What is it?

Ginkgo is as close as your nearest grocery store, but its effectiveness in treating the deficits following a stroke is greatly in question. It is a supplement that is popular in Chinese traditional medicine, and it has been used in this tradition for many centuries. It does have some action on the brain that lends itself to possibly increasing cognition and memory. Yet even when studied for Alzheimer’s and dementia, the efficacy of this supplement falls well short of the standards of other, comparable medications.

How does it work?

The leaves of the ginkgo plant contain specific chemicals that have an impact on brain function. Specifically, they inhibit the reuptake of monoamine oxidase, and this has a profound effect on mood, concentration, and cognition. In addition, it is also shown to help keep neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, in the synaptic gaps for a longer period of time. This is essentially the same action of fluoxetine, or Prozac, and it has the same mood and memory aiding effect, although at a much decreased level from a commercial medication preparation.

What is it used for?

The main usage of ginkgo centers on increasing your ability to remember and concentrate. It also is used to combat vertigo. Although it is supposed to aid in memory, it has not shown much promise when used in controlled trials for Alzheimer’s disease. For this reason, its efficacy in stroke care is called into question because it shows the same lack of satisfactory outcomes. However, gingko does enhance the memory of healthy people who use it as a supplement. It has also been touted as a medication for blood clots, cerebrovascular dysfunction, and sexual dysfunction.

Research and Evidence

A study published in the journal Explore in 2006 investigated the use of gingko in treating the aftermath of ischemic stroke. It found that there is no evidence that gingko helped in any way after the inciting incident. However, the study was small, and it recommends further research with large groups and more rigorous testing procedures.

Another study published in Sultan Quaboos University Medical Journal in 2012 shows that early phases of a stroke patient’s disease course are marked by inflammation and oxidative processes. It found that gingko may be helpful in the early stages to reverse these changes that may lead to deficits. More research is needed, though, to determine its overall efficacy.

References

Explore; The use of Ginkgo biloba extract in acute ischemic stroke; J. Liu; May 2006
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16781654

Sultan Quaboos University Medical Journal; Oxidative Stress and C-Reactive Protein in Patients with Cerebrovascular Accident (Ischaemic Stroke): The role of Ginkgo biloba extract; IA Thanoon; May 2012
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22548139