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 Ginkgo


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Prevention of Dementia or Alzheimer's Disease (AD) - You'll probably need to look elsewhere. A major research study showed that G. biloba does not work to prevent AD in healthy seniors.

Improving Memory or Cognitive Function - There are scientific evidence that G. biloba would be helpful. It is worth taking to see if it can improve memory and concentration in those suffering with memory problems. Not all results are positive, however. It seems that it might not be very effective for improving memory in people who don't have memory problems.

Treating Dementia / Alzheimer's Disease (AD) - Research results show that this herb may be helpful in treating individuals with mild to moderate dementia or AD. Amazingly, one study showed that it is as effective as the prescription drug Aricept (donepezil).

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) / Impotence - There is one study that showed improvement in ED in over half the patients who suffers from poor circulation. Since this supplement increases blood flow, we predict that increasing blood flow to the penis would treat impotence.

The article Natural for Remedies for ED lists supplements used to treat erectile dysfunction.

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Table of Contents



Evidence of Benefits

Below is a quick summary. For detailed explanation along with comments on research studies, see our article Health Benefits of Ginkgo Biloba.

leaf rating system natural remedies plant benefit side effects
(What's this?)
Improve Memory and Cognitive Function
leaf rating system natural remedies plant benefit side effects Dementia / Alzheimer's Disease (AD)
leaf rating system natural remedies plant benefit side effects Increase Coronary Blood Flow
leaf rating system natural remedies plant benefit side effects Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
leaf rating system natural remedies plant benefit side effects Intermittent Claudication / Leg Pain
leaf rating system natural remedies plant benefit side effectsDepression and Mood Disorders
leaf rating system natural remedies plant benefit side effects Fibromyalgia
leaf rating system natural remedies plant benefit side effects Raynaud's Phenomenon / Raynaud's Syndrome
leaf rating system natural remedies plant benefit side effects Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) 
leaf rating system natural remedies plant benefit side effects Dyslexia
leaf rating system natural remedies plant benefit side effects Elevated Intraocular Pressure (IOP) / Glaucoma
leaf rating system natural remedies plant benefit side effects Acute Mountain Sickness / Altitude Sickness 
leaf rating system natural remedies plant benefit side effects Stress Reduction / Blood Pressure Control

Tinnitus - May not be effective

Alzheimer's Disease Prevention - May not be effective

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Frequently Asked Questions and Facts

What is it?

The ginkgo tree is one of the oldest plant in the world. The ginkgo seeds have been used by Chinese as a traditional medicine for thousands of years. Germany approves it for use in treating dementia such as  Alzheimer's disease and circulation problems.

There are several active ingredients found in G. biloba including flavonoids, terpenoids and organic acids.

How does it function?

Research studies suggest that this herb has powerful antioxidant activities and thus protects cells from damage. It is also suggested that it might also protect nerve and retinal (eye) tissues. There is evidence that it also has an anti-inflammatory effect.

Studies show that taking this herb improves blood circulation in the brain, coronary arteries and the rest of the body, including in the eyes, fingers and toes. Researchers believe that it expands blood vessels making it easier for blood to circulate.

As well, G. biloba may relax smooth muscle and increase blood flow to the corpus cavernosum (spongy tissue in the penis responsible for erection). Research will be required in this area to support this claim.

As for helping with dementia and Alzheimer's disease (AD) G. biloba helps to improve and increase blood flow to the brain tissue. Just as important, it also seems protect the brain cells from damage caused by beta-amyloid proteins (a protein that's found in the brain tissue of those suffering from AD).

There are as much research studies that show that G. biloba is effective as there are that it is not effective. Many of these research studies are well-designed and involves a large number of volunteers.

What about for treating impotence and other sexual problems?

Marketed as an aphrodisiac and for treating erectile dysfunction, many products contain multiple ingredients such as yohimbe (yohimbine), catuaba, horny goat weed (epimedium), maca, L-arginine, ginseng, muira puama, tribulus terrestris, DHEA and vitamins and minerals.

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Suggested Benefits and Traditional Uses

Orally

  • acute mountain sickness / altitude sickness
  • allergies
  • angina (chest pain)
  • asthma
  • atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • bronchitis
  • chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
  • cough
  • dizziness / vertigo
  • dyslexia
  • eczema (atopic dermatitis)
  • erectile dysfunction (ED) / impotence
  • eye damage (retinopathy) from diabetes
  • eye problems / macular degeneration
  • fatigue
  • glaucoma / elevated intraocular pressure (IOP)
  • headaches
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure (induced by stress)
  • improve memory and cognitive function
  • intermittent claudication
  • leg pain / increase pain-free walking distance
  • lowering or controlling blood pressure
  • memory enhancement
  • memory loss / Alzheimer's Disease
  • menopause symptoms
  • multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • osteoporosis
  • poor circulation in the hands or feet (intermittent claudication)
  • premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • prevention of aging
  • Raynaud's phenomenon / Raynaud's syndrome
  • ringing or roaring sounds in the ears (tinnitus)
  • sexual dysfunction
  • sexual dysfunction from taking antidepressant medications
  • stroke
  • vertigo / dizziness

Topically (on the skin)

  • improve circulation on the skin
  • skin sores and lesions
  • varicose veins
Transdermally (through the skin)
  • improve circulation on the skin
  • premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • sexual dysfunction
  • poor circulation in the hands or feet (intermittent claudication)
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Side Effects, Toxicity and Warnings

Common side effects of ginkgo leaf and extracts include: headache, nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, restlessness, palpitations, dizziness, fatigue and allergic skin reactions.

Uncooked fresh ginkgo seeds contain a chemical known as ginkgotoxin, which can cause seizures. For your safety, do not take G. biloba seeds. Ginkgo and extracts appear to contain very little ginkgotoxin and is not expected to cause toxicity.

The use of ginkgo is associated with the increased risk of bleeding, even in people with no history of bleeding disorders. This is major danger with the use of G. biloba. There are many case reports of bleeding during surgery, including bleeding in the eye during cataract surgery.

In one major study, researchers H.H. Dodge et al. (2008) noticed an increased number of stroke (bleeding in the brain) in the group taking G. biloba.

Probably Safe - When consumed in appropriate amounts, it appears to be safe. Clinical studies have been conducted up to six years using standardized extracts.

Pregnancy and Lactation - It is not recommended to use this herb during pregnancy. It might affect female hormone levels and cause uterine contractions. Avoid using when possible.


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Common Drug & Health Condition Interactions

Warfarin / Blood Thinners / Bleeding Disorder - theoretical

This herb has been associated with increase in bleeding risk but current research does not show any change in bleeding time or platelet effects (Bekert, 2007, Engelsen, 2003 and Bal Dit Sollier, 2003).

There has been many case reports of bleeding that is associated with using this herb but researchers points out that it is hard to associate it directly to using this herb.

Surgical Procedures / Dental Procedures - theoretical

Experts advise stopping this herb 2 weeks prior to surgery. This is to avoid potential increased bleeding risk from using this supplement.

Research done by Bekert (2007) concluded that this herb does not increase the risk of bleeding during surgical operations.

Consult with your health care professional if you are taking G. biloba and have a scheduled surgery or dental cleaning visit.

High Blood Pressure Medication - caution

This herb may lower blood pressure. If you are currently on medication to control high blood pressure, monitor your blood pressure closely when starting this herb.

Diabetes (Type 2 or non-insulin dependent type) - caution

This herb may change insulin production by the body. It might affect the blood sugar levels of those with diabetes. Monitor your blood sugar levels when starting or stopping this herb.

Infertility - avoid if possible

Animal studies suggest that the herb might inhibit fertilization of the egg. There are no studies in human to show if this is also the case.

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Dosage & How to Take It

The most common format is the concentrated standardized ginkgo biloba extract (GBE).

Orally

Extracts are taken from the ginkgo leaf and made into tablets, capsules, tinctures or as a tea. As well, it can be found in topical cream or gel preparations.

The dosage of this supplement varies significantly. Dosage used ranges from 80 mg twice daily to 200 mg three times daily.

Standardized G. biloba extract (GBE) formulations typically contain 24 to 32% flavonoids and 6 to 12% terpenoids.

Start with a low dose of 40 mg two or three times daily (80 to 120 mg daily dose) and increase upwards. This will avoid any side effects as your body adjust to the presence of the herb.

Research studies suggest that higher dosages of this herb show more effectiveness than a lower dosage.

Gel or Cream

There is no research studies done on the benefits of using G. biloba on the skin.

Transdermal Patch

There is no research information to show that G. biloba can cross the skin. This formulation may not be effective. We recommend that you take the pills instead.

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Related Articles and Resources

Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease - FAQs and Facts




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Selected References for Ginkgo
Revised: November 18, 2011
 

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