Ginkgo is an herb. The leaves are generally used to make “extracts” that are used as medicine. However, a few medicines are made from the seed, but these are not well studied.
Ginkgo is often used 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, 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 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 has been tried for eye problems including glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
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 andbronchitis was described in 2600 BC.
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.
Most evidence suggests that ginkgo can slightly improve memory, the speed of thinking, and attention in healthy adults. Some evidence suggests that taking ginkgo in combination with Panax ginseng or coreopsis can improve memory better than the individual ingredients alone. However, a specific combination of ginkgo and Panax ginseng (Gincosan) 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.
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.
Taking ginkgo leaf extract by mouth seems to improve pre-existing damage to the visual field in people with normal tension glaucoma.
Some evidence shows that taking ginkgo leaf extract seems to increase the distance people with poor blood circulation in their legs can walk without pain. Taking ginkgo might also reduce the chance of requiring surgery.
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.
Research shows that taking gingko daily in addition to conventional antipsychotic medications can reduce symptoms of schizophrenia. It may also reduce adverse effects associated with the antipsychotic medication, haloperidol.
Tardive dyskinesia is a movement disorder that is caused by certain antipsychotic drugs. Research shows that taking a specific ginkgo extract (EGb 761) can reduce the severity of tardive dyskinesia symptoms in people with schizophrenia who are taking antipsychotic drugs
Taking ginkgo leaf extract by mouth seems to improve symptoms of dizziness and balance disorders.