Dr Sarah Brewer August 02, 2018

The world’s longest living tree species, the Ginkgo biloba, or maidenhair tree, is often described as a living fossil. Also spelt gingko biloba, it has a long history of use as a herbal remedy for improved concentration, memory and cognitive health and is often combined with ginseng – another herb known for its anti-ageing benefits. The popularity of this supplement just keeps on growing so we’ve chatted with Healthspan Medical Director Dr Sarah Brewer to find out more. 

Ginkgo biloba benefits

Ginkgo leaves contain a unique blend of antioxidants known as ginkgolides and bilobalides. These help to protect cells from the effects of oxidative stress which are associated with premature aging. Ginkgo biloba leaf extracts help to reduce arterial stiffness and blood stickiness to improve blood flow, especially to the peripheries such as the skin and brain.

  • Ginkgo biloba – vitiligo

The exact cause of vitiligo is poorly understood but may involve oxidative stress. A study involving 47 people with vitiligo compared the effects of taking Ginkgo biloba extract (40mg three times a day) against placebo for six months. Significant improvements were seen in those taking Ginkgo biloba, which halted the progression of depigmentation, and marked repigmentation (75%). Complete repigmentation occurred in ten people taking Ginkgo, compared with two taking placebo. The researchers concluded that Ginkgo biloba extract was a well-tolerated, simple and safe therapy for arresting the progression of vitiligo. 1

  • Ginkgo biloba - memory

Ginkgo is one of the most widely used herbal remedies for dementia and cognitive decline. Ginkgo extracts boost blood flow to the brain, while its antioxidant action appears to protect brain cells and may reduce the build-up of abnormal protein (amyloid) which is associated with some forms of dementia. An analysis of nine trials, involving over 2,500 people, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2015, found that taking Ginkgo biloba supplements at a dose of 240mg per day was more effective than placebo for improving cognition (ability to think straight). Ginkgo was also able to stabilise or slow the decline in behaviour and daily function in people with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. 2

  • Ginkgo biloba - libido

Ginkgo biloba increases blood flow and has a reputation for enhancing sexual responses in both men and women, but this has not been widely studied. According to the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, Ginkgo biloba was 84% effective in treating sexual difficulties associated with taking antidepressant drugs, with women being more responsive than men (91% versus 76%), but there was no placebo group with which to compare these results. 3 Another study found some ‘spectacular’ individual responses with Ginkgo, but no statistically significant results overall. 4 The only way to know if it will help you as an individual is to try it.

  • Ginkgo biloba - menopause

Some women find Ginkgo extracts helpful for memory and libido problems associated with menopause. In a study involving 87 postmenopausal women (aged 51-67 years) taking Ginkgo biloba (120 mg a day) for 6 weeks, ginkgo was found to improve mental flexibility. 5

  • Ginkgo biloba side effects

Ginkgo is well tolerated at usual doses. A few people have experienced headache, dizziness or stomach upset. Seek medical advice before taking Ginkgo if you are taking any prescribed drugs, including blood thinning treatments or antidepressants as interactions can occur. And if you have diabetes, make sure to monitor your blood glucose levels closely.

  • Ginkgo biloba dosage

120mg to 200mg which is equivalent to 6000mg to 10,000mg whole Ginkgo leaves. Select extracts standardised to provide a known amount of ginkgolides: e.g. at least 24%.


References
1 Parsad, D; Pandhi, R; Juneja, A (May 2003) Effectiveness of oral Ginkgo biloba in treating limited, slowly spreading vitiligo, NCBI.
2 Tan, M; Yu, J; Wang, H; Meng, X; Wang, C; Jiang, T; Zhu, X; Tan, L (June 2015) Efficacy and adverse effects of ginkgo biloba for cognitive impairment and dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis, NCBI.
3 Cohen, A; Nartlik, B (May 2015) Ginkgo biloba for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction, NCBI.
4 Wheatley, D (December 2004) Triple-blind, placebo-controlled trial of Ginkgo biloba in sexual dysfunction due to antidepressant drugs, NCBI.
5 Elsabagh, S; Harley, D; File, S (March, 2005) Limited cognitive benefits in Stage +2 postmenopausal women after 6 weeks of treatment with Ginkgo biloba, NCBI.
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