, and disorders of the kidneys, lungs and central nervous system, and is due to the effect of the platelet-activating factor (PAF) that ginkgo appears to inhibit.
Before delving deeper into the possible beneficial effects of Ginkgo, let us first examine the active ingredients believed to be involved in the perceived beneficial effects.
Ginkgo leaf extract contains terpenoids (bilobalides and ginkgolides) and flavonoid glycosides. Flavones can reduce the fragility of capillaries, and protect the body from blood loss through damaged capillaries, particularly in the brain. The Ginkgolides, particularly ginkgolide B, inhibit the platelet-activating factor and so increase the fluidity of the blood that improves circulation, again particularly in the micro-capillaries of the brain. This is also why it is believed to reduce the incidence of cerebral thrombosis and resultant strokes.
The antioxidant effect of ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) has been widely studied, and by scavenging free radicals the extract can help to prevent cell membrane damage, and so prevent cells from being destroyed. It has been established that pretreatment of cells with GBE can prevent such damage in rats.
The anti-inflammatory properties of ginkgo biloba, as seen in some asthma patients for example, is thought to be due to the inhibition of the platelet-activating factor (PAF) by ginkgolide B, PAF playing a significant part in the inflammatory response to allergens, and PAF is now believed to be responsible for conditions such as asthma, renal diseases, central nervous system disorders and ischemia, a restriction in the blood supply, particularly to the brain.
It follows, therefore, that the effect of GBE on these conditions is likely to be due to PAF inhibition, and a reduction in the inflammatory response to a number of conditions. What evidence is there for this? In fact, results of the trials carried out have been inconclusive one way or the other.
Hence, a trial published by the Journal of the American Medical Association reported no effects after a 6 week trial of Ginkgo on Alzheimer’s and memory disorders. However, other trials have indicated positive effects after 6 weeks, and it could be that the GBE has to be taken for more than 6 weeks for any effects to be noticed. It is certainly believed to be a longer term treatment rather than have instant results, although some tests have shown improvement in concentration for up to 2.5 hours after treatment. The bulk of the evidence is favorable on the effect of GBE on memory disorders.
Test on rats, in which the blood flow to the brain was mechanically blocked by carotid compression, indicated that ginkgo biloba promoted an increase in the glucose and ATP levels in the brain neurons. Other trials have indicated that neurological damage in mice subjected to neurotoxins was reduced by the administration of GBE, and while not conclusive with respect to humans, the effect of GBE on the brain appears to be more than just opinion.
To sum up, ginkgo biloba is believed to be effective in treating the following disorders by virtue of its effect in improving the fluidity of the blood, protecting fragile capillaries from damage, exerting an antioxidant effect on free radices, and so prevent damage to cell membranes, and its inhibiting effect on platelet-activating factor:
Circulation problems in the arteries can lead to blood clots that in turn cause strokes and cardiac problems. By preventing blood clots through the inhibition of PAF, ginkgolide B can help to maintain a healthy circulation system that also help to maintain circulation in the very small capillaries that feed the brain.
This is caused by hardening and blockage of the arteries, and one of the effects of ginkgo biloba is to soften the arteries, help to unblock them and to prevent plaque formation by its antioxidant effect on the free radicals that cause the plaque by oxidation of LDL lipids. This is particularly true of the cerebral arteries.
The increased blood flow to the brain that GBE promotes can help to improve memory, although test are indicating that treatment has to continue for 6 weeks or more for it to be effective. Reduced blood flow to the brain is a common cause of memory impairment.
Ginkgo biloba has been used in the treatment of the symptoms of this condition, although it cannot be cured. It is thought that the improved circulation in the brain makes best use of the unaffected brain cells, improving memory and cognitive thought.
This is a condition where the extremities fail to warm up after being exposed to cold, and is caused by poor circulation in the small capillaries in which the blood pressure is very low. They symptoms are numbness and pins and needles, and GBE helps to overcome this condition due to improvement in the circulation and protection of the capillaries by rendering them less fragile.
GBE can help to reduce the symptoms of vertigo such as nausea and dizziness. This is believed, once again, to be due to an improvement in blood circulation.
There are few doubts that ginkgo biloba extract improves the circulation, particularly in the micro-capillaries in the brain and extremities of the body, and also possesses antioxidant properties, both of which help to maintain and improve the memory, and that combined with its effect on the platelet-activating factor, most of the properties of GBE is due to its capacity to maintain and improve circulation, particularly through those blood vessels closest to the blood-brain barrier.
June 25, 2005 10:57 AM
Ginkgo has achieved unprecedented popularity within the last decade and has become a familiar household term. Because interest in treating diseases like Alzheimer’s has escalated over the last decade, the biochemical capabilities of ginkgo in regard to brain function have been investigated and are still being researched. Ginkgo is one of those herbs that has become intrinsically connected with notions of herbal elixirs capable of pre s e rving youth and promoting longevity.
Ginkgo comes from the oldest species of tree in the world dating back some 200 million years. Some ginkgo trees have been known to live well over an average of 1000 or more years. The ginkgo tree is also known as the “Maidenhair tree” and would have probably become extinct if the trees had not been cultivated in Far Eastern temple gardens and nurtured by Oriental monks.
Ginkgo is a deciduous conifer with separate male and female types. It resembles the pau d’arco tree and like pau d’arco, possesses an unusual immunity to insects and diseases. Ginkgo’s remarkable hardiness enabled it to survive the atomic blast at Hiroshima. Because of its unprecedented longevity, ginkgo biloba has sometimes been referred to as a living fossil.
Ginkgo has been used in China for over 5000 years. The Chinese refer to the fruit of the ginkgo tree as pa-kwo. This fruit is sold in markets throughout China and resembles dried almonds. Ginkgo fruit is pleasant tasting when fresh, but can become quite disagreeable if allowed to get overly ripe. Asians have relied on extracts of the fan-shaped ginkgo leaf since 3,000 B.C. to heal a wide variety of ailments.
The Chinese have been acquainted with the curative powers of ginkgo for centuries and have typically used the herb for ailments related to aging, such as circulatory disorders, mental confusion and memory loss. In China, ginkgo seeds, called baigou, are considered lung and kidney tonics and are used in conjunction with acupuncture. Ginkgo seeds also help to tonify the urinary system, so they are used in cases of incontinence and excessive urination.1
Practitioners of Chinese medicine routinely use ginkgo leaves. Ginkgo was introduced into Eu rope in 1730 and was we l l received, not for its medicinal value, but for its ornamental appeal. It is used extensively in landscaping because of its lovely fern-like leaf. It was brought to America in 1784 to the garden of William Hamilton who lived in Pennsylvania.
Decades passed before the healing properties of ginkgo we re investigated. Consequently, it has been part of the herbal repertoire only since the 1980s. During this time, it became technically feasible to isolate the essential components of ginkgo. Pharmacologically, there are two groups of substances which are significant compounds found in ginkgo: the flavonoids, which give ginkgo its antioxidant action, and the terpenes, which help to inhibit the formation of blood clots. The majority of scientific interest has focused on Ginkgo’s ability to improve the circulation of blood. O ver the past twenty years, scientific testing on the plant has dramatically escalated. Ha rva rd professor Elias J. Core y, Ph . D , synthesized ginkgo’s active ingredient, ginkgolide B, for the first time in the laboratory. Consequently, stepped-up research in this country and in Eu rope resulted. Ginkgo has been the subject of over 300 scientific studies and continues to intrigue scientists. Much modern research has confirmed ancient applications of ginkgo as well as discovered new ones.
Ginkgolide, the active component of the herb, is what creates most of ginkgo’s biochemical attributes. Exactly how ginkgolide B functions is not yet known. One theory is that the compound somehow interferes with a chemical found in the body called PAF (platelet activating factor). PAF has been implicated in cases of graft rejection, asthma and other immune disorders. PAF antagonists have been identified from a variety of medicinal plants. These compounds help to explain the pharmacological basis of several traditional medicines and provide a valuable new class of therapeutic agents.
Particular attention has been paid to ginkgo’s powerful actions on the cardiovascular system. Thousands of Europeans use this herb for peripheral circulatory disorders. As a circulation booster, ginkgo has accumulated some impressive credentials. Because proper circulation is vital to each and every body function, virtually all body systems can benefit from ginkgo therapy.
Ginkgo’s relationship to brain function has also spawned considerable interest. In 1985, Rudolf Weiss said of ginkgo,
“ Significant improvement in mental states, emotional lability, memory, and the tendency to tire easily, have been reported.”
Ginkgo is currently planted in groves and used for a number of medicinal purposes. It is harvested in the summer and can be used in extract, tincture or infusion forms. The therapeutic properties of ginkgo seem endless. Continuing re s e a rch promises to further uncover additional health benefits of this remarkable botanical. Ginkgo extracts are among the leading prescription medications in France and Germany. Currently, millions of prescriptions for ginkgo are written by physicians worldwide.
GINKGO BILOBA - (Ginkgo biloba)
June 25, 2005 10:43 AM
GINKGO BILOBA (Ginkgo biloba)
Common Names: Maidenhair tree
Plant Parts: leaves
Active Compounds: flavonoid glycosides, diterpenes (including terpene compounds called ginkgolides), bioflavones, quercitin, isorhamnetine kaempferol, proanthocyanidins, sitosterols, lactones, anthocyanin
Pharmacology: The flavoglycosides contained inginkgo are its most active compounds and have exhibited remarkable pharmacological capabilities. These chemical constituents have free radical properties and function as antioxidants. These flavonoids include quercitin, kaempferol and isorhamnetine. The terpene content ofginkgo, which includes the ginkgolides and the bilobalides help to lessen inflammation by inhibiting PAF (Platelet Activating Factor) in the blood. This action helps to boost circulation. PAF plays a role in diseases such as atherosclerosis, asthma, heart attacks and strokes.
Vitamin and Mineral Content: Ginkgo is rich in bioflavonoids which makes it an effective antioxidant.
Character: astringent, adaptogen, antioxidant, antiseptic, circulatory stimulant, vasodilator and tonic.
Body Systems Targeted: circulatory, cardiovascular, and nervous (brain)