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What Is Ginkgo Used for Today?
Fairly good evidence indicates that ginkgo is effective for Alzheimer's disease and other severe forms of memory and mental function decline; when used for this purpose, it appears to be as effective as standard drugs. 1 Inconsistent evidence hints that ginkgo might be helpful for enhancing memory and mental function in seniors without severe memory loss as well. 2 Weak evidence hints that ginkgo (alone or in combination with ginseng or vinpocetine ) may be helpful for enhancing memory or alertness in younger people. 3 Combining phosphatidylserine (another substance used to enhance mental function) along with ginkgo might increase its efficacy. 4 In addition, ginkgo may be effective for the treatment of restricted circulation in the legs due to hardening of the arteries known as intermittent claudication . 5 One substantial, well-designed double-blind, placebo-controlled study found evidence that ginkgo extract taken at a dose of 480 mg or 240 mg daily may be helpful for anxiety . 6 Weak and, in some cases inconsistent, evidence from preliminary double-blind trials hints that ginkgo might be helpful for glaucoma , 7 macular degeneration , 8 conjunctivitis , 9 PMS , 10 Raynaud’s disease , 11 sudden hearing loss , 12 vertigo , 13 and vitiligo . 14 Although study results conflict, on balance the evidence suggests that ginkgo is nothelpful for tinnitus (ringing in the ear). 15 16 Three small, double-blind trials enrolling a total of about 100 people found preliminary evidence that use of the herb Ginkgo bilobacan help prevent altitude sickness . 17 However, a large scale, double-blind study enrolling 614 people, failed to find benefit. 18 (The drug acetazolamide, however, did provide significant benefits compared to placebo.) A similarly designed smaller study enrolling 57 people also failed to find ginkgo effective. 19 Overall, the balance of evidence suggests that ginkgo is not effective for this purpose.
Numerous case reports and uncontrolled studies raised hopes that ginkgo might be an effective treatment for sexual dysfunction in men or women , particularly in those cases related to certain antidepressant medications. 20 21 22 23 However, the results of a number of double-blind studies (see Why Does this Database Rely on Double-blind Studies? ) indicate that ginkgo is no more effective than placebo, whether or not subjects are taking antidepressants. 24 One small study failed to find ginkgo helpful for the treatment of cocaine dependence . 25 Two studies failed to find ginkgo helpful in multiple sclerosis . 26 Chinese research suggests that ginkgo might enhance the effects of drugs used for schizophrenia (both phenothiazines as well as atypical antipsychotic drugs). 27 An open study evaluated combination therapy with ginkgo extract and the chemotherapy drug 5FU for the treatment of pancreatic cancer, on the theory that ginkgo might enhance blood flow to the tumor and thereby help 5FU penetrate better. 28 The results were promising, but much better research must be performed before ginkgo can be recommended for this use. Similarly inadequate evidence hints at benefits in dyslexia. 29 Ginkgo has also been proposed as a treatment for depression and diabetic retinopathy , but there is little evidence that it is effective for these conditions.
Note: There are some theoretical safety concerns regarding ginkgo and diabetes . See Safety Issues for more information.
- Schulz V, Hansel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physicians' Guide to Herbal Medicine.3rd ed. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag; 1998:288-292.
- Brautigam MR, Blommaert FA, Verleye G, et al. Treatment of age-related memory complaints with Ginkgo biloba extract: a randomized double blind placebo-controlled study. Phytomedicine. 1998;5:425-434.
- Kennedy DO, Scholey AB, Wesnes KA. The dose-dependent cognitive effects of acute administration of Ginkgo biloba to healthy young volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 151(4):416-23.
- Kennedy DO, Haskell CF, Mauri PL, Scholey AB. Acute cognitive effects of standardised Ginkgo biloba extract complexed with phosphatidylserine. Hum Psychopharmacol. 22(4):199-210.
- Pittler MH, Ernst E. Ginkgo biloba extract for the treatment of intermittent claudication: a meta-analysis of randomized trials. Am J Med. 108(4):276-81.
- Woelk H, Arnoldt KH, Kieser M, Hoerr R. Ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in generalized anxiety disorder and adjustment disorder with anxious mood: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Psychiatr Res. 41(6):472-80.
- Quaranta L, Bettelli S, Uva MG, et al. Effect of Ginkgo biloba extract on preexisting visual field damage in normal tension glaucoma. Ophthalmology. 2003;110:359-362.
- Lebuisson DA, Leroy L, Rigal G. Treatment of senile macular degeneration with Ginkgo biloba extract. A preliminary double-blind, drug versus placebo study [translated from French]. Presse Med. 1986;15:1556-1558.
- Russo V, Stella A, Appezzati L, Barone A, Stagni E, Roszkowska A, Delle Noci N. Clinical efficacy of a Ginkgo biloba extract in the topical treatment of allergic conjunctivitis. Eur J Ophthalmol. 19(3):331-6.
- Tamborini A, Taurelle R. Value of standardized Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) in the management of congestive symptoms of premenstrual syndrome [translated from French]. Rev Fr Gynecol Obstet..1993;88:447-457.
- Muir AH, Robb R, McLaren M, Daly F, Belch JJ. The use of Ginkgo biloba in Raynaud's disease: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Vasc Med. 7(4):265-7.
- Burschka MA, Hassan HA, Reineke T, et al. Effect of treatment with Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 (oral) on unilateral idiopathic sudden hearing loss in a prospective randomized double-blind study of 106 outpatients. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2001;258:213-219.
- Haguenauer JP, Cantenot F, Koskas H, et al. Treatment of balance disorders using Ginkgo biloba extract. A multicenter, double blind, drug versus placebo study [translated from French]. Presse Med. 1986;15:1569-1572.
- Parsad D, Pandhi R, Juneja A. Effectiveness of oral Ginkgo biloba in treating limited, slowly spreading vitiligo. Clin Exp Dermatol. 28(3):285-7.
- Morgenstern C, Biermann E. Long-term tinnitus therapy with ginkgo special extract EGb 761 [translated from German]. Fortschr Med. 1997;115:57-58.
- Rejali D, Sivakumar A, Balaji N. Ginkgo biloba does not benefit patients with tinnitus: a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind trial and meta-analysis of randomized trials. Clin Otolaryngol. 2004;29:226-231.
- Roncin JP, Schwartz F, D'Arbigny P. EGb 761 in control of acute mountain sickness and vascular reactivity to cold exposure. Aviat Space Environ Med. 67(5):445-52.
- Gertsch JH, Basnyat B, Johnson EW, Onopa J, Holck PS. Randomised, double blind, placebo controlled comparison of ginkgo biloba and acetazolamide for prevention of acute mountain sickness among Himalayan trekkers: the prevention of high altitude illness trial (PHAIT). BMJ. 328(7443):797.
- Chow T, Browne V, Heileson HL, Wallace D, Anholm J, Green SM. Ginkgo biloba and acetazolamide prophylaxis for acute mountain sickness: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Arch Intern Med. 165(3):296-301.
- Cohen AJ, Bartlik B. Ginkgo biloba for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction. J Sex Marital Ther. 24(2):139-43.
- Cohen A, Bartlik B. Treatment of sexual dysfunction with Ginkgo biloba extract [scientific reports]. Presented at: 150th Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association; May 18-21, 1997; San Diego, CA.
- Cohen A. Treatment of antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction with Ginkgo biloba extract [abstract #176]. Presented at: 149th Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association; May 5-8, 1996; New York, NY.
- Cohen A. Long-term safety and efficacy of Ginkgo biloba extract in the treatment of antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction. Available at: http://www.priory.com/pharmol/gingko. Accessed June 15, 1997.
- Kang BH, Lee SJ, Kim MD, et al. A placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of Ginkgo bilboa for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction. Hum Psychopharmacol Clin Exp. 2002;17:279-284.
- Kampman K, Majewska MD, Tourian K, Dackis C, Cornish J, Poole S, O'Brien C. A pilot trial of piracetam and ginkgo biloba for the treatment of cocaine dependence. Addict Behav. 28(3):437-48.
- Johnson SK, Diamond BJ, Rausch S, Kaufman M, Shiflett SC, Graves L. The effect of Ginkgo biloba on functional measures in multiple sclerosis: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Explore (NY). 2(1):19-24.
- Liu P, Luo H, Shen Y, et al. Combined use of Ginkgo biloba extracts on the efficacy and adverse reactions of various antipsychotics [translated from Chinese]. Chin J Clin Pharmacol. 1997;13:193-198.
- Hauns B, Haring B, Kohler S, et al. Phase II study with 5-fluorouracil and Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE 761 ONC) in patients with pancreatic cancer. Arzneimittelforschung. 1999;49:1030-1034.
- Donfrancesco R, Ferrante L. Ginkgo biloba in dyslexia: a pilot study. Phytomedicine. 14(6):367-70.