Ginkgo Biloba

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 Question mark: This treatment has not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.

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?

The way that ginkgo biloba might help in depression is not well understood, but it 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. The current research on ginkgo biloba for depression has found mixed results, with some studies finding that gingko biloba helped to reduce depression symptoms while others did not.

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. A more recent study treated elderly patients with espresso with either an antidepressant medication by itself, or an antidepressant medication plus ginkgo biloba. Those who took the ginkgo biloba experienced a greater reduction in their depression symptoms.

More studies of better quality are needed to better understand whether ginkgo biloba might be helpful for depression.

Are there any disadvantages?

While ginkgo biloba is generally well tolerated, it can have side effects. 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

There is not enough good evidence at this stage to recommend ginkgo biloba as a treatment for depression.

Key references

  • Dai C-X, Hu C-C, Shang Y-S, Xie J. Role of Ginkgo biloba extract as an adjunctive treatment of elderly patients with depression and on the expression of serum S100B. Medicine. 2018; 97(39).
  • 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 November 2019