Greater intelligence--a boost for academic and career performance, the right supplementation provides better short-term memory and concentration at any age
An effective antidepressant--no side effects, no "downside," the special properties of ginkgo biloba may be your natural alternative to prescription drugs
One of the world's most potent antioxidants--a ginkgo biloba "plus" that slows aging and keeps you young
Circulatory health--the secret of ginkgolides for improved tone of blood vessels and protection against heart attack and stroke
Male potency--exciting news about ginkgo biloba and men's sexual health
And much more!
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.25(w) x 6.95(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Suzanne LeVert is the author of numerous health books, including: Melatonin: The Anti-Aging Hormone, Natural Medicine for Heart Disease, The Breast Cancer Prevention Plan, and Out of the Fog: Treatment Options and Coping Strategies for Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.
Read an Excerpt
Ginkgo Biloba: An Ancient Tonic for Health and Longevity
Eons ago, when the first ancestors of humans noticed that chewing certain leaves seemed to give them extra energy or protect them from sickness, the field of herbal medicine was born. Through much of recorded history people looked to the plant world to provide them with medicines as well as food, shelter, and clothing. Folklore was built around the healing powers of certain herbs. Wars were fought over ownership of ginseng, a medicinal herb grown in the Orient, and over camellia sinensis (tea), an herbal beverage plentiful in the East Indies. Holy men and women revered the ginkgo biloba trees, protecting and cultivating them on the grounds of their Chinese and Japanese temples. Healers learned to prepare herbs in every manner from teas and infusions to poultices, washes, and tinctures. And no garden was complete without the beauty of healing herbs like echinacea, lavender, and feverfew.
Then came the machine age, and with it the ability to create out of chemicals what once was the province of nature. Following their successes providing Civil War soldiers with battlefield medications, pharmacists like Squibb and Eli Lilly started to produce medications and taught doctors how to use them. New drugs were more powerful, but also more risky and more expensive. Though many drugs were based on natural plant components, they usually were altered so that the potency was heightened, and the balance of natural ingredients was eliminated. Medical schools graduated generations of doctors who relied heavily on these drug therapies, and the pharmaceutical companies were constantly producing new ones. Currently, of the 200 most commonly used medications, fewer than 20 were developed before World War II.
But in the last few years, a movement has begun in medicine to turn again toward our natural world and seek answers to what it might hold. Just as a sprout of grass might grow up through a concrete sidewalk, so has herbal medicine reasserted itself in the arena of healing choices. But there is a new twist to the current use of herbal medicine (also called phytomedicine or botanical medicine). That is, the state-of-the-art science that has driven our pharmaceutical industry now analyzes the active components of herbs to standardize them, to produce them in mass quantity and in easily dispensed forms like tablets and capsules, and to hold them up to the light of clinical and experimental trials and studies.
More and more, drug companies are looking into the use of herbs either as primary medications or as sources of new ideas in drugs. Several of the larger companies have bought herbal firms or have started their own. Some herbs, like taxol and vincristine from rain forest areas of South America, have been found to have anticancer properties. Other substances, like Mexican yam and aloe, have been used in the production of new types of medications. And the search has been on for the active ingredients of herbs, so that new forms of these herbs can be produced that don't rely on the brewing of teas or the chewing of leaves.
Nowhere is this new type of herbal medicine more evident than in the exploding use of ginkgo biloba extract. Not that ginkgo itself is new. In fact, as you will read in this book, ginkgo is well over 2,500 years old. And its powerful effects on the mind and body have been known for almost as long. The ancient Chinese physicians, who explored hundreds of herbs and used them in their treatment of patients, knew of the ways that ginkgo could be used in the aiding of memory and mental clarity.
It was the growth of phytomedicine in Europe, however, that brought ginkgo biloba into prominence. Using a standardized extract form that allows the prescriber to give the exact same thing in every capsule, European researchers performed dozens of studies on the herb. Their remarkable findings are chronicled in this book. For ginkgo has potent effects on several of the major organ systems of the body.
Millions of prescriptions are given for GBE (ginkgo biloba extract) every year in Germany and other European countries. The majority of those are given to patients over the age of 60. In study after study, GBE was found to improve circulation to the brain and enhance cognitive function, memory, and clarity, just as the Chinese physicians knew centuries ago. Even Alzheimer's disease seems to be slowed in some cases by the judicious use of ginkgo. In Germany, GBE is prescribed as a medication, paid for by insurance companies, and considered a first-line treatment in the care of the geriatric population.
But one doesn't have to be elderly to derive benefits from ginkgo. Even young people have been shown to improve test scores and their ability to perform intellectual tasks when given GBE. And there seems to be a separate action on mood, so that ginkgo can have an antidepressant effect. As such, it's frequently given with another herb, St. John's wort, in the treatment of mild depression. With antidepressant medications, ginkgo seems to be helpful in modifying side effects, and can be used safely in combination with these drugs.
Ginkgo biloba also seems to have powerful effects on the immune and clotting systems of the body. It is an inhibitor of something called "platelet-aggregating factor," which plays a major role in the inflammatory process, and the stress response generally. Thus, ginkgo can be useful in many of the illnesses in which stress and inflammation are issues. In the following pages, information can be found on the usefulness of ginkgo in such varied illnesses as asthma, heart disease, and allergy.
The positive uses of ginkgo in heart disease warrant their own chapter. In clinical studies, ginkgo has been shown to improve circulation to the brain, to the heart, and to the legs. Much of the problem in atherosclerotic circulatory disease involves an abnormal clotting in the arteries, leading to blockage of the circulation. Ginkgo biloba has been shown to lessen that clotting, and to improve clinically the symptoms of poor circulation.
One of the most exciting aspects of the new style of natural medicine is its emphasis on health and on maximizing our potential, rather than merely treating a severe illness. It has been the style of modern medicine up to this point to wait until a disease process was far along, then treat the symptoms of that disease with powerful drugs. Now comes a new style, which is being called "integrative medicine" or "complementary medicine." This new field encompasses herbal medicine but also nutritional medicine (sometimes called "functional medicine"), exercise, relaxation therapies like yoga and meditation, and ancient systems of healing like acupuncture (Chinese medicine).
So taking ginkgo biloba extract might be an early step toward a healthier mind and body, but it is by no means the only step. In the following pages, we have reviewed the principles of good diet and nutrition. We have stressed the importance of exercise and staying active in the maintenance of good health. We have looked at stress and its myriad effects on the body and on the mind. And we have suggested ways of responding to the stresses of life that tend to wear us down.
Unfortunately, the same blessing that has given us the strong medications that we rely on for long, healthy life spans has cursed us with a reliance on a quick pill or capsule to solve all of our ills. Nature does not work that way, or presumably pills would be sprouting from the ground instead of whole leaves, roots, and stems. Our prehistoric ancestors had the same physiology and anatomy as we do, and while our lives are very different, it is sometimes helpful to look at their lifestyle for guidance. Paleolithic man was physically active for five to six hours per day, ate freshly found food, slept from sundown to sunup, and spent most of his time in an unstressful environment punctuated by times of acute stress (usually caused by a mastodon or other prehistoric beast bent on dinner). And he relied on the herbal plant life around him for its healing properties.
We have no mastodons to run from, but we have a constant parade of the small stresses of life: the traffic jams, squabbles, deadlines, and family angst. We eat foods from different continents in the same meal, fast foods that sit under a heat lamp all day, processed foods that didn't exist 50 years ago. We are proud of ourselves if we exercise for 20 minutes three times per week. And we toss and turn all night, or stare at the TV far into the evening. We may share physiology with our ancestors, but we share very little of their lifestyle.
However, we can share with them the use of plants and trees around us to assist in our quest for health. And at the same time, we can rely on the best modern science to ensure that those plants and trees provide us with herbs that are potent, reliable, and efficacious. Today's herbal medicine is a true blending of the ancient and the modern, of the past and the future. And ginkgo biloba, the most ancient of herbs, is appropriately leading the way toward this new vision of healing.
Glenn S. Rothfeld, M.D. M.Ac. and Suzanne LeVert