Just standing in the vitamin and supplement aisle of your local pharmacist or health food store can be overwhelming. With shelves upon shelves of bottles bearing esoteric-sounding names — each promising to boost your brainpower and energy, and to cure whatever ails you — it can be hard to decipher what each one actually does.
One such bottle you might see is ginkgo biloba, a supplement derived from the tree of the same name. Ginkgo biloba is the oldest known living tree species. Ginkgo trees are hardy and can live to be as much as 1,000 years old. Ginkgo leaves and seeds have been used in Chinese traditional medicine for thousands of years, primarily to improve circulation and enhance memory.
Modern studies have confirmed the effectiveness of these traditional uses, and scientists say that ginkgo really does help blood to flow more freely. It works by both dilating blood vessels and also by making the platelets — small cells in the blood — less sticky and prone to build ups.
Because of this, ginkgo is a great natural remedy for people suffering from high blood pressure or poor circulation.
Ginkgo has also been shown to improve memory in older adults, possibly by increasing blood flow to the brain, thereby allowing more oxygen to reach the brain cells. This benefit may extend even to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, delaying the onset or progression of dementia by several months. Gnkgo can help to improve concentration and focus, and can stabilize moods, even in younger people.
Because many visual problems, including glaucoma and certain kinds of macular degeneration, are related to blood pressure, ginkgo can sometimes helps with these conditions, as well.
Ginkgo biloba also works as an antioxidant, which means it helps to fight off toxins in the body that could damage cells and lead to serious illness.
As with any over-the-counter medication or supplement, ginkgo biloba may interact negatively with prescription drugs, especially blood thinners and certain antidepressants. Always talk to a healthcare professional before beginning any new herbal supplement.