Chinese herbalists have used the fan-shaped leaves of the deciduous ginkgo tree for thousands of years to treat asthma, chilblains (an inflammation caused by exposure to cold) and swellings. Today, Western herbalists value ginkgo leaves for their action against vascular diseases that typically affect the elderly. One of ginkgo's most important benefits is its ability to increase vasodilation (expansion of blood vessels), and thereby improve blood flow in capillaries and arteries, especially in peripheral areas such as the lower legs and feet. It also appears to improve blood flow to the brain.
Herbalists believe that ginkgo may interfere with the development of blood clots and the processes that constrict bronchial tubes during an asthma attack. In addition it may help reduce retinal damage from macular degeneration, a cause of blindness particularly threatening for diabetics. And it may help reverse deafness caused by reduced blood flow to the nerves involved in hearing.
Ginkgo leaves are available in dry bulk, capsules or tincture. You can find a standardized product known as ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) in health food stores. Most herbalists recommend using only over-the-counter ginkgo products.