Natural Healing: Ginkgo for Circulation

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The evidence on ginkgo’s ability to improve circulation continues to mount. A German clinical study has shown that ginkgo can be an effective treatment for a circulatory disorder common in the elderly.

Peripheral arterial occlusive disease (sometimes known as intermittent claudication) is a serious circulation disorder characterized by narrowing of the arteries in the limbs, which can lead to painful cramping during walking. The condition primarily affects older people and is expected to become even more common as the population ages.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled German study of 111 people has shown that ginkgo was significantly more effective than a placebo in improving symptoms of peripheral arterial occlusive disease. Study participants were randomly assigned to treatment with either standardized ginkgo extract (40 mg three times a day) or an inactive placebo. The distance participants could walk before experiencing pain was measured using a treadmill test. According to the results, the participants who took ginkgo could walk a significantly greater distance without pain than the placebo group (a mean increase of about 147 feet for the ginkgo group as opposed to an increase of approximately 36 feet for the placebo group) at all three test points. No side effects were reported by people taking ginkgo.

Conventional approaches to treating peripheral occlusive arterial disease usually involve treatment with cardiovascular drugs and the elimination of lifestyle factors that can lead to heart disease, such as smoking and lack of exercise. Exercise, especially walking, has been found to be helpful in preventing or improving early stage peripheral arterial disease, because it helps improve arterial function and promotes blood flow to the limbs.

Numerous studies have shown that standardized ginkgo biloba can help improve circulation, particularly to tiny blood vessels (capillaries) in the brain, limbs, eyes, and ears. Many of ginkgo’s benefits to cardiovascular health may be related to its potent antioxidant properties. The ginkgo extract used in this trial was a concentrated extract standardized to 24 percent ginkgo flavone glycosides and 6 percent terpene lactones. This is the same extract that has been used in most of the clinical research on ginkgo.

Peters, H., et al. “Demonstration of the efficacy of ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761(r) on intermittent claudication–a placebo-controlled, double-blind multicenter trial.” Vasa 1998, 27:106-110.

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