Besides protecting your brain cells from the hands of time, ginkgo might also help reduce symptoms of fibrocystic breast conditions. French researchers studied 143 women with PMS and found that ginkgo significantly reduced PMS-related breast tenderness, not to mention abdominal bloating, and swollen hands, legs and feet.6
The women took ginkgo on day 16 of their cycle and continued until day 5 of their next cycle, at which time they stopped; they resumed taking the herb again on day 16.
The recommended dose of ginkgo is 40 to 80 milligrams, taken three times daily. Start on day 16 (start counting from the first day of your period) and continue until the end of your next period—that means you will take ginkgo for two weeks each month. To buy a high-quality product, make sure the label states it is standardized to contain 24 percent ginkgo flavone glycosides. Ginkgo is very safe but, like most herbal remedies, it may cause mild stomach upset in a small number of women.
One concern is ginkgo’s mild blood-thinning effect. It should not be taken with blood-thinning drugs such as Coumadin® (warfarin) or heparin unless your doctor is monitoring you. It is also possible that ginkgo can enhance the effect of other natural health products that also slightly thin the blood (like vitamin E or garlic). Be sure to inform your physician and pharmacist if you are taking a number of these supplements. The herb has not been studied in pregnant or breastfeeding women, so its use is not recommended at these times.
The Bottom Line…
Leslie’s recommendations for fibrocystic breast conditions
1. Eat a low-fat diet. Start by using little or no added fats to foods and in cooking. Read labels on packages of commercial foods—look for no more than 2 grams of fat per 100 calories (this means it has 20 percent fat from calories).
2. Boost your intake of dietary fiber, especially wheat bran. Start by reaching for a bowl of high-fiber breakfast cereal.
3. To help lower the amount of estrogen that comes in contact with your breast cells, consider adding soy foods to your daily diet.
4. If you suffer from breast pain, swelling or lumpiness, eliminate all sources of caffeine from your diet for at least three months.
5. If you’re not already taking this supplement, consider adding 400 international units (IU) of vitamin E to your daily nutrition regime. Buy a natural source vitamin E pill. Consider looking for a vitamin E that provides “mixed tocopherols” or “mixed vitamin E.” The daily upper limit for vitamin E is 1000 IU (natural) or 1500 IU (synthetic).
6. If you have cyclic or noncyclic breast pain, take evening primrose oil. Buy a product standardized to contain 9 percent GLA. Take 1.5 grams in the morning and 1.5 grams in the evening for a total of 3 grams per day. Wait at least three menstrual cycles to see if your symptoms improve.
7. If breast swelling is a real problem for you, consider trying ginkgo biloba. Buy a product standardized to 24 percent ginkgo flavone glycosides. Take 40 to 80 milligrams three times daily. Do not use ginkgo if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.