Where it comes from: Ginkgo extract comes from the leaves of the Ginkgo Biloba tree and has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine. It’s also one of the most frequently prescribed medicinal herbs in Europe and is growing in popularity in the States. Ginkgo biloba is available in capsulated pill form.

What it’ll do for you: Most uses of ginkgo have centered on improvement in blood flow and oxygen delivery. (The herb helps open the vessels that deliver blood to your brain and breaks up platelets to help it flow more easily.) It’s also believed to be beneficial in treating allergies and asthma, as it is anti-inflammatory and can relax the lungs. “There have been reports of improved cognition in Alzheimer’s patients and decreased symptoms of peripheral vascular disease,” adds Sarah Currie, RD and personal trainer for New York City-based Physical Equilibrium LLC. “Some sources even claim ginkgo can improve memory [and productivity] in healthy individuals.” Here, a closer look at the benefits most relevant to you:

  • Improves productivity
    Researchers at Purdue University studied 19 males and 20 females for 13 weeks. Some participants were supplemented with 184 milligrams of ginkgo biloba, while the others were given a placebo. Both groups were given various alertness, performance and chemosensory tests at weeks 1, 5, 9 and 13. Performance on the tests improved for those taking the supplements compared to those taking the placebo.
  • May prevent pancreatic cancer
    A 2008 study at Baylor College of Medicine reported that kaempferol, a ginkgo biloba extract, can help stop pancreatic cancer cells from growing. After just four days of treatment, the cell increase was significantly halted by as much as 79 percent. Similarly, the treatment also made the tumor cells more sensitive to chemotherapy.
  • May prevent acute mountain sickness (AMS)
    Good news if you plan on climbing something really tall: Chilean researchers found AMS could be prevented when people took 80 milligrams of ginkgo every 12 hours, starting 24 hours before their ascent and continuing throughout the climb.

Suggested intake: Although many studies have examined a higher dosage, those have been under a doctor’s care. For now, the recommended daily amount is posted at 40-80 milligrams up to three times a day.

Associated risks/scrutiny: Ginkgo appears to be safe and has few side effects. Ginkgo Biloba may cause abdominal problems, nausea and indigestion. Patients with seizure disorders should avoid this supplement, as ginkgo may lower the seizure threshold. Those who have clotting disorders or taking anticoagulants should also avoid ginkgo, based on reports of bleeding.

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