Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ginkgo, the Naked Truth

Who has never heard of Ginkgo before? Derived from its scientific name (Ginkgo biloba), it is the most taken herb compared to all in the market. Well, as a herbalist, its popularity in herbal lore has been indisputable. From the Maidenhair of the English to the 銀杏 of the Chinese and the 은행 of the Korean; such a wide entry into the nations' numerous pharmacopœia must, at its very least, connected to its effectiveness if not its efficacy. However, despite its popularity, this grumpy old herbalist still thinks that the public has been fed a myriad of lies concerning its usages and effectiveness. Pharmaceuticals Companies tend to exploit the 'naturalness' of this herb and from there, they deduced numerous extrapolations which are imagined rather than factual.

One of the aim of this article is to educate the masses regarding this oft-liked herb. Consumers need to know how to differentiate factual claims from dubious ones. A few interesting issues surrounding Ginkgo will be enumerated here.
  1. How much of Ginkgo would I really need?
    • No it doesn’t depends on individual unless you are using it for special needs viz. Alzheimer and the like. If you are using it for health maintenance, this author would strongly suggest that you keep to the recommended dosage of 40-60 mg two times per day. Taking too much would not help you going anywhere. Also, claims that pills having over thousands of mg of Ginkgo is misleading. Those superfluos numbers simply refers to the weight of the crude herbs whereas the 40-60 mg aforementioned is the content of the active ingredients (which is 6% terepene lactones and 24% flavone glycosides of standardised extracts). If one where to take 2000 mg worth of active ingredients, that person would be akin to committing suicide.
  2. Will Ginkgo improves my memory?
    • While it’s true that taking Ginkgo would sometimes improve the memory but this is not always the case. It is also unfitting to prescribe this to kids to improve their memory and concentration unless under dire needs (a more fitting herb would be Centella asiatica which is known as Pegaga in Malaysia).
    • Ginkgo improves memory and intellectual capabilities by improving circulations as well as micro-circulations of the body. Hence, if the lost of memory is caused by insufficient transportation of the blood to the brain, this would certainly be improved by taking Ginkgo. Ginkgo does this indirectly and never would one be legal to claim that Ginko improves memory.
  3. Ginkgo is natural, so there is no worries over its intake.
    • The more worrying and sorry state of today’s world has always been a very wrong adage that ‘anything natural is safe to take’. It is true that herbs have always been safer than pharmaceuticals but it is still better to treat them an ‘as necessary’ item. Take it this way, you don’t take an aspirin or two on one fine sunny day but you would definitely do that when you have a splitting headache. It is crucial to treat herbs as medication regardless of its application; only take herbs when you are in need.
    • Ginkgo by itself is blood thinning and ‘blood-moving’. Hence it has a very good capacity to further thin your blood if you are taking anticoagulant medications. This might cause internal bleeding if your blood is too thin. Such occurrences are rare at best but it is my duty and job to ensure that you will not make it to the headline to be the first.
    • In addition, if you are taking MAO inhibitors (for depression), it is wise to exclude Ginkgo as it has the potential to potentate the drug.
    • Also, do not take Ginkgo before ANY surgery as this will cause bleeding during operations. However, there is some evidence of good result when used in bypass surgery.
The Factual Usage
There has been an extreme recent reports on local newspaper that Ginkgo does nothing. Such extreme claim did not need proof of refutation from our side, rather the burden of proof is on their side as they claim that all these years of research and tradition is futile in the hand of one research.

It is well-established that Ginkgo helps to improve blood circulation but one has to know, not all product is created equal. Reliable supply of Ginkgo extract is relatively few and it is easy to misconstrue that Ginkgo has no effect if we take the wrong product. However, how could consumers discern which product is good and which is not? The answer is simple: Always read the label. Products which claim to have thousands of mg of Ginkgo leaves powder might not be reliable and neither does one that does not offer standardised extracts. Those which does not state the content of ginkgolic acid is dangerous as well. Ginkgolic acid has to be ‘not detectable’ as this could pose health threat if taken.

It is interesting to note that Ginkgo helps with conditions listed below as well:

  1. Tinnitus (Ringing of the ear). Usages might be long term to discern effect.
  2. Elderly Depression.
  3. Vertigo

Which Brand Then?
In this author’s humble opinion, two reliable brand that I would endorse using is Tanakan and Tebonin. Tanakan is used when someone needed some general boast on the circulation. Usually, this is prescribed together with Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) for a synergistic effect. Tebonin is usually sued when patients are elderly and needed an extra boast on their circulation. For such patients, it is recommended that they took Tebonin with other potent antioxidants such as asthaxanthin, bilberries extract, Coenzyme Q10, and Lutein as well as Zeaxanthin (being specific to the eyes).


Kathy Garolsky said...

I like your point of view.This is really helpful.Thanks for
this info.Have a great day.

The Verdant Herbalist said...

Thanks for dropping by :-)