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Ginkgo biloba is a compound that is already used extensive in European markets to help improve memory, increase blood flow to the brain and is toted as an anti-aging supplement. Will it be able to also help patients suffering from erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is a chronic condition that affects a significant portion of our population. It is not a disease that is limited to just the elderly, even males in their 20s and 30s can fall victim to this condition. As the medicine continues to improve and the life expectancy increases worldwide, it is estimated that ED prevalence will increase to by more than 30 percent [1]. Currently, in the United States, there are over 18 million men that suffer from ED [2]. Although treatments like Viagra can provide momentary relief, this may not reverse the underlying chronic condition that could be the linked to why erectile dysfunction is happening in the first place. These conditions could be diseases like diabetes mellitus, hypertension or problems with circulation. At times, perhaps your circulation is fine, but you may have an underlying depressive disorder or anxiety that makes erections difficult [3].  For those who would rather have alternative treatment instead, natural treatment for erectile dysfunction is a possibility. Various vitamins and dietary supplements for ED can help improve erections without the same dangerous side effects that you may see with medications like sildenafil (Viagra). In previous articles, we have talked about how natural supplements like DHEA can increase libido in women and help erectile dysfunction in men or L-arginine can be used to help improve erections. In this article, we will take a look at another natural supplement that has been linked to erectile dysfunction.

Ginkgo biloba is a supplement that can increase blood flow naturally. Problems with blood flow can cause erectile dysfunction. The question is can ginkgo biloba treat erectile dysfunction? 

Mechanism of Ginkgo Biloba 

Ginkgo biolba is a compound that has been used for a variety of other medical indications. It has been shown to help improve cerebral blood flow, improve memory and help with dementia. It is also been linked with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. [4]  As we age, an unfortunate side effect is that our vasculature begins to deteriorate. The endothelial cells that line our arteries and veins do not work as efficiently, and this can lead to a number of diseases like atherosclerosis or claudification. In one study, 60 healthy but elderly patients were given Ginkgo biloba supplementation and the blood flow through arteries were determined using coronography. It was determined that Ginkgo biloba substantially made a difference in the blood flow in multiple arteries. [5]

When it comes to looking at the side effect panel, Ginkgo biloba is well-tolerated. It is used extensively in European markets already and some of the most of troubling side effects include headaches, upset stomach, dizziness and skin reactions if patients are allergic to the compound. These are very minor outcomes so patients taking Ginkgo biloba can ensure that this medication is safe. [6]

Can it Help Treat Your Erectile Dysfunction? 

Now that we know that Ginkgo biloba is a very potent supplement that can have a beneficial impact on blood flow, we now need to determine if it is a natural supplement for erectile dysfunction. In one animal study, various doses of Ginkgo biloba were given to rats who had their cavernous nerve intentionally damaged in order to determine if the medication was effective. This is similar to what happens in elderly patients as they age. In this study, it was determined that rats that were given high doses of Ginkgo biloba had the most dramatic improvement in their erectile function. [7] This means that Ginkgo will work on animals. 

Unfortunately, there is a lack of clinical evidence to determine if Ginkgo biloba is effective in human subjects. Anecdotal evident demonstrates that it may have its place in improving the erectile function but clinicians are unsure if this could be due to the "placebo effect" or because of the vasodilation that is occurring [8]. 

If you are unfamiliar with the term "placebo effect," this is the phenomenon that occurs when patients notice results because they think the medication they are taking is made of active medical ingredients

Because erectile dysfunction is a problem linked to depression and anxiety, it is possible that is there is a psychological component that is responsible for why patients suffer from erectile dysfunction. 

In one such experiment, Ginkgo biloba was given as a supplement to patients who suffered from anti-depressive induced erectile dysfunction. These 18 patients took this natural supplement for erectile dysfunction for 2 months and at the conclusion of the study, there was no significant difference between the treated group and the control group at any point during this 2-month period. Both groups noticed improvements in their erectile potential but a control group should not have any observable difference. This occurs only with the placebo effect. [9]

Overall, the review of Ginkgo biloba is relatively disappointing in my opinion. Although claims have been made that it will improve your erectile function, science fails to support the claim. When asked "can Ginkgo biloba treat erectile dysfunction," there is no reason to say "yes." Even when extensively tested on women who were also suffering from sexual dysfunction, results were inconclusive [10]. I would not recommend Ginkgo biloba as a reliable solution to erectile dysfunction. 

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