Ginkgo Biloba is one of the oldest living tree species. Extracts of this plant can have positive effects on cognition, memory, circulation, mood, and oxidative stress.
Supporting research & information
Ginkgo is a large tree with fan-shaped leaves. Although Ginkgo is native parts of Asia, including China, Japan, and Korea, it has been grown in Europe since around 1730 and in the United States since around 1784.
Ginkgo leaf is often taken by mouth for memory disorders including Alzheimer's disease. It is also used for conditions that seem to be due to reduced blood flow in the brain, especially in older people. These conditions include memory loss, headache, ringing in the ears, vertigo, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances, and hearing disorders. Some people use it for other problems related to poor blood flow in the body, including leg pain when walking (claudication), and Raynaud's syndrome (a painful response to cold, especially in the fingers and toes).
Ginkgo leaf is also used for thinking disorders related to Lyme disease, chemotherapy, and depression.
Some people use ginkgo to treat sexual performance problems. It is sometimes used to reverse the sexual performance problems that can accompany taking certain antidepressants called SSRIs.
Ginkgo been used for eye problems including glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), as well as attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, heart disease and heart complications, high cholesterol, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and bloody diarrhea. Ginkgo leaf is also taken by mouth for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), schizophrenia, and to prevent winter depression, preventing mountain sickness and aging, controlling stomach acid, improving liver and gallbladder function, and controlling blood pressure. It is also taken by mouth to treat asthma, allergies, bronchitis, and for disorders of the central nervous system.
The list of other uses of ginkgo is very long. This may be because this herb has been around for so long. Ginkgo biloba is one of the longest living tree species in the world. Ginkgo trees can live as long as a thousand years. Using ginkgo for asthma and bronchitis was described in 2600 BC.
In manufacturing, ginkgo leaf extract is used in cosmetics. In foods, roasted ginkgo seed, which has the pulp removed, is an edible delicacy in Japan and China.
How does it work?
Ginkgo seems to improve blood circulation, which might help the brain, eyes, ears, and legs function better. It may slow down Alzheimer's disease by interfering with changes in the brain that interfere with thinking.
Ginkgo seeds contain substances that might kill the bacteria and fungi that cause infections in the body. The seeds also contain a toxin that can cause side effects like seizure and loss of consciousness.
Anxiety. Research shows that taking a specific ginkgo extract (EGb 761, Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals) for 4 weeks can reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Mental function. Although some conflicting evidence exists, most research suggests that ginkgo can slightly improve memory, speed of thinking, and attention in healthy adults. Doses of 120-240 mg per day seem to be as effective as or more effective than higher doses up to 600 mg per day. Some research has investigated the effects of ginkgo when used with other supplements. Some evidence suggests that taking ginkgo in combination with Panax ginseng or codonopsis can improve memory better than the individual ingredients alone. However, a specific combination of ginkgo and Panax ginseng (Gincosan, Pharmaton Natural Health Products) does not seem to improve mood or thinking in postmenopausal women. Also, taking a specific product containing ginkgo and brahmi (Blackmores Ginkgo Brahmi) does not seem to improve memory or problem solving in healthy adults.
Dementia. Some evidence shows that taking ginkgo leaf extract by mouth modestly improves symptoms of Alzheimer's, vascular, or mixed dementias. However, there are concerns that findings from many of the early ginkgo studies may not be reliable. Although most clinical trials show ginkgo helps for symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, there are some conflicting findings, suggesting it may be hard to determine which people might benefit.
While ginkgo may help treat various types of dementia, ginkgo does not appear to help prevent dementia from developing.
Vision problems in people with diabetes. There is some evidence that taking ginkgo leaf extract by mouth can improve color vision in people with retinal damage caused by diabetes.
Vision loss (glaucoma). Taking ginkgo leaf extract by mouth for up to 12.3 years seems to improve pre-existing damage to the visual field in some people with normal tension glaucoma. However, conflicting research shows that ginkgo does not prevent glaucoma progression when taken for only 4 weeks.
Leg pain when walking due to poor blood flow (peripheral vascular disease). Some evidence shows that taking ginkgo leaf extract increases the distance people with poor blood circulation in their legs can walk without pain. Taking ginkgo might also reduce the chance of requiring surgery. However, people with this condition may need to take ginkgo for at least 24 weeks before they see improvement.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Taking ginkgo leaf extract by mouth seems to relieve breast tenderness and other symptoms associated with PMS when started during the 16th day of the menstrual cycle and continued until the 5th day of the following cycle.
Schizophrenia. Research shows that taking ginkgo daily in addition to conventional antipsychotic medications can reduce symptoms of schizophrenia. It may also reduce adverse effects associated with the antipsychotic medication, haloperidol.
A movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia. Tardive dyskinesia is a movement disorder that is caused by certain antipsychotic drugs. Research shows that taking a specific ginkgo extract (EGb 761, Yi Kang Ning, Yang Zi Jiang Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Jiangsu, China) can reduce the severity of tardive dyskinesia symptoms in people with schizophrenia who are taking antipsychotic drugs.
Vertigo and dizziness. Taking ginkgo leaf extract by mouth seems to improve symptoms of dizziness and balance disorders.