Traditionally used to boost cognitive performance, enhance sexual energy and relieve the symptoms of asthma, the dried green leaves of the ginkgo tree, known as ginkgo biloba, have a long history of traditional use.
Science suggests that the bioactive compounds which defend the ginkgo tree against environmental onslaughts could do the same for us.
Ginkgo biloba is rich in flavonoids and terpenoids – antioxidants which guard against cell damage caused by free radicals. This damage tends to accumulate with age and exposure, increasing our susceptibility to age-related diseases.
The flavonoids found in ginkgo help to protect the nerves, retina, heart and blood vessels from oxidative damage, while terpenoids enhance circulation by dilating blood vessels and making blood platelets less ‘sticky’.
Ginkgo also has anti-inflammatory effects: in laboratory tests, it has been found to reduce markers of inflammatory stress. Like oxidative damage, chronic inflammation is thought to contribute to a number of age-related illnesses, including heart disease.
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Ginkgo biloba may help improve attention, memory and mental processing speed in older adults. It seems to improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s, vascular and mixed dementias.
Gingko supplements may help to improve circulation by inhibiting constriction of the blood vessels.
A 10-week study of people with Raynaud’s disease - a circulatory disorder which restricts blood supply to certain parts of the body like the fingers and toes - published in the journal Vascular Medicine in 2002 found that ginkgo biloba reduced the frequency of attacks by 56%.
Anxiety: ginkgo supplements have been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety within four weeks
PMS: ginkgo appears to help with PMS symptoms, such as breast tenderness
Allergies: ginkgo may improve the symptoms of seasonal allergies (hay fever)
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