Ginkgo Biloba: 14 Impressive Health Benefits, Dosage, And Side effects

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Julie Freeman, MA, RDN, LDN, RYT
by Sindhu Koganti

Ginkgo biloba is a medicinal herb native to China. The extract of ginkgo biloba has been used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine for centuries. Ginkgo supplements are rich in therapeutic values and are associated with many health benefits. The herb possesses several anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that could help treat various ailments. The herb may reduce symptoms of psychiatric disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia, treat anxiety, fight inflammation, and support eye health.

In this article, we have discussed the health benefits of ginkgo biloba in detail, along with its potential side effects. Keep reading.

What Are The Benefits Of Ginkgo Biloba?

1. May Reduce Symptoms Of Psychiatric Disorders

Ginkgo may help reduce symptoms of psychiatric disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia (1). A study conducted by the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine found that ginkgo extract may increase functional capabilities in those with Alzheimer’s when used in conjunction with conventional medicine (2).

Another study found ginkgo extract to be effective in the treatment of symptoms associated with dementia (3). Some anecdotal evidence suggests that ginkgo may also improve blood flow to the brain (4). Another study conducted by the Free University Berlin found that ginkgo extract may improve the condition of individuals with dementia (5). Epilepsy is a common cause of serious cognitive disorders. One rat study stated that ginkgo extract could improve cognitive function, learning, and memory (6).

2. May Help Treat Anxiety

Ginkgo biloba extract may reduce the symptoms of anxiety and stress. The extract was used in Chinese traditional herbal medicine to treat neurodegenerative disorders (7). Animal studies state that the antioxidant content of the ginkgo biloba extract may help reduce anxiety symptoms and other cognitive impairments (8), (9).

In one study, a group of 107 people treated with a high dose of ginkgo reported a reduction in anxiety symptoms (10). However, more research is needed to further understand this benefit of ginkgo biloba.

3. May Fight Inflammation

Ginkgo has the ability to reduce inflammation caused by various conditions. A study conducted by the National Taiwan University found that ginkgo biloba extract can reduce markers of inflammation in animal and human cells (11), (12), (13). There are other inflammatory conditions ginkgo extract may help treat. These include:

  • Arthritis: A study conducted on rats found that ginkgo extract could help ease arthritis (14).
  • Stroke: Ginkgo biloba extract has been suggested to patients with acute ischemic stroke (sudden loss of blood circulation to an area of the brain). The herb is said to possess neuroprotective properties that help improve cognitive function in patients (15).
  • Irritable bowel disease (IBD): A study conducted by Cairo University found that curcumin and ginkgo could be effective in the prevention and treatment of IBD (16).

More number of human studies are needed to understand the role of ginkgo extract in treating various ailments.

4. May Support Eye Health

Some early research states that supplementing with ginkgo may increase blood flow to the eyes. It could be a potential treatment for glaucoma. However, conclusive evidence is lacking in this regard (17). A small study conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that ginkgo extract may have a beneficial effect on vision. Further trials are warranted (18).

Ginkgo biloba extract also has the potential to treat normal-tension glaucoma (19). More research is needed to determine if ginkgo is truly effective in promoting vision health.

5. May Improve Heart Health

Ginkgo may increase blood flow by promoting the dilation of blood vessels. It has been used in the treatment of issues related to poor blood circulation. Ginkgo has the ability to increase blood flow to various parts of the body.

Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) is a promising therapeutic agent for cardiovascular and ischaemic diseases. It promotes vascular (of blood vessels) health (20). A study conducted by the Second Hospital of Hebei Medical University found that ginkgo extract improves coronary artery circulation in patients with coronary artery disease (21). It also showed the same effect in the elderly (22). This extract has protective effects on heart health. It also may help in the treatment of neurological and cardio-cerebrovascular disorders (23), (24), (25).

Ginkgo extract may be beneficial in the treatment of diabetic myocardial injury (issues related to the heart membranes) (26).

6. May Improve Brain Function

Ginkgo has been repeatedly evaluated for its ability to reduce anxiety, stress, and other symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline. A study conducted by the Department of Health Sciences, Liberty University, found that supplementing with ginkgo extract may increase mental performance (27).

Another study conducted by the University of Munich found that the herb improves mental functioning in healthy volunteers (28). Anecdotal evidence suggests ginkgo may play a major role in improving blood flow to the brain.

7. May Aid Depression Treatment

Ginkgo extract has anti-inflammatory properties that may help in the treatment of depression. A study found that supplementing with ginkgo extract may help treat symptoms of depression (29). However, more research is warranted in this regard.

8. May Treat Headaches and Migraines

Ginkgo biloba can reduce inflammation and potentially increase blood flow to the brain. It may treat certain types of headaches and migraines. Herbs that fight inflammation are quite popular in traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for migraines and headaches (30). However, little research is available to support this claim.

A study discusses ginkgolide B, which is an herbal constituent extracted from ginkgo biloba tree leaves. The constituent was found to help prevent migraines and headaches at a young age (31). Another study found that ginkgolide B may be used to reduce the severity and frequency of migraines with aura (migraines with vision changes) (32).

9. May Improve Asthma And COPD Symptoms

The anti-inflammatory properties of ginkgo biloba extract may treat symptoms associated with respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A study conducted by Jilin University found that the anti-inflammatory compounds available in ginkgo may reduce inflammation in the airways (33). In another study, asthma patients treated with ginkgo extract showed better improvement in their condition compared to patients who received conventional medication alone (34).

In another study, a group of 100 COPD patients over 50 years of age who consumed a mixture of Chinese herbs (including ginkgo) reported a reduction in bronchitis and cough (35).

10. May Reduce PMS Symptoms

Ginkgo biloba may help reduce PMS symptoms. A study found a reduction of PMS symptoms by 23% after consuming ginkgo extract (36). Further information on the safety of the herb in this regard is needed.

Ginkgolide B has also been associated with a reduction in PMS symptoms (37).

11. May Treat Sexual Dysfunction

Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) may facilitate blood flow and influence nitric oxide systems, and has a relaxant effect on smooth muscle tissue. These processes are important for sexual response in women. GBE may have the potential to boost sexual health in women (38).

A study found that ginkgo extract has the ability to improve blood levels of nitric oxide (39). This may help improve women’s sexual function too. However, we need more research to further understand this mechanism of ginkgo.

12. May Help Reduce Obesity

Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) may help reduce obesity. One rat study stated that ginkgo biloba extract could be efficient in preventing and treating obesity-induced insulin signaling impairment (40). GBE may improve insulin resistance and reduce body weight gain (41). GBE may also represent a potential alternative therapy for menopause-related obesity (42).

A study found that ginkgo biloba leaves could improve blood lipid parameters. They could be used in the treatment of dyslipidemia (abnormal amount of lipids in the blood) (43). Ginkgo biloba extract reduces oxidative stress in diet-induced obese rats (44). It could also exhibit anti-obesogenic effects in white adipose tissue of rats (45).

More long-term studies are needed to understand the anti-obesogenic effects of ginkgo extract on humans.

13. May Improve Skin Health

Ginkgo biloba is said to possess anti-aging effects too. The ginkgo leaf extract contains quercetin and kaempferol (natural plant flavonoids that act as antioxidants) that help fight free radicals. They may reduce signs of skin aging. Ginkgo also had synergistic effects with green tea on improving skin barrier function and elasticity (46).

14. May Boost Hair Growth

Ginkgo biloba has been proven to potentially help slow down hair loss. It may also promote hair growth. However, these studies have been conducted on mice alone (47).

These are the benefits of ginkgo biloba. In the following section we will look at the herb’s ideal dosage. 

Dosage And Forms Of Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba is available in various forms such as liquid extracts, tablets, capsules, and dried leaves/tea. It seems to be most effective when taken in several doses throughout the day (total daily dosage being 120–240 mg). Ensure you do not take the raw form of ginkgo, as it can be poisonous.

Ginkgo may take up to 4 to 6 weeks to show any results. A common dose of 40 milligrams of extract three times daily is recommended to those with dementia. For improving cognitive function in healthy people, 120 milligrams to 600 milligrams of the extract may be used. These values are based on anecdotal evidence. Consult your doctor for more information.

Though ginkgo biloba is generally safe for use, it does have a few side effects that you need to keep in mind. Check them out in the next section.

What Are The Side Effects Of Ginkgo Biloba?

Excess intake of ginkgo biloba may cause several adverse effects. These may include allergies, headaches, stomach pain, diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, and some drug interactions.

In some cases, intake of the herb can cause serious harm. Individuals who are allergic to plants with alkylphenols, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people with epilepsy should avoid intake. People who are on medications must consult with their doctor before taking ginkgo.

High exposure to ginkgo may increase the risk of breast and colorectal cancers in some individuals. Also, ginkgo does not seem to reduce the risk of other forms of cancer (48). Some anecdotal evidence suggests that ginkgo has the potential to interact with certain medications like blood thinners (aspirin, warfarin) and antidepressants.

Ginkgo biloba may also have other risks associated with it. 

Risks

Ginkgo is generally considered safe for healthy people when used in limited amounts for up to six months. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate ginkgo supplements or most other drugs that contain the herb (49).

Some anecdotal evidence suggests that ginkgo may lower blood sugar levels. Hence, use with caution if you have diabetes.

Eating raw or roasted ginkgo seeds may be poisonous and may lead to adverse effects. Research is limited here, though. 

Conclusion

Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest plant species on the planet. It is said to possess several anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that offer health benefits. The herb helps reduce symptoms of psychiatric disorders, treats anxiety, and fights inflammation. However, excess intake of ginkgo extract may lead to several adverse effects. Most of the research related to this herbal extract is still ongoing. Consult your doctor before including this herb into your routine.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Should I take ginkgo at night?

Ginkgo can stimulate your brain and keep you awake the whole night. Do not take it before sleep.

Does Ginkgo biloba cause liver damage?

Ginkgo has not been linked to liver damage. In fact, it is sometimes used to treat certain liver ailments (50).

Does Ginkgo biloba raise blood pressure?

There is no research stating that ginkgo may raise blood pressure. Though ginkgo has vasodilatory properties, it is unclear if it can reduce blood pressure.

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Sindhu Koganti

Sindhu Koganti is a Biotechnology graduate and has been in the writing field for over 4 years now. She specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has hands-on experience in writing articles and press releases on Life Sciences and Healthcare, Food and Beverages, and Chemicals and Materials. When she’s not writing, she loves watching movies and listening to music. She also enjoys traveling.
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