When it comes to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), traditional treatments require heavy medication that comes with the risk of side effects. With that in mind, it comes as no surprise many are looking for natural alternatives – one of which is ginkgo for ADHD.
But how effective is ginkgo and can it really compare to pharmaceuticals? Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look at using ginkgo for ADHD and how this supplement may help you. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
What is Ginkgo Biloba?
Ginkgo biloba (or maidenhair) is a tree naturally found in China that has been used for various reasons for thousands of years. Since ginkgo is the only surviving member of an ancient series of plants, many refer to it as a living fossil. ¹
Traditionally, ginkgo leaves and seeds were used in medicinal practices. However, in the modern era, researchers are extracting from the leaves and seeds in order to provide users with higher concentrations of ginkgo.
As a powerful antioxidant, ginkgo has been associated with a number of holistic benefits. These include fighting inflammation, improving blood circulation, as well as reducing anxiety. ²
How Does Ginkgo Work in the Body?
While researchers are still looking into how ginkgo affects the brain and body, the flavonoids found on leaves are the most beneficial. These contain powerful antioxidants which can help to fight against free radicals – a molecule that damages cells within the body. ³
Though research concerning how this may help the aging process remains inconclusive. For example, one study revealed that ginkgo had no effect in reducing warding off dementia. ⁴ Whereas another study found that older adults who took ginkgo showed fewer signs of dementia. ⁵
Most notably, lab studies have shown ginkgo is able to improve blood circulation by opening blood vessels and making blood less sticky. This is thanks to terpenoids found within the ginkgo plant. ⁶
Can You Use Ginkgo for ADHD?
Since ginkgo can improve blood circulation, it may help provide the brain with more energy and oxygen. ⁷ In turn, allowing the brain to perform better – similar to how exercising helps increase blood flow and improve brain function. ⁸
More specifically, ginkgo’s blood flow improvements may allow for increased mental sharpness and refinement of memory. With that, there’s the assumption that you can use ginkgo for ADHD.
However, the research concerning this remains slim. With most evidence coming from self-reported cases of people using ginkgo products.
What Does the Research Say?
As of this time, there are two prominent studies looking into ginkgo and ADHD:
- In a 2014 study, children with ADHD were given either 240mg of ginkgo daily or a placebo for 3 to 5 weeks. It was discovered that the supplement helped to reduce ADHD symptoms and showed few side effects. ⁹
- In a 2010 study, participants with ADHD were given either a dose of ginkgo or methylphenidate (Ritalin) for a 6-week period. While both groups experienced improvements, the study concluded that Ritalin was more effective. ¹⁰
If you or your child is currently on medication, it’s important to consult your doctor before taking ginkgo. Studies reveal that it may have negative interactions with certain medications, such as blood thinners – making it an unlikely solution for those with bowel diseases. ¹¹
Other Benefits of Ginkgo Biloba
Beyond improving blood flow and brain function, ginkgo may also:
- Act as an Anti-inflammatory – Multiple studies have shown ginkgo extract can reduce inflammation in human and animals cells. This may help to relieve certain illnesses (such as arthritis) both in the body and brain. ¹² ¹³
- Improve Heart Health – Since ginkgo imrpoves blood flow, it can help to increase the circulation of nitric oxide. This allows for better heart and brain health. ¹⁴
- Reduce Symptoms of Other Psychiatric Disorders – Ginkgo’s functioning may help to prevent or treat conditions of cognitive decline, such as Azheimer’s disease and dimentia. ¹⁵ However, some research also suggests it may help in reducing mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. ¹⁶ ¹⁷
As with ADHD, more research is necessary to understand how ginkgo can help with specific health conditions.
Ginkgo Side Effects and Safety
Ginkgo extract is safe for most people to take. However, it may cause some mild side effects:
- Allergic skin reaction
- Stomach upset
On the flip side, roasted ginkgo seeds or crude ginkgo plants are possibly unsafe when taken by mouth. Reports claim that 10 roasted seeds daily can lead to serious side effects, such as seizures. ¹⁸ Furthermore, eating fresh seeds may lead to death as they’re poisonous. ¹⁹
Not to mention, ginkgo should not be taken in women who are pregnant or lactating. As of this time, there’s not enough research to confirm their safety. ²⁰
Ginkgo for ADHD Dosage Recommendation
Since ginkgo isn’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there isn’t a standard when it comes to dosing. In one of the studies discussed above, children seemed to benefit from 240mg of ginkgo.
However, most products offer around 120mg of ginkgo per serving. We recommend starting at this amount. If you don’t see improvement, you can slowly increase your dose.
Still, if you find you’re not garnering the effects you were looking for after a 6-week period, it’s likely ginkgo isn’t your best option. In such cases, you may want to consider other herbal remedies for ADHD.
Since ginkgo can improve blood flow to the brain, it may also help reduce symptoms of ADHD. However, research remains inconclusive and it’s impossible to say whether or not ginkgo is actually helpful for this condition.
Not to mention, the research available shows that ginkgo isn’t as effective as traditional pharmaceuticals. With that said, ginkgo may be an option for those with mild cases of ADHD in adults. But if you struggle with a severe case, you should consult your doctor about the best treatment options for you.
Still have questions concerning whether or not ginkgo for ADHD is right for you?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further advice to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Ginko
² Pharmacognosy Review: Rethinking Ginkgo biloba L.
³ Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin: The effect of ginkgo biloba extract on free radical production in hypoxic rats
⁴ HHS Public Access: Ginkgo biloba for Prevention of Dementia
⁵ BMC Geriatrics: Effects of Ginkgo biloba in dementia
⁶ Angewandte Chemie: Chemistry and biology of terpene trilactones from Ginkgo biloba
⁷ HHS Public Access: Effects of Ginkgo biloba on cerebral blood flow assessed by quantitative MR perfusion imaging
⁸ Sports Medicine: Regulation of cerebral blood flow during exercise
⁹ Zeitschrift fur Kinder: Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761® in children with ADHD
¹⁰ Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry: Ginkgo biloba for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents
¹¹ Molecular Nutrition & Food Research: Potential interaction of Ginkgo biloba leaf with antiplatelet or anticoagulant drugs
¹² Aging and Disease: Advances in the Studies of Ginkgo Biloba Leaves Extract on Aging-Related Diseases
¹³ Carcinogenesis: Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 has anti-inflammatory properties and ameliorates colitis in mice by driving effector T cell apoptosis
¹⁴ Phytotherapy Research: Ginkgo biloba extract improves coronary artery circulation in patients with coronary artery disease
¹⁵ Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry: Ginkgo Biloba for Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease
¹⁶ Journal of Psychiatric Research: Ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in generalized anxiety disorder and adjustment disorder with anxious mood
¹⁷ CNS & Neurological Disorders Drug Targets: Ginkgo biloba Extract 761: A Review of Basic Studies and Potential Clinical Use in Psychiatric Disorders
¹⁸ Case Reports in Emergency Medicine: Epileptic Seizure from Ginkgo Nut Intoxication in an Adult
¹⁹ HHS Public Access: Review of Ginkgo biloba-induced toxicity, from experimental studies to human case reports
²⁰ The Canadian Journal of Clinical Pharmacology: Safety and efficacy of ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) during pregnancy and lactation