Researchers have been searching for a long time for ways to minimize the side effects of radiation therapy, and there are signs they may have found a natural solution that can help cancer patients tolerate their treatments better.
According to a study published in The International Journal of Low Radiation, extracts of gingko biloba may protect cells from radiation damage.
To arrive at this conclusion, researchers collected white blood cells from healthy donors between the ages of 18 and 50. Half of the cells were then treated with gingko biloba and the rest were subjected to a saline solution.
After subsequent exposure to radiation, the scientists found the cells treated with gingko biloba had a lower rate of apoptosis, or cell death.
Subsequent laboratory studies on animals confirmed the results.
The leaves of gingko biloba—which naturally grows only in Zhejiang province in Eastern China—contain antioxidant-rich compounds which are believed to protect cells from damage by free radicals and other reactive oxidizing species.
It has been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years and is one of the most popular herbal supplements in the U.S, according to the Mayo Clinic. Gingko is believed to have a host of health benefits, including preventing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems, treating altitude sickness and reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.