AKA: African ginger, Asarum canadense, black ginger, Canada snake-root, gan Jiang, Indian ginger, race ginger, wild ginger, Zingiberis officianalis, Zingiber officinale.

Effects: Has been used to treat anxiety and depression. A stimulant, it is said to benefit the stomach, intestines, and circulation, and has been used to treat cramps, indigestion, gas, motion sickness, and nausea. It is said to help cleanse the body through sweating, to stimulate the appetite, and to relieve the symptoms of colds.

Precautions: Large doses can cause stomach upset. Use of the whole plant causes liver damage in animals. In the 1930s, Jamaican ginger used in an alcoholic beverage caused major neurological symptoms in some people.

ginkgo biloba

AKA: EGb 761, Ginkgold, maidenhair tree, Rokan, Tanakan, Tebonin.

Effects: Acts as a vasodilator, improving circulation in the medium and small capillaries in the brain and extremities (it also increases the circulation of the microcapillaries, something no other known substance is known to do), prevents free radical damage in cell membranes (and repairs lesions caused by free radicals), protects nerve tissue from damage resulting from hypoxia (lack of oxygen), helps the brain to metabolize glucose better, facilitates nerve transmission, and increases alertness (by reducing theta brainwaves, the presence of which indicates inattention and lack of concentration), short-term memory, and overall brain functioning.

It has been used to treat age-related dementia in Europe for years, as it has been found to produce the same consistent EEG changes as those produced by drugs prescribed for dementia, though it may take six months before changes become apparent. It may have no memory- or brain-enhancement effect in healthy people with no brain impairment. It may inhibit mental deterioration in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease for six to twelve months, though some dispute this.

Ginkgo biloba contains ginkgolides, molecules that are antagonistic to Platelet Activating Factor (PAF), a major component of asthma, allergies, and inflammatory conditions. It may also be helpful in relieving the symptoms of such conditions as bronchial and cardiac asthma, cold extremities, diabetes, eczema, glaucoma, inner ear dysfunction, macular degeneration, migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis, neuralgia and neuropathy, retinopathy, tinnitus, vascular fragility, and vertigo. There is no evidence it can help sustain male erections.

Precautions: It has been found to reduce the ability of sperm to penetrate eggs, and individuals should exceed the average daily dose only under a physician's care. Because of the relationship to PAF, it can be a problem for those with clotting disorders. High doses may cause diarrhea, headaches, irritability, nausea, restlessness, skin irritations, and vomiting. The fruit can cause severe allergic reactions much like poison ivy and poison oak. Though commercially sold ginkgo biloba products are tannin-free, there may be a chance that some extracts are not, and these tannins, or astringent chemicals, may cause gastrointestinal disorders.

It may interact with such blood thinners as Warfarin (coumadin) and aspirin.

Dosage: From 120 to 160 mg/day of flavonoid extract in three divided doses (Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld recommends half that, while James A. Duke, Ph.D., considers 60 to 240 mg/day safe); it has a halflife of three hours, and it is pretty much gone after 6 hours. The extract must be at least a 50-to-l concentration (50 pounds of leaves used to make 1 pound of extract), along with 24 percent active ingredients (gingkoflavonglycosides, also referred to as flavoglycosides, flavone glycosides, or ginkgoheterosides); quite a few products available are lower in concentration and are taken in doses as high as 1000 mg/day. Improvements should be seen within three to six months.

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