Getting the lowdown on ginkgo biloba |

Getting the lowdown on ginkgo biloba

Dear Humorous Herbalist,

I’ve been following your articles for years. I was most recently interested in your opinion (9/8/02) regarding the ginkgo study which stated that ginkgo was “ineffective.” Your clear and concise explanation was fair and well presented. I made several copies of that article and passed it along to my family who was buying into the media’s trashing of ginkgo.

Now, to my question. I have a two ounce bottle of ginkgo liquid extract I bought in 1999. It has a mixture of alcohol and water as its base. I also have a 100 capsule bottle of standardized ginkgo capsules which have an expiration date of October, 1998. Is the ginkgo extract still any good? There is no expiration date on that bottle. Do the capsules still have power even though the manufacturer’s expiration date is four years ago? Keep up the good work!

Stanley, Aspen

Dear Stanley,

Any herbal extract that is in a base of alcohol or in a base of alcohol and water is good for years. The alcohol acts as a natural preservative. When water is used in the product, I think distilled water is always best but any purified water will work. I have alcohol extracts I made 10 and 12 years ago that are as powerful now as then.

The only exception to this extract rule would be if the extract’s base was vegetable glycerine. Vegetable glycerine extracts are inherently weaker in nature, both medicinally and in relation to their shelf lifespan. So, to answer your ginkgo extract question, that bottle should last you many more years. But my question, Stanley, is why haven’t you used up the extract in the lastthree years? Herbal extracts are not house decorations, Stanley. They are meant to be taken advantage of and ingested.

Regarding your ginkgo capsules, I’m afraid they are way overdue for the trash can. Capsules in general do not hold their medicinal punch beyond their expiration date because once you powder an herb and put it through the lab process of standardization, the integrity of the plant matter has been broken down to a point where it has a definite and finite lifespan.

Dear Humorous Herbalist,

In one of your past articles on the herb ginkgo biloba, you stated that ginkgo needs to be taken with other herbs in order for it to be most effective. Could you tell me what other herbs work best with ginkgo and what their action is? Thank you.

Cherise (via email)

Dear Cherise,

For those who missed the article, I stated that I and other herbalists over the years have noticed that ginkgo biloba tends to work best when it is combined with other herbs that synergize and direct it.

Ginkgo’s main function is to increase blood flow while reducing free radical damage. These functions are tremendously increased when other brain protecting and blood stimulating herbs are added to the formula.

Perhaps the best herb to partner with ginkgo is gotu kola (this is not the same herb as kola nut. Kola nut is a high octane stimulant herb often found in thermogenic weight loss products.) The gotu kola leaf is often referred to in herbal circles as “comfrey for the brain.”

The herb comfrey has been known over the centuries to knit injured tendons, bones, flesh and cartilage back together. Gotu kola has been shown, over time, to knit and repair some damage to the brain – most importantly the damage done due to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. Conventional medical doctors will tell you this is “impossible.”

However, patients using gotu kola in tandem with ginkgo biloba have proven that minor to major cognitive function has been demonstrated after four to six weeks of herbal treatment. That is not to say that gotu kola and ginkgo reverse the symptoms of these diseases. The best research shows that these natural therapies (along with an improved nutritional program) can slow down deterioration and, sometimes, mend damage done by these devastating illnesses.

Another herb that functions well with ginkgo is fo-ti (known also as Ho sho wu on some herbal labels.) Fo-ti has long been regarded as an anti-aging liver tonic that can restore energy, increase fertility and maintain strength and vigor for those over 40. When you combine the anti-oxidant properties of ginkgo with the restorative powers of fo-ti, you’ve got a powerhouse combo.

No matter what combination of herbs you choose to blend with ginkgo, remember that these herbs work slowly and methodically over time. Allow at least six weeks before noticing any major physical changes.

The information in this column is not meant to take the place of your physician, nor is it intended to treat, diagnose or prescribe. Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctor before using herbal therapy.

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