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Ginkgo is well-known for its effect on memory and thinking (cognitive function). It may enhance cognitive performance in healthy older adults, in people with age-related cognitive decline, and in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Gingko is also used for other age-related disorders such as macular degeneration and depression in elderly people.
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Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)
In a preliminary clinical trial, a standardized extract of Ginkgo biloba significantly reduced symptoms of vertigo in a group of elderly people with mild cognitive impairment. Participants were given 40 mg three times per day for one year. GBE has also been reported to significantly reduce vertigo of unknown cause in preliminary and double-blind trials. The amounts given were 120 mg and 160 mg per day, respectively, for three months.
Ginkgo biloba at a dose of 240 mg per day may also alleviate depression in depressed elderly people not responding to antidepressant drugs. It is unknown if ginkgo could alleviate depression in other age groups. A small, preliminary trial has shown that ginkgo can reduce sexual problems caused by antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac), bupropion (Wellbutrin), venlafaxine (Effexor), and nefazodone (Serzone) in men and women. Double-blind trials are now needed to determine whether ginkgo is truly effective for this purpose.
How much is usually taken?
In a double-blind study, supplementation with a standardized extract of Ginkgo biloba in the amount of 40 mg three times a day for four weeks partially reversed visual field damage in people with one type of glaucoma (normal tension glaucoma).
Are there any side effects or interactions?
One small clinical trial found that ginkgo supplementation for three months increased secretion of insulin by the pancreas, but did not affect blood glucose levels, in healthy young adults. These results suggest that the participants may have developed insensitivity to insulin, a potential concern because insulin insensitivity may be a precursor to type 2 diabetes. However, this trial does not prove that ginkgo causes insulin insensitivity, nor does it prove that long-term ginkgo supplementation increases the risk for any disease. In addition, the results of this trial are not consistent with other research on ginkgo. Larger and more rigorously designed clinical trials of ginkgo supplementation have found no significant adverse effects after as many as 12 months of supplementation.
People should seek an accurate medical diagnosis prior to self-prescribing ginkgo. This is especially important for the elderly, whose circulatory conditions can involve serious disease, and for people scheduled for surgery, as ginkgo may affect bleeding time.
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