Herbs — Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba

Botanical Name: Ginkgo biloba
Common Names: Maidenhair tree

Overview

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is one of the oldest living tree species and its leaves are among the most extensively studied botanicals in use today. Unlike many other medicinal herbs, ginkgo leaves are not frequently used in their crude state, but rather, in the form of a concentrated, standardized ginkgo biloba extract (GBE). In Europe, GBE is among the best-selling herbal medications and it ranks within the top five of all prescriptions written in France and Germany.

Ginkgo has been used in traditional medicine to treat circulatory disorders and enhance memory. Scientific studies throughout the years lend support to these traditional uses. Emerging evidence suggests that GBE may be particularly effective in treating ailments associated with decreased blood flow to the brain, particularly in elderly individuals. Laboratory studies have shown that GBE improves blood circulation by dilating blood vessels and reducing the stickiness of blood platelets.

Ginkgo leaves also contain two types of chemicals (flavonoids and terpenoids) believed to have potent antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that scavenge free radicals — damaging compounds in the body that alter cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. Free radicals occur naturally in the body, but environmental toxins (including ultraviolet light, radiation, cigarette smoking, and air pollution) can also increase the number of these damaging particles. Free radicals are believed to contribute to a number of health problems including heart disease and cancer as well as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Antioxidants such as those found in ginkgo can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.

Based on studies conducted in laboratories, animals, and humans, professional herbalists may recommend ginkgo for the following health problems:

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
Ginkgo is widely used in Europe for treating dementia. The reason that ginkgo is thought to be helpful for preventing or treating these brain disorders is because it improves blood flow in the brain and because of its antioxidant properties. Although many of the clinical trials have been scientifically flawed, the evidence that ginkgo may improve thinking, learning, and memory in people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has been highly promising.

Clinical studies suggest that ginkgo provides the following benefits for people with AD:

Improvement in thinking, learning, and memory
Improvement in activities of daily living
Improvement in social behavior
Fewer feelings of depression
One recent study also found that ginkgo may be as effective as leading AD medications in delaying the symptoms of dementia in people with this debilitating condition. In addition, ginkgo is sometimes used preventively because it may delay the onset of AD in someone who is at risk for this type of dementia (for example, family history).

Eye problems
The flavonoids found in ginkgo may help halt or lessen some retinal problems (that is, problems to the back part of the eye). Retinal damage has a number of potential causes, including diabetes and macular degeneration. Macular degeneration (often called age-related macular degeneration or ARMD) is a progressive, degenerative eye disease that tends to affect older adults and is the number one cause of blindness in the United States. Studies suggest that gingko may help preserve vision in those with ARMD.

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Herbs — American Ginseng

American Ginseng

Botanical Name: Panax quinquefolium

Overview

Ginseng is widely used to strengthen the immune system, and increase strength and vigor. Both American and Asian ginsengs belong to the species Panax and are similar in their chemical composition. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), on the other hand, although part of the same plant family called Araliaceae, is an entirely different plant and does not contain ginsenosides, the active ingredients found in both Asian and American ginseng. (Note: Asian ginseng is also known as Red Korean ginseng.)

One similarity that American, Asian, and Siberian ginsengs all share is that each of these herbs is considered to be an adaptogen, a substance that strengthens the body, helping it return to normal when it has been subjected to stress. Therefore, they are considered to be valuable supports for those recovering from illness or surgery, especially the elderly.

The root of American ginseng is light tan and gnarled. Its resemblance to the human body may have led herbalists to the folkloric belief that ginseng could cure all ills. In fact panax means all illness and ginseng has been used across the ages in many different cultures as a “cure-all”.

Research on ginseng has focused on a number of conditions, some of which are described below.

ADHD
An early study suggests that American ginseng, in combination with ginkgo, may prove to be of value in helping to treat ADHD. More research in this area is needed.

Alcohol Intoxication
Ginseng could be helpful in treating alcohol intoxication. The herb may accomplish this by speeding up the metabolism (break down) of alcohol and, thus, allowing it to clear more quickly from the body. Or, as animal research suggests, Asian ginseng may reduce the absorption of alcohol from the stomach.

Alzheimer’s Disease
Individual reports and animal studies indicate that either American ginseng or Asian ginseng may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and improve memory and behavior. Studies of large groups of people are needed to best understand this possible use of ginseng.

Cancer
A study comparing groups of people over time suggests that regular intake of ginseng may reduce one’s chances of getting various types of cancer, especially lung, liver, stomach, pancreatic and ovarian. In this particular study, this benefit was not observed for breast, cervical, or bladder cancers. However, a test tube study suggests that American ginseng may enhance the effects of medications used to treat breast cancer. And, preliminary results suggest that ginseng may improve treatment of colon cancer in animals. A greater number of well-designed studies including, ultimately, large numbers of people are needed before conclusions can be drawn about whether ginseng offers some protection from cancer or not.

Cardiovascular Health
Asian ginseng in particular may decrease endothelial cell dysfunction. Endothelial cells line the inside of blood vessels. When these cells are disturbed, referred to as dysfunction, they can cause blockage of blood flow in a variety of ways. This disturbance or disruption may even lead to heart attack or stroke. The potential for ginseng to quiet down the blood vessels may prove to be protective against heart and other forms of cardiovascular disease.

Although not proven, ginseng may also raise HDL (the good cholesterol), while reducing total cholesterol levels.

Finally, there is some controversy about whether, under certain circumstances, ginseng may help improve blood pressure. Ginseng is generally considered to be a substance to avoid if you have hypertension because it can raise blood pressure. In a couple of studies, however, of red Korean (Asian) ginseng, high doses of this herb actually lowered blood pressure. Some feel that the usual doses of ginseng may increase blood pressure while high doses may have the opposite effect of decreasing blood pressure. Much more information is needed in this area before a conclusion can be drawn. And, if you have high blood pressure or heart disease, it is not safe to try ginseng on your own, without specific instructions from a knowledgeable clinician.

Depression
Because of its ability to help resist or reduce stress, some herbal specialists may consider ginseng as part of the treatment for depression.

Diabetes
While both Asian and American ginsengs appear to lower blood sugar (glucose) levels, American ginseng has been the more studied in scientific trials. One study found that people with type 2 (adult onset) diabetes who took American ginseng before or together with a high sugar load experienced less of a rise in blood glucose levels after they consumed all of that sugar.

Fertility/Sexual Performance
Ginseng is widely believed to be capable of enhancing sexual performance. However, studies in people to investigate this are limited. In animal studies, ginseng has increased sperm production, sexual activity, and sexual performance. A study of 46 men has also shown an increase in sperm count as well as motility.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

Know that you are your greatest enemy, but also your greatest friend.

– Jeremy Taylor

Flowers are the alphabet of angels, whereby they write on the hills and fields mysterious truths.

– Benjamin Franklin

Living well and beautifully and justly are all one thing.

– Socrates

We load up on oat bran in the morning so we’ll live forever. Then we spend the rest of the day living like there’s no tomorrow.

– Lee Iacocca

You’ll meet more angels on a winding path than on a straight one.

– Daisey Verlaef

Enchantment is destroyed by vagueness and mystery exists only in precise things.

– Jean Cocteau

Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together.

– Vesta M. Kelly

A single day is enough to make us a little larger.

– Paul Klee

Detachment

Practice detachment

As our consciousness rises, our perspective becomes more and more impersonal. What does this mean?

It means we are increasingly able to view our lives and the rest of the world with detachment. This does not mean we are cold and uncaring. Rather, we are self-contained. We have well-defined boundaries and we are able to think and act objectively, clearly and responsibly.

When we have learned detachment, we do not get hooked into the thoughts and feelings of others. We are not easily upset or manipulated. We may feel compassion for others but this does not cloud our ability to choose how we think, feel and behave. We also do not need others to behave in any particular way.

“Until we take how we see ourselves (and how we see others) into account, we will be unable to understand how others see and feel about themselves and their world. Unaware, we will project our intentions on their behavior and call ourselves objective.”

— Stephen Covey

Meditation

Tricycle Daily Dharma

August 17, 2012

Inhabiting Our Body

As we inhabit our body with increasing sensitivity, we learn its unspoken language and patterns, which gives us tremendous freedom to make choices. The practice of cutting thoughts and dispersing negative repetitive patterns can be simplified by attending to the patterns in the body first, before they begin to be spun around in the mind.

Jill Satterfield, “Meditation in Motion

Peace

Tricycle Daily Dharma

August 14, 2012

Choosing Inner Peace

If we had to make a choice between outer pleasure, comfort and peace, and inner freedom and ultimate happiness, we should choose inner peace. If we could find that within, then the outer would take care of itself.

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, “Invisible Realities

Merton Institute — April 2012

i have enjoyed receiving all of these from the Merton Institute.  sadly they are no longer being sent out – so what i post here is all that is left of them:

Weekly Reflection for April 16, 2012

The way to find the real “world” is not merely to measure and observe what is outside us, but to discover our own inner ground. For that is where the world is, first of all: in my deepest self.

Thomas Merton. Contemplation in A World of Action (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1973): 170

Thought for the Day:  When I find the world in my own ground, it is impossible for me to be alienated by it.

Contemplation in A World of Action:  170

Contemplative Pause:  Throughout this week, pause, take a breath, and listen with your heart. Find how your “inner ground” reflects your outer world.

Weekly Reflection for April 23, 2012

Do you want to know God? Then learn to understand the weaknesses and imperfections of other men. But how can you understand the weaknesses of others unless you understand your own? And how can you see the meaning of your own limitations until you have received mercy from God, by which you know yourself and Him?

Thomas Merton. No Man Is An Island. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1955: 214

Thought for the Day:  It is not sufficient to forgive others: we must forgive them with humility and compassion. If we forgive them without humility, our forgiveness is a mockery: it presupposes that we are better than they.

No Man Is An Island.: 214

Contemplative Pause:  Throughout this week, pause, take a breath, and listen with your heart. What aches in your heart that longs to be forgiven?

Weekly Reflection for April 30, 2012

Contemplation cannot be taught. It cannot even be clearly explained. It can only be hinted at, suggested, pointed to, symbolized. The more objectively and scientifically one tries to analyze it, the more he empties it of its real content, for this experience is beyond the reach of verbalization and of rationalization….

Thomas Merton. New Seeds of Contemplation. New York: New Directions Press, 1962: 6

Thought for the Day:  The only way to get rid of misconceptions about contemplation is to experience it.

New Seeds of Contemplation:  6

Contemplative Pause:  Throughout this week, pause, take a breath, and listen with your heart. How do you experience contemplation?