Is Ginkgo biloba good for blood circulation?
Ginkgo biloba is well-known for its beneficial action on arterial circulation. It reduces spasm in the arteries and stabilises the permeability of the capillaries, allowing blood to flow more effectively into the extremities. Medicinally used since around 3,000 BC, research confirms that Ginkgo biloba has the ability to improve blood flow in the microcirculation.
How is Ginkgo biloba good for blood circulation?
There are a number of proposed modes of action for how Ginkgo biloba improves circulation:
- Reduces arteriolar spasm (where an artery temporarily blocks)
- Stabilises cell membranes
- Improves oxygen and glucose utilisation by the tissues
- Inhibits platelet aggregation, which makes blood less sticky
Ginkgo and microcirculation: what the research shows
Ginkgo biloba leaves have traditionally been used to improve circulation, and now research backs up their use for this purpose:
The microcirculation is the part of our cardiovascular system which supplies oxygen and nutrients to cells. Research shows that Ginkgo improves microcirculation by improving blood flow and opening up unused capillaries.
A trial into Ginkgo for microcirculation shows improvements in patients between 60-70 years old (the age group worst affected by poor blood flow) after just 10 days of treatment. The rate of blood flow in the small veins also improved dramatically by Day 30 of the trial. (1)
Ginkgo & how it helps your health
The benefits of improved circulation are many and varied. Here are just a few ways in which Ginkgo helps according to research:
Raynaud's Disease is an extreme form of poor circulation that causes painfully cold hands and feet and is very difficult to treat. A ten-week placebo-controlled trial showed that the number of attacks per week fell by 56% in the group receiving a Ginkgo preparation, compared to 27% in the control group. (2)
One of the interesting things about Ginkgo is that it increases blood flow to the hands and feet without reducing blood flow to the head. This is down to its ability to relax spasm in the small arteries all over the body, and to improve capillary stability.
Improving blood flow to the head has many benefits, with the most obvious being indicated by its traditional name of 'Memory Tree'.
In one trial, giving healthy young volunteers Ginkgo instead of placebo produced a number of changes in their cognitive performance. The most striking was an improvement in the speed of attention factor (speed of performance on tasks assessing attention); but improvements were also seen in quality of memory and speed of memory. (3)
Improved blood flow increases the amount of white blood cells (immune cells that help fight infection). If the blood becomes stagnant, white cells will leave the circulation, which has negative implications for immune function. So, by improving your circulation you are improving the ability of the immune system to do its job. The stronger the blood flow, the easier it is for white blood cells to penetrate deep into tissues, tracking down damaging agents such as virus-infected cells in order to kill them. (4)
Liver tissue should be plentifully supplied with nutrient-bearing and oxygenating blood. When liver function is poor, clusters of red blood cells may occur, damaging the membranes of the blood cells which can impair oxygenation of the cells.
Another sign of improved liver function in one trial was the increase in glutathione levels. Glutathione is an antioxidant that scavenges free radicals in cells, more strongly than do vitamins C and E. Levels were higher after just 10 days of one Ginkgo trial, improving the anti-oxidative capacity of the body. (5)
As with any remedy or medicine, you should follow the manufacturer guidelines and always stay within the recommended dosage unless instructed by your doctor or herbalist. There are a number of situations where someone should not take Ginkgo:
- Not to be used with epilepsy
- Not to be used alongside HIV medication Efavirenz
- Not to be used alongside heart medication Nifedipine
- A doctor must be consulted before using it alongside blood-thinning or anticoagulant medication
- A doctor must be consulted before using it alongside any medication for a serious health issue
Choosing a Ginkgo supplement
Ginkgo comes in dried leaf format for making tea, in tablets and in drops. To make sure you get the full range of activities from the chemicals that make up the Ginkgo plant, you need to ensure that all the components of Ginkgo are present in the remedy you are using. To ensure this is the case, choose one that is made from the fresh, whole Ginkgo plant rather than isolated components. This is important, as many Ginkgo remedies are of poor quality.
How does improved circulation help our health?
Proper circulation is key for keeping us healthy. It ensures that blood and oxygen continuously flow throughout the body, allowing every organ to function properly. It helps to heal wounds faster, maintains a healthy heart, and keeps your immune system, skin and brain in tip top shape.
Poor circulation is behind many common symptoms such as:
- Lack of concentration/ memory
- Feeling incompetent at dealing with daily tasks
- Light headedness/ dizziness
- Deteriorating eyesight
- Cold hands and feet
- Heavy lower legs/ jumpy legs
- Blood pressure imbalance (too high or too low)
- Skin pallor and unhealthy skin