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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Update

Air Date: Week of

Maggie Villiger reports that the herbal supplement ginkgo biloba may be able to treat altitude sickness.


VILLIGER: Planning a mountain trek? Maybe you should grab some gingko before you go. The popular herbal supplement may prevent altitude sickness, according to researchers from the Wilderness Medical Society. The nausea, dizziness, and fatigue of altitude sickness are the body's response to lower oxygen levels at high elevations. Many travelers don't have time to acclimate, and commonly-used drugs have nasty side effects. Gingko biloba may be able to help. In this recent study, 21 people took the herb for five days before their climb. For comparison, another group took a placebo. Then everyone drove almost 10,000 feet up Pike's Peak in Colorado. Those who took gingko were only half as likely to feel ill as those who didn't. While scientists don't yet understand how gingko biloba might combat altitude sickness, the results were encouraging enough to repeat the study, now in the slightly warmer climes of Hawaii. And that's this week's health update. I'm Maggie Villiger.



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