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 SSRI’s.
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 and bronchitis was described in 2600 BC.
In manufacturing, ginkgo leaf extract is used in cosmetics. In foods, roasted ginkgo seed, which has the pulp removed, is an edible delicacy in Japan and China. Remember, though, the whole seed is LIKELY UNSAFE to eat.
Ginkgo interacts with many medicines. Before taking it, talk with your healthcare provider if you take any medications.
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.