For ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION, ginkgo strengthens and opens blood vessels, improving their muscle tone, enhancing blood flow, and acting as a nerve tonic, leading to more sustained erections. Ultrasound studies have shown that ginkgo improves penile blood supply within weeks, and half of the men studied regained potency after six months of ginkgo.1 Researchers initially discovered the effect of ginkgo on erectile dysfunction (ED) when male participants in a memory enhancement study reported improved erections.
Although scientists have found more than 40 components in ginkgo, its plant-based antioxidants – or flavonoids – and terpenoids are the two that are known to have a medicinal effect. Ginkgo has several mechanisms of action:
- Laboratory studies show that ginkgo flavonoids protect the nerves and, blood vessels from damage, in male organs and also for the heart muscle and retina.
- Terpenoids including ginkgolides improve blood flow by dilating blood vessels;
- These plant nutrients also reduce the stickiness of platelets, lowering the risk of tiny clots that could impede blood flow to the penis. As a side note, ginkgo’s ability to discourage platelet clumping also reduces the risk of stroke and atherosclerosis.
- Gingko is a nerve tonic: while its most famous health benefits focus on brain function and blood circulation, ginkgo is now known to be an antioxidant that protects nerves and cells from oxidative damage. These nerves provide essential messages to start and maintain the erectile process.
- Ginkgo enhances energy production within pelvic cells even if the oxygen supply is lowered.
- Ginkgo’s ability to increase blood levels of nitric oxide leads to dilation of blood vessels and improved circulation. The body naturally makes nitric oxide to open blood vessels and enhance blood flow. The primary transmitter that mediates penile erection is nitric oxide which is released during neurotransmission and from blood vessel’s endothelium.
For men who have both erectile dysfunction and depression, studies have found ginkgo to be especially effective: Improvements in male sexual function occur in up to 76% of men taking ginkgo along with antidepressants. The Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRIs) class of antidepressants can inhibit neurotransmitters involved with erection. They also inhibit the release of nitric oxide in erectile tissue which is directly responsible for the maintenance and initiation of erection. Gingko appears to act by reversing the inhibition of an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase, which can be suppressed by antidepressants.3 This enzyme is crucial for production of nitric oxide, and for maintaining healthy blood flow throughout the body.
Nitric oxide has several important benefits for male sexual function:
- Endothelial tissue that lines the interior of blood vessels in the penis and other organs sends nitric oxide as a signaling compound to the surrounding smooth muscle of the vessels. This causes smooth muscles around the blood vessels to relax so the blood vessels dilate, increasing blood supply to the penis and pelvic tissues.
- Nitric oxide also helps improve the health of blood vessels by inhibiting the over-development of vascular smooth muscle: If small muscles in arteries are tense, the vessels could become narrow and tight, limiting blood flow to the penis.
- Also nitric oxide limits platelet aggregation, thus reducing the risk of tiny blood clots and helping blood flow more smoothly into the penis. Nitric oxide lasts for only a few seconds before being degraded. The drug Viagra (Sildenafil citrate) stimulates erections by enhancing nitric oxide signaling in the blood vessels supplying the erectile tissue of the penis.
Ginkgo, one of the oldest living tree species on Earth, is a beautiful tree with fan-shaped green leaves, and was first used medicinally in China around 2,800 B.C. as a brain tonic. As the only surviving member of an ancient order of plants, it’s often referred to as a living fossil. While its leaves and seeds are used in traditional Chinese medicine, modern research primarily focuses on ginkgo extract, which is made from the leaves.
Herbal medicine long has been used in the management of sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction. In traditional Chinese medicine, ginkgo seeds were used to open “channels” of energy to different organ systems, as its ability to increase blood flow to various parts of the body may be the origin of many of its benefits. Many patients have attested to the efficacy of this treatment. Randomized controlled trials on humans include one study in which 60 patients were treated with an extract of Ginkgo biloba (60mg) for 12 to 18 months. Ultrasonography detected improved blood perfusion in the penis and throughout pelvic tissues after 6 to 8 weeks in these men. After six months of taking ginkgo, 50% of the patients regained erectile function.1
In our clinic, many male patients have recovered erectile function with ginkgo. We have found it to be especially effective for men experiencing ED after prostate surgery, where ginkgo helps to repair damaged nerve pathways. In addition to its effects on vasodilation, ginkgo has been found in research trials to significantly improve recovery from nerve injury following prostate removal. In order to get maximum benefits, clinical studies show that ginkgo needs to be taken consistently for at least 4 to 6 weeks to build up to maximum tissue levels and to exert its full effects.
Ginkgo biloba 80mg, ideally with 24% flavone glycosides, 6% terpene lactones, and including some ginkgo whole leaf for trace nutrients, 2 to 3 times daily, best between meals; or as directed by your healthcare provider.
- Sikora R, Sohn MH, Deutz F-J, et al. Ginkgo biloba extract in the therapy of erectile dysfunction [abstract 73]. J Urol 1989;141:188A.
- Zheng HZ, Dong ZH, She Q. Modern research and application of traditional Chinese medicine. Beijing: Xueyuan; 1998. p. 4225–54.
- Cohen AJ, Bartlik B. Ginkgo biloba for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction. J Sex Marital Ther 1998;24:139-143.
- Adimoelja A. Phytochemicals and the breakthrough of traditional herbs in the management of sexual dysfunctions. Int J Androl. 2000;23 Suppl 2:82-84.
- McKay D. Nutrients and botanicals for erectile dysfunction: examining the evidence. Alt Med Rev. 2004;9(1):4-16.
- Wheatly D. Triple-blind, placebo-controlled trial of Ginkgo biloba in sexual dysfunction due to antidepressant drugs. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2004;19(8):545-548.