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HeadWay, Issue #014 -- Don't forget the Ginkgo!
September 21, 2004

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In this month's issue:

Don't forget the Ginkgo!

Monthly migraine ... again

Say what?! Fighting clots

Don't forget the Ginkgo!

...Ginkgo Biloba, that is. Ginkgo Biloba is one herb that has been suggested for the treatment of migraine. Actually, it's be suggested for the treatment of many things – memory loss, vertigo, menopause, and depression, to name a few. It's one of the best researched of all the herbs with over 120 clinical studies, and is being used more and more around the world. The supplement generally comes from the leaves of the tree.

Research seems to show that Ginkgo increases blood flow, including blood flow to the brain. It's often sold as a brain booster or memory booster, but the research on memory improvement is probably the weakest, unless you have a severe memory problem.

Ginkgo also seems to help “tone up” blood vessels. Back in the day when we thought migraine was all about blood vessels, anything that made a difference on that level was welcomed. Now, research is pointing more to genetic and neurological causes for migraine. However, anything that can help keep the brain and surrounding blood flow healthy may be worth trying, because it may stop or slow the pain even after it starts, or keep it from becoming an issue.

Always remember, you need to be just as cautious about herbal therapies as you are about drugs. If you're taking anything else, be sure to check with your doctor. The nice thing about herbs, of course, is that they sometimes get us one step ahead of medical science. They're complex plants, and why they benefit us is not always fully understood.

Be sure to find “standardized” ginkgo biloba. Generally recommended is 60-160mg per day, taken in 2-3 doses. If you're dealing with bleeding or taking any anti blood clotting medication, or if you're pregnant, don't take ginkgo. Also, check with your doctor if you're taking calcium channel blockers, such as Nimotop.

It takes about 3 months of taking the herb regularly to see the benefits. Be sure to keep a headache diary before and during, so you can see the pain decrease. has excellent standardized ginkgo biloba supplements, without added bonuses like artificial flavours and gluten and sugar. GNC has these 50mg capsules.icon

Thanks to American Family Physician (Sep 2003) and the Guide To The 50 Most Common Medicinal Herbs, by Heather Boon BscPhm, PhD and Michael Smith Bpharm, MRPharmS, ND for this information.

Remember, stop by the HeadWay Mailroom with your feedback and suggestions! Click the link at the bottom of this page, and use the password nomoache.

Monthly migraine ... again

Just like clockwork ... one by one the Triptans are being tested, to see how effective they are when it comes to menstrual migraine. If you've dug around, you've read our article on hormonal headache, with a specific focus on the monthly headache. If you haven't read the article, you can read it here:

Eletriptan (Relpax) has been popular over the past year as a menstrual migraine treatment. This past July, Neurology reported on frovatriptan (Frova). The women took the medication starting two days before their expected period. The women who took 2.5 milligrams of frovatriptan twice a day for six days experienced a significant reduction in their migraine symptoms.

There have been improvements in the triptan drugs since sumatriptan (Sold as Imitrex and Imigran), and if you had little success with one triptan, you might be wise to try another. For one thing, frovatriptan seems to be longer acting. It could be helpful to take a triptan like this a few days before you do something else that you know will cause migraine symptoms, such as air travel. It sure beats taking the drug every single day of your life, whether you need it or not!

The catch is that you do need to be able to accurately estimate the start of your period. Otherwise, obviously, the two day lead-time plan won't be much help.

A reminder of the reality of our world – 3 of the authors of this study were being paid by the makers of Frova. But let's face it – the triptans have quickly gained a very good track record, and they've been studied quite a bit. Of course, in the end the only one who can make the final judgement is you. So why not talk to your doctor? And check out the article on hormonal headache for more ideas and options.

Say what?! Fighting clots

The definition of the month – An “Anti-coagulant” is a drug that slows the clotting of blood. You might take these drugs if your doctor is worried about clots creating a blockage in your brain, for example. Some drugs are designed for this purpose, others, such as aspirin, have it as a side effect. You need to be careful if you are taking something as an anti-coagulant that you don't cancel out the effects, or increase them (as some research suggests Ginkgo Biloba may do).

P.S. In July I mentioned a book entitled “The Posture Prescription” by Dr Arthur White. There's now a full review of this book online here. This book is helpful for everyone, but if you get chronic headaches or migraine symptoms, this book will be especially helpful for you. Check it out!

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