KOREA – Extracts from the leaves of the Gingko biloba tree may protect cells from radiation, say Korean scientists.
The discovery some day may help reduce side effects in cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy treatment.
Researchers at the Korean Institute of Radiological and Medical Sciences are studying the effects of popular herbal remedies such as Gingko biloba. The Gingko tree is different from many herbal remedies because it is a unique species with no living relatives and is a popular example of a living fossil.
It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. G. biloba is sold as a herbal supplement and promoted as a possible preventive for dementia.
Extracts from Gingko biloba leaves contain the compounds glycosides and terpenoids, antioxidants known as ginkgolides and bilobalides. Antioxidants are believed to protect cells from damage free radicals can cause. The body produces free radicals during the normal process of metabolism, but some diseases as well as pollution and radiation can increase their production tremendously, damaging cells and DNA.
Chang-Mo Kang and his colleagues collected white blood cells of healthy people ages 18 to 50. They treated half with a commercially available G. biloba extract and the other half with a saline solution. Then they compared the effects of radiation on the two groups of cells.
They discovered that 1 in 3 of the untreated cells died, while only 1 in 20 of the cells treated with the Gingko biloba extract died. Additional studies with mice showed a similar protective effect against radiation poisoning.
Kang’s research suggests that Gingko biloba extracts can neutralize free radicals radiation produces and prevent healthy cells from dying.