Gingko: Good for More than Memory

Health Alert 121

I don’t believe Gingko biloba is effective at long term memory boosting in healthy people. But don’t dismiss it as a fad supplement. It is a valuable herb. It has a tradition of thousands of years of widespread use. Today I’ll show you how to use it to treat some surprising conditions.

We have new evidence that gingko is effective at easing poor circulation, ringing in your ears, dementia, leg cramping, and altitude sickness.

* The Oldest Medicine *

Gingko biloba is one of the oldest medicinal plants. It has survived in its native China for over 200 million years. Although the Chinese have used the plant for centuries, we have only started to study this herb in the West over the past couple of decades.

Early hype touted ginkgo as a memory-booster. But, healthy people only benefit short-term. For instance, if you have to take an exam one day. Fortunately, gingko provides us with many more benefits.


• Increases circulation to ease symptoms of Raynaud’s disease

• Lessens Alzheimer’s symptoms

• Eases altitude sickness

• Alleviates tinnitus (ringing of the ears)

• Decreases leg pain due to intermittent claudication

Raynaud’s sufferers experience painful coldness in their hands and feet. For years all we could tell these patients was wrap their hands and feet to keep warm. But gingko is giving Raynaud’s sufferers new hope.

A recent British trial proved gingko’s effectiveness. They took either a placebo pill or gingko for ten weeks. Subjects taking gingko experienced a 56% reduction in the number of attacks each week.1 I recommend 60mg, 3 times a day.

Alzheimer’s symptoms can be especially daunting. Gingko can improve memory and other symptoms. A recent 52-week study showed that Alzheimer’s patients, taking gingko, experienced improvement in memory, cognitive performance, and social functioning.2 I recommend about 100 mg, 3 times a day.

Altitude sickness is a condition that usually comes at the worst time: while on vacation. Skiing, hiking, or any other activity in higher altitudes can cause dizziness, headache, nausea and cough. Gingko is the best treatment I know of for altitude sickness. I used it in the high Andes and was the only one in my party who did not get altitude sickness.

Researchers at the University of Hawaii tested gingko’s effects. They found that taking gingko the day before ascent, successfully reduces the symptoms of altitude sickness. 3 Take 300 mg of gingko the day before and day of ascent to high altitude.

Tinnitus is ringing in the ears. There aren’t many treatments for tinnitus. But gingko lessens the ringing. In a recent German study, tinnitus patients either took gingko or a placebo for 12 weeks. Those who took gingko had reduced ringing.4 I recommend 80mg, 3 times a day.

Intermittent Claudication is calf cramping and leg weakness due to poor circulation. As the arteries harden in the legs, less blood is able to pass to the tissues. Gingko can control some of the painful symptoms of claudication by increasing circulation. Claudication patients who take gingko often have pain-free walking.5 Take 60mg, twice a day.

* Your Grasp on Gingko *

Gingko biloba is widely available in extract form. You can find it at your local pharmacy, health food store, and on the internet.

Be sure to look at the label. Make certain that it contains a standardized amount of gingko’s active ingredients, flavone glycosides and terpene lactones. There should be at least 24% flavone glycosides and 6% terpene lactones.

Remember, one of gingko’s mechanisms of action is blood thinning. If your doctor has prescribed a blood thinner talk to him before taking gingko. Better yet, question him on why you are taking harsh drugs when there are natural alternatives.

Al Sears, MD

1 Muir A. et al., The use of Ginkgo biloba in Raynaud’s disease: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial.

Vasc Med 2002; 7(4): 265-7.

2 Le Bars P. et al., Influence of the severity of cognitive impairment on the effect of the Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 in Alzheimer’s disease. Neuropsychobiology. 2002; 45(1): 19-26.

3 Gertsch J. et al., Ginkgo biloba for the prevention of severe acute mountain sickness (AMS) starting one day before rapid ascent. High Alt Med Biol. 2002 Spring; 3(1): 29-37.

4 Morgenstern C. et al., The efficacy of Ginkgo special extract EGb 761 in patients with tinnitus. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2002 May; 40(5): 188-97.

5 Pittler M. et al., Ginkgo biloba extract for the treatment of intermittent claudication: a meta-analysis of randomized trials. Am J Med 2000 Mar; 108(4): 276-81.