Will Ginkgo Prevent a Heart Attack?
Ginkgo is an herbal extract that may be used as a dietary supplement. If comes from the leaves of the ginkgo tree and is believed to improve circulation and cognitive abilities.
Some of the functions associated with Ginkgo include:
Decreased platelet aggregation (blood clotting)
Improved memory and brain function
Increased serotonin receptors
Increased glucose uptake
Increased oxygen supplied to the brain
The recommended daily dose of Ginkgo may vary between 60 to 120 mg/day.
There are potential side effects associated with the herbal remedy, such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. If you take blood thinners, such as Coumadin, or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) ginkgo is not recommended. MAOIs are a class of antidepressant drugs. Discuss any supplements you take or are considering with your doctor. There is potential for a drug-nutrient interaction.
There has been some evidence to indicate that Ginkgo can be used to treat a variety of health conditions. A few of the health conditions include:
Study finds ginkgo does not prevent heart attacks
The studies on Ginkgo have produced conflicting results. In 2008, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh completed a study on 3,069 patients and found no benefit linked to ginkgo for preventing dementia. However, researchers did find ginkgo to play a role in preventing vascular disease.
Participants in the study received 120 mg of ginkgo or a placebo twice a day. Notice that this is a dose of 240 mg daily which is higher than the recommended dose range I listed above. Participants were over the age of 79-years-old with high blood pressure and a history of cardiovascular disease. Patients were followed over a six year period. Researchers did not find a significant connection between ginkgo and the number of patients that experienced a stroke, heart attack, transient ischemic attack, or chest pain during the study. There were 35 participants treated for peripheral artery disease (PAD). Twenty-three received the placebo, while 12 received ginkgo. This indicates that ginkgo may be a useful tool in treating PAD.
It's estimated that 8 million Americans suffer from PAD even though the condition is frequently misdiagnosed. Symptoms of PAD include pain, cramping, or tiredness in the leg and/or hip muscles when walking. The pain will usually subside with rest and return when walking resumes. If you live with PAD you are at increased risk for a heart attack and stroke.
You can review this particular study from 2008 in the Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. This study concluded that ginkgo cannot be recommended for preventing cardiovascular disease, but further studies on the connection between PAD and ginkgo may be worthwhile.
When you look at the body of evidence that supports or argues against a particular supplement to treat a disease, it's important to remember that one supplement is unlikely to work on its own. However, combined with other treatment options it may make a difference. Again, always consult with your doctor prior to adding an herbal supplement (or any supplement) to your treatment plan.
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Smith, Pamela Wartian. What You Must Know about Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & More. Garden City Park, NY: Square One, 2008. Print.