ginkgo biloba

What Is It?
Health Benefits
Dosage Information
Guidelines for Use
General Interaction
Possible Side Effects
Evidence Based Rating Scale

What Is It?

This popular herbal medicine is extracted from the fan-shaped leaves of the ancient ginkgo biloba tree, a species that has survived in China for more than 200 million years and now grows throughout the world. (The leaves are double, or bi-lobed; hence the name biloba.) Long used in traditional Chinese medicine, it is only in the last few decades that the medicinal uses for the herb have been studied in the West.

Recently ginkgo has received a great deal of attention for its potential as a memory booster. But while the herb has been found to help with age-related memory loss, claims that it's a "smart pill" and universally useful are dubious. Studies do indicate that the herb can have beneficial effects on vascular dementia, peripheral claudication, tinnitus of vascular origin, the circulatory and central nerve systems, however, and it has been shown to act as an antioxidant as well.

An extract of ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) is used to make the supplement. It is obtained by drying and milling the leaves and then extracting their active ingredients. When buying supplements, look for preparations containing GBE to be sure you get the greatest benefit.

Health Benefits

By regulating the tone and elasticity of blood vessels, ginkgo increases blood flow to the brain and extremities, making it particularly useful for circulatory ailments. Research has also shown that ginkgo can enhance the nervous system by promoting the delivery of additional oxygen and blood sugar (glucose) to nerve cells. As an antioxidant, ginkgo mops up the damaging compounds known as free radicals and aids in cell maintenance.

Specifically, ginkgo may help to:


·  Relieve symptoms of Tinnitus. Some studies show that Ginkgo may be helpful in treating tinnitus, ringing in the ears. Tinnitus comes from damage to the microscopic endings of the hearing nerve in the inner ear. Damage to the nerves can cause a reduction in acute hearing or total loss of hearing. If you are experiencing a reduction in hearing you might want to consider supplementing your diet with Ginkgo biloba (1-3).  

·  Alleviate the symptoms of Raynaud's disease and intermittent claudication. By improving blood circulation to the extremities, ginkgo helps ease the build up in the inner linings of the artery walls. These blockages restrict blood circulation, mainly in arteries leading to the kidneys, stomach, arms, legs, and feet. These blockages can increase your risk of painful coldness in the hands and feet (4-7).

·  Reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. By reducing the "stickiness" of the blood, as aspirin does, ginkgo may lower the risk of blood clots and possibly reduce the risk of heart attacks or stroke. Studies are also evaluating the herb's effectiveness in speeding recovery from stroke (4-7).

·  Counter impotence. Ginkgo biloba extract may enhance the treatment of erectile dysfunction due to poor blood flow resulting from atherosclerosis of the penis. Ultrasound examinations of 60 impotent men who took ginkgo biloba showed improved penile blood circulation after six weeks. After six months, 50% of the patients had regained potency. Continuing studies are investigating ginkgo's potential in treating this problem (8).

·  Reduce macular degeneration and control cataracts. Some studies suggest that ginkgo may be of value in treating macular degeneration because it increases blood flow to the nerve-rich fibers of the eyes. The herb's antioxidant capabilities may also help to neutralize the cell-damaging free radicals that are considered a leading cause of this disorder. Ginkgo biloba's powerful antioxidant and circulation-promoting properties may also be of help in treating the blurring and dimming of vision caused by cataracts (9).

·  Slow the progression of Alzheimer's symptoms. Controlled studies have shown that because ginkgo aids blood flow to the brain, it can improve memory in some people with this memory-robbing condition. Findings indicate that it is people already suffering from Alzheimer's (and other age-related memory problems) who benefit most, not those who are healthy. In a 12-month study of 202 patients with dementia, many of whom also had Alzheimer's, those given 120 mg of ginkgo biloba extract a day experienced a greater improvement (or stabilization in their mental and social functions) than those given a placebo. The effects were modest and of limited duration, however (10-11).

·  Relieve depression, anxiety, headaches, and dizziness. Each of these ailments--like Alzheimer's--has been linked to reduced blood flow to the brain. In older adults in particular, this problem is often caused by cholesterol buildup in the arteries. By improving blood circulation (including that to the brain), ginkgo may be useful for treating these disorders in older people especially (12).

·  May help ease the inflammation of hemorrhoids. Ginkgo may used for relief of acute symptoms (for control of bleeding and re-bleeding in all grades of haemorrhoids). The use of Ginkgo helps to control the acute phase (bleeding) so that definitive therapy (banding, injection sclerotherapy, infrared photocoagulation, cryotherapy or surgery) can be scheduled at a convenient time (13).

·  Treat complications due to diabetes. Ginkgo has been shown to be useful in treating diabetic neuropathy, the nerve damage resulting from poor circulation to the extremities that is common in diabetes sufferers. Animal studies have shown that ginkgo may also help prevent diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease that can cause blindness.

·  Ease asthmatic attacks. Long used in China for this ailment, ginkgo seems to help relieve the airway spasms and wheezing associated with this lung disease.

·  Optimize brain power. While there are no studies showing that ginkgo can prevent memory loss in healthy people, proponents suggest it can help mental decline and optimize brain function. These effects may be due to ginkgo's ability to increase blood flow to the brain.

Note: Ginkgo biloba has also been found to be useful for a number of other disorders. For information on these and other additional ailments, see our Dosage Recommendations Chart for Ginkgo Biloba.


  • tincture
  • tablet
  • softgel
  • powder
  • liquid
  • capsule

Dosage Information

Special tip:

To be sure you're getting a standardized amount of the herb's active ingredients, purchase supplements that contain ginkgo biloba extract, or GBE, the concentrated form of the herb. GBE supplements should contain at least 24% flavone glycosides (to maximize the herb's antioxidant and anticlotting potential) and 6% terpene lactones (for improved blood flow and nerve protection).

·  As a brain booster and for Raynaud's disease, intermittent claudication, cataracts, and macular degeneration: Take 40 mg of GBE three times a day, or 60 mg twice a day.

·  For Alzheimer's disease, depression, tinnitus, dizziness, impotence, or conditions caused by insufficient blood flow to the brain: Take up to 240 mg of GBE a day.

·  For diabetes and heart disease prevention: Take 40 mg of GBE three times a day.

·  For asthma: Take 40 mg of GBE three times a day, increasing the dose up to 240 mg a day when asthma is acute.

Be sure to check out our Dosage Recommendations Chart for Ginkgo Biloba, which lists therapeutic dosages for specific ailments at a glance.

Guidelines for Use

·  It commonly takes four to six weeks, and in some cases up to 12 weeks, to notice the herb's effects.

·  You can take ginkgo with or without food.

  • Costs vary considerably so shop carefully for the lowest price on a quality product.

  • General Interaction

    ·  Because ginkgo reduces the rate at which blood clots, people who are on anticoagulants or who suffer from clotting disorders should consult a doctor before taking this herb.

    ·  Ginkgo intensifies the blood-thinning effect of long-term aspirin or warfarin use and may lead to excessive bleeding. Consult your physician before taking this herb.

    ·  Several studies indicate that ginkgo increases blood pressure when combined with thiazide diuretics, a class of medications prescribed to control blood pressure. If you take a medicine of this type, consult your doctor or pharmacist before combining with ginkgo.

    ·  Insulin secretion can be affected by ginkgo, altering blood glucose levels in undesirable ways. Discuss with doctor before combining with insulin.

    ·  Use caution before combining ginkgo with trazodone, a modified cyclic antidepressant or "mood elevator" that works in a unique way. The interaction of the herb and the drug was associated with coma in a woman with Alzheimer’s disease.

    ·  Consult your doctor before combining with prochlorperazine, an antipsychotic drug; ginkgo may cause seizures when combined with this drug, which lowers the seizure threshold. 

    Note: For information on interactions with specific generic drugs, see our WholeHealthMD Drug/Nutrient Interactions Chart. 

    Possible Side Effects

    ·  Generally, ginkgo is considered safe for long-term use in recommended dosages, but higher doses (above 240 mg a day) can lead to intoxication or disorientation.

    ·  In rare cases, ginkgo may cause headache, irritability, restlessness, diarrhea, headache, nausea, vomiting, palpitations, weakness, skin rash, dizziness, or vertigo. These effects are usually mild and transient.

    ·  If side effects are bothersome, discontinue taking the herb or reduce your dosage.


    ·  Don't use unprocessed ginkgo leaves in any form, including teas; they contain potent chemicals (allergens) that can trigger allergic reactions. Stick with standardized extracts (GBE); the allergens are removed during processing.

    ·  Using Ginkgo biloba with the following herbal medications may increase the risk of bleeding: feverfew, garlic, ginseng, don quai, and red clover.  


    1. Drew S, Davies E. Effectiveness of Ginkgo biloba in treating tinnitus: double blind, placebo controlled trial. BMJ 2001;332:73.

    2. Meyer B. Multicenter randomized double-blind drug vs. placebo study of the treatment of tinnitus with Ginkgo biloba extract [in French]. Presse Med 1986;15:1562-4.


    3. Ernst E, Stevinson C. Ginkgo biloba for tinnitus: a review. Clin Otolaryngol 1999;24:164-7.


    4. Pittler MH, Ernst E. Ginkgo biloba extract for the treatment of intermittent claudication: a meta-analysis of randomized trials. Am J Med 2000;108:276-81.


    5. Schweizer J, Hautmann C. Comparison of two dosages of ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 in patients with peripheral arterial occlusive disease Fontaine’s stage IIb. A randomised, double-blind, multicentric clinical trial. Arzneimittelforschung 1999;49:900-4.


    6. Peters H, Kieser M, Holscher U. Demonstration of the efficacy of ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 on intermittent claudication—a placebo-controlled, double-blind multicenter trial. Vasa



    7. Bauer U. 6-Month double-blind randomised clinical trial of Ginkgo biloba extract versus placebo in two parallel groups in patients suffering from peripheral arterial insufficiency. Arzneimittelforschung1984;34:716-20.


    8. Cohen AJ, Bartlik B. Ginkgo biloba for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction. J Sex Marital Ther 1998;24:139-43.


    9. Evans JR. Ginkgo biloba extract for age-related macular degeneration. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2003;(2):CD001775.


    10. Ernst E, Pittler MH. Ginkgo biloba for dementia. A systematic review of double-blind, placebo controlled trials. Clin Drug Invest 1999;17:301-8.


    11. Birks J, Grimley E, Van Dongen M. Ginkgo biloba for cognitive impairment and dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2002; 4:CD003120.


    12. Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Medical University of Bialystok, Waszyngtona 15A, 15-274 Bialystok, Poland


    13. Misra MC, Imlitemsu. Drug treatment for hemorrhoids. 2005; 65:1481-91.5. Misra MC, Imlitemsu. Drug treatment of haemorrhoids. Drugs. 2005;65(11):1481-91.


    Evidence Based Rating Scale  

    The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies with what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice. This tool is meant to simplify which supplements and therapies demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions. This scale does not take into account any possible interactions with any medication/ condition/ or therapy which you may be currently undertaking. It is therefore advisable to ask your doctor before starting any new treatment regimen.


    Date Published: 04/18/2005
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