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April 1995

The Mountaineer’s Herb

Ginkgo helps with altitude sickness and cold.

Fans of herbal remedies are well aware of the benefits of Ginkgo biloba, which is said to improve blood flow and increase the oxygenation of tissues. New evidence suggests it also helps the body adapt to cold and altitude. According to Peter Hackett, M.D., a leader in high-altitude medicine research, “Ginkgo needs more research, but there’s sufficient data to recommend it for adjusting to both altitude and cold.” In Dr. Hackett’s studies, the herb improved blood flow to test subjects’ cold hands and feet.

For those encountering cold or high-altitude conditions, the average dose is 80 to 120 mg taken at morning and night. Use the lowest dose that works for you. Dr. Hackett’s subjects started taking the herb 5 days prior to the ascent, but, he says, it could be started the day before the ascent or even after the headache, nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, and sleeplessness of acute mountain sickness appear.

Because it “thins the blood, ginkgo should not be used by anyone taking anticoagulants or high doses of vitamin E,” advises Dr. Hackett.

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