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Feb 7, 2008

Multi-purpose tree

NATIVE to China, Ginkgo biloba is a deciduous tree that lives as long as 1,000 years and may grow to a height of 33m to 40m and a diameter of about a metre.

The ginkgo has short horizontal branches with short shoots bearing fan-shaped leaves. Because the leaf resembles those of maidenhair fern, the ginkgo has been called "the maidenhair tree".

Beautiful and hardy, this Asian native is widely planted today as an ornamental and can be found lining the streets of many American cities.

The leaves and seeds of Ginkgo biloba have been used therapeutically for a wide array of diseases and conditions for thousands of years, particularly in China.

The Chinese traditionally make tea from parts of the ginkgo tree for the treatment of asthma and bronchitis.

Today, standardised Ginkgo biloba leaf extract (GBE, with 24% flavone glycosides and 6% terpenes) constitutes one of the most widely prescribed medicines in numerous European countries.

Promoting blood circulation

Blood flow distributes nutrients and oxygen to every cell in the body. Hence, adequate circulation is essential for optimum health.

One of the ginkgo's main attributes is its ability to increase the rate of blood flow in capillary vessels and certain small arteries, especially in the brain.

This is because the ginkgo flavonoid found can penetrate blood capillaries and enhance the dilation of the blood vessels.

Frequent intake of ginkgo leaves has the ability to prevent poor blood circulation in extremities and help relieve vascular circulation related conditions like cold feet and hand, numbness of limbs and back as well as intermittent claudication (a condition characterised by pain, cramping and weakness in the leg).

Preventing cardiovascular diseases

A platelet is a specialised cell that is crucial in wound healing because of its ability to promote clotting and seal leaks in blood vessels.

Once the platelets adhere to the injured vessels, they send out chemical messengers that cause other platelets to cluster around the damaged area and form a thrombus -- a blood clot that forms inside a blood vessel or cavity of the heart.

However, the thickening of thrombus over time can obstruct the smooth blood flow.

If the blood flow is restricted to the heart, a heart attack results and if blood flow is impeded to the brain, it results in a stroke due to oxygen insufficiency.

Ginkgo supplementation has been proven to reduce platelet aggregation, thus preventing thrombus formation which may help prevent the occurrence of coronary thrombosis and cerebral stroke.

Boosting memory

Ginkgo can stimulate cerebral blood flow and speed up neurotransmission and may help delay the onset of memory impairment due to the degeneration of brain cells and nerve cells.

Many elderly who often show the symptoms such as depression, forgetfulness and distractability are found to have poor blood circulation in the brain area that results in hypoxia (inadequate oxygen supply).

Numerous studies indicate that regular ginkgo supplementation could enhance one's memory, improve alertness and increase the learning ability.

Furthermore, ginkgo acts as a potent free radicals scavenger that safeguard body cells from oxidative damages and thus, delay ageing.

Alleviating tinnitus, vertigo and migraine

Tinnitus or ringing in the ears can arise from central nervous system damages that are caused by swelling and hardening of arteries in the ear.

Ginkgo improves tinnitus and hearing loss induced by obstructed blood flow by increasing blood circulation to the inner ear.

A Spanish study demonstrated that supplementation with ginkgo for about 6 months in patients with migraine headache caused by central nervous system disorder significantly improved symptoms such as dizziness and tinnitus.

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