First diagnosed in 1906, Alzheimer's disease is a relative newcomer
to mankind's list of maladies. By contrast, the herbal extract Ginkgo
biloba has been used for its healing properties for more than 4,000
findings in an ongoing study at The University of Southern Mississippi,
it seems the ancient remedy could be an old answer to a new disease.
tests, Ginkgo biloba has been shown to increase circulation in the
brain and to reduce the plaque buildup that leads to Alzheimer's,
said chief researcher Dr. Yuan Luo, assistant professor of biology
at Southern Miss.
is a complex, mysterious brain disorder that results in the gradual
loss of brain cells. It affects an estimated 4.5 million Americans.
of mainstream scientists in the past have not wanted to touch alternative
medicine research because of philosophical differences," said
Luo, who will speak about the link between Alzheimer's and Ginkgo
biloba March 27 at the "World's Largest Brain" balloon
event at Southern Miss' Hattiesburg campus.
work must be done in this area because many Americans want to know
what they can do to prevent Alzheimer's. For this reason, the National
Institute of Health is funding our research."
ages and life span increases, more people are turning to nontraditional
medicines and herbal remedies to fight the ravages of time, Luo
said. At the forefront of that popularity is the Ginkgo extract.
Extracted from the fan-shaped leaves of the hardy Ginkgo tree, the
herbal remedy has been used medicinally for thousands of years.
biloba is sometimes called a 'living fossil.' It was the first tree
to grow back after the atomic bomb was dropped in Japan, and it
grew back without any mutations," said Julie Smith, a Southern
Miss doctoral student working on the project.
evidence of Ginkgo biloba's pharmaceutical value is slowly emerging
in the Unites States, in Europe it has been sold both over-the-counter
and by prescription for years. In Germany, where many of the best
brands of commercial Gingko biloba extract are manufactured, the
herb is one of the most commonly prescribed medicines by doctors.
from China, where she developed an interest in Eastern medicine
early in her career, Luo came to the United States to study Western
medicine - chiefly the physiology and chemistry of the brain. A
neuroscientist who did her postdoctoral work at M.I.T. and Harvard
Medical School, Luo says she has "always wanted to bridge the
gap between modern neuroscience and alternative medicines."
thesis in China was about acupuncture performed on dogs. When I
saw that endorphins were released in dogs that received acupuncture,
I began to see Eastern medicine really works. I wanted to take that
further and study other forms of traditional Chinese medicine,"
vaccine for Alzheimer's is in the works, currently there is no cure
for the degenerative disease, which can last from three to 20 years.
Memory and thinking skills are damaged first, and eventually, cells
in other regions of the brain are destroyed, eventually leading
one knows for sure what causes Alzheimer's, studies indicate the
greatest risk for developing Alzheimer's is simply getting older.
Smith says as many as 10 percent of all people 65 and older have
the disease, and as many as 50 percent of all people 85 and older
are at risk of developing it. Family history and head injuries are
also known risks.
Luo said a
history of previous strokes and lack of higher education are also
indicators of one's susceptibility.
we find a cure, the best thing to do is to slow down the accumulation
of cellular damage associated with aging, which can possibly delay
the onset of the disease," Smith said. You can do that by taking
antioxidants like vitamins C and E, which fight the free radicals
that attack healthy cells, she said. Getting exercise, quitting
smoking and participating in intellectually stimulating activities
are also ways you can minimize the risks of getting Alzheimer's.
recuperative traits do not stop at the brain. In addition to helping
restore memory in patients with mild to moderate cases of Alzheimer's,
it also helps reduce stress, Smith said. "It has been shown
that Gingko works better for people who are older and more stressed
than it does for younger, less stressed people."
For more information,
contact Luo or Smith at (601) 266-5417.