Ginkgo Biloba

Our rating
 No smiley: On the available evidence, this treatment does not seem to be effective.

What is it?

Ginkgo biloba is a type of tree also known as the maidenhair tree. Its leaves are used to make a herbal supplement. 

How does it work?

Ginkgo biloba is thought to improve the supply of blood to the brain.

Is it effective?

There is very little scientific evidence on ginkgo biloba for the treatment of depression. More studies of better quality are needed.

One study treated individuals with seasonal affective disorder (a type of depression that occurs during the winter months) with either ginkgo biloba tablets or a placebo (dummy pill). Both treatments had no effect on depression symptoms.

Are there any disadvantages?

Ginkgo biloba supplements can have side effects, although they are not associated with any more side effects than a placebo (dummy pill). Dietary supplements may have negative interactions with prescribed medications or other supplements. As with any herbal supplements, you should ask your doctor or pharmacist if ginkgo biloba might interfere with other medications or supplements you are taking.

Where do you get it?

Ginkgo biloba tablets are available from health food shops and some supermarkets.

Recommendation

Ginkgo is unlikely to help depression.

Key references

  • Lingaerde O, Foreland AR, Magnusson A. Can winter depression be prevented by Ginkgo biloba extract? A placebo-controlled trial. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 1999; 100: 62-66.

Last reviewed and updated: 1 December 2016