This popular herbal medicine is extracted from the fan-shaped leaves of the ancient ginkgo biloba tree, a species that has survived in China for more than 200 million years and now grows throughout the world. (The leaves are double, or bi-lobed; hence the name biloba.) Long used in traditional Chinese medicine, it is only in the last few decades that the medicinal uses for the herb have been studied in the West.
One of the world’s most popular supplements, the chemical coenzyme Q10 has generated great excitement as a heart disease remedy and a cure for countless other conditions. The body naturally produces this compound, which has been dubbed “vitamin Q” because of its essential role in keeping all systems running smoothly. In fact, the scientists who identified coenzyme Q10 in 1957 initially honored its ubiquitous presence–it’s found in every human cell and in all living organisms–by naming it “ubiquinone.” Small amounts are also present in most foods.
In the late 1980s, scientists realized that alpha-lipoic acid, a compound initially classified as a vitamin when it was discovered three decades earlier, possessed potent antioxidant properties that could prevent healthy cells from getting damaged by unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals. In fact, this vitaminlike compound has proved to be many times more potent than such old guard antioxidants as vitamins C and E. As a perk, it even recycles C and E (as well as other antioxidants), enhancing their effectiveness.
Rhodiola rosea is a popular plant in traditional medical systems in Eastern Europe and Asia and is native to the mountainous regions of these areas. After considerable research by Russian scientists, it has been classified as an ‘adaptogen’ meaning that without treating one specific medical condition, regular use of Rhodiola will help the body resist stressors. By raising levels of monamines and beta-endorphins, Rhodiola raises a “stress buffer” system comparable to serotonin stress buffer raised by SSRI antidepressants including St. John’s wort. Therefore, virtually all symptoms caused or worsened by ‘stress,’ which may include depression, anxiety, insomnia, chronic muscle pain (fibromyalgia), chronic fatigue (from adrenal exhaustion), immune dysfunction (susceptibility to infections, cancer) might be either prevented or improved using an adaptogen like Rhodiola. In its historical use, before its mechanism of action was understood, Rhodiola was recommended to combat fatigue and restore energy.