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Ginkgo Biloba for Water Retention

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Ginkgo Biloba is an effective herb that helps reduce edema.

Fluid retention in the feet and ankles is a common medical condition, known as edema. It mostly occurs in the elderly, pregnant women, and obese people. 

The skin might look stretched, shiny or puffy, depending on the amount of fluid trapped in the body’s tissues. Though there are several over the counter diuretics available to treat edema, some people prefer using herbs to alleviate swelling. 

Ginkgo Biloba is one such herb that helps reduce water retention and swelling. Although it is used primarily as a memory aid, it may be quite useful in reducing edema

There are several natural remedies for fluid retention that contains ginkgo biloba, among other active ingredients. You may consider using Capisette which contains ginkgo biloba, dandelion extract, horse chestnut, and buchu extracts. 

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba is the name of the herb obtained from the Maidenhair tree. It is an ancient herbal remedy that still persists in traditional medicine today.

Herbal ginkgo biloba preparations are made from the extracts of the leaves. Ginkgo is especially notable for improving memory and cognition.

In the treatment of edema, ginkgo is most useful for its ability to improve microcirculation. In this way, it improves blood flow in the capillaries and ensures that nutrient-rich blood gets to most tissues and organs.

Since the nephrons of the kidneys are supplied by an intricate network of capillaries, ginkgo is especially useful for improving glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and the overall efficiency of the kidneys.

Edema patients with renal impairment can especially benefit from ginkgo since most diuretics are not well distributed to their sites of action in the kidney due to reduced blood flow to the nephrons and medulla of the kidneys. By improving blood flow especially in the capillaries, ginkgo can ensure the transportation of these medications to the different parts of the kidney where they act.

Ginkgo is even more effective in relieving serious types of edema such as cerebral edema and pulmonary edema.

How Does It Work? 

Ginkgo improves the blood circulation in the body by dilating blood vessels and diminishing the stickiness of blood platelets. 

For edema-sufferers, improved circulation may lead to a reduction in swelling. A trusted health care practitioner should recommend a safe dosage of ginkgo for your edema. 

Your health and the particular cause of edema are important factors that the doctor should consider before suggesting a dose

The general recommended dose for adults range from 120 to 240 mg. Ginkgo is available in various forms, such as tablets, tinctures, teas, and capsules. 

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, initial results might take four to six weeks to show, although they should increase after that. 

Since edema is sometimes an indication of a serious problem with the kidneys, heart, or liver, it's crucial to consult a doctor for a diagnosis before using ginkgo and other treatments. 

Certain medications might also cause water retention. Some of them are blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and birth control pills. 

If you suspect that your medications are causing edema, talk to your doctor to find out whether a different medicine might be better for you. 

For Cerebral Edema

There are two classes of cerebral edema: cytotoxic edema which is caused by a compound called Triethyltin and vasogenic edema which is traumatic cerebral edema.

Cytotoxic edema is usually the first edema to present during cerebral ischemia. It involves the breakdown of the ionic pumps in the membranes of the brain. This leads to the loss of potassium ions from brain cells and the influx of water, sodium, calcium and chloride ions.

Vasogenic edema is the second phase of cerebral edema. It involves the accumulation of compounds which disrupts the membranes. These compounds include lactates, unsaturated fatty acids, and phosphates.

They produce free radicals which rupture membranes and brain cells leading to the accumulation of fluids in the spaces between the cells.

Different studies have found ginkgo effective for both types of cerebral edema. Extracts of ginkgo biloba protect brain cells and their membranes by mopping up harmful free radicals, maintaining ionic pumps and improving blood circulation in the capillaries.

One study observed the effect of ginkgo biloba extract on cytotoxic edema in rats. When the rats were treated with triethyltin chloride, brain scans showed that there was a high level of sodium and water filling the intercellular spaces. Potassium levels were also reduced.

However, when ginkgo extracts were co-administered with triethyltin, there was no significant elevation of electrolyte levels or water retention.

A German study published in 2009 has identified the active ingredient in ginkgo which gives its extract the ability to protect the brain from cerebral edema. This active ingredient is bilobalide.

Bilobalide was found to protect the brain from damage during stroke in mice. It inhibited the breakdown of membranes and reduced the extent of cerebral edema.

For Pulmonary Edema

Pulmonary edema refers to the accumulation of fluid in the air spaces and tissues of the lungs. It is usually caused by the failure of the left ventricle to return blood to the heart.

A variant of pulmonary edema is high altitude pulmonary edema. This occurs in mountain climbers and at heights above 2,500 meters.

Ginkgo is currently being investigated for treating high altitude pulmonary edema. Already, a 2004 study involving rats has established the positive benefits of ginkgo extract for this type of edema.

For Cyclic Edema

Cyclic edema is also referred to as fluid retention syndrome. It causes swelling of the legs, feet, face, and abdomen. It is a recurring form of edema observed in some young women just before they menstruate.

In 1993, French researchers treated 10 women experiencing cyclic edema with 160 – 200 mg of ginkgo extract for 2 months. 3 of them were cured of the syndrome with the edema never returning during subsequent menstrual cycles.

The other study participants improved significantly with tests showing that fluids no longer leaked into the spaces between cells.

Are There Any Side Effects? 

Ginkgo is generally safe to use; however, people with epilepsy should not use the herb due to the possible risk of seizures. 

Some mild side effects of ginkgo include a headache, diarrhea, gastrointestinal upset, nausea, dizziness, or allergic skin reactions. More severe allergic reactions have also been reported. 

Ginkgo might increase the risk of bleeding, so people who take anticoagulants, and have bleeding disorders, or have scheduled surgery or dental procedures should talk to a doctor before using ginkgo for edema. 

You must tell your health care practitioner about any complementary and alternative practices you use before taking ginkgo supplements to treat edema

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid taking ginkgo or any other product that contains ginkgo. 

Are There Any Drug Interactions? 

You should avoid taking ginkgo with ibuprofen as it might slow blood clotting and increase the chance of bleeding and bruising. 

Ginkgo might interact with anticoagulants / antiplatelet drugs. Some medications that you must avoid if you are taking ginkgo are: 

Aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), enoxaparin (Lovenox), ticlopidine (Ticlid), dalteparin (Fragmin), heparin, indomethacin (Indocin), warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

Next Article: Edema Diet: Foods to Avoid for Edema