Ginkgo Biloba for Anxiety

For people struggling with chronic anxiety, an herb known as ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is sometimes touted as an alternative treatment. Along with herbs like kava, passion flower, and valerian, ginkgo is said to ease anxiety symptoms naturally.

Why Is Ginkgo Sometimes Used for Anxiety?

Chronic anxiety is one of the most widespread mental health concerns in the United States. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 18 percent of U.S. adults suffer from anxiety disorders.

Unlike situational anxiety (such as the nervousness experienced during public speaking), anxiety disorders are marked by chronic, exaggerated worry and tension. Common anxiety disorders include social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder.

Many people with anxiety use natural remedies such as ginkgo as a complement to psychotherapy (an approach widely used in treatment of anxiety disorders).

Additionally, some individuals use natural remedies as an alternative to anti-anxiety medications, which can cause a host of side effects (including drowsiness and forgetfulness). However, it's important to note that there's currently a lack of scientific research comparing the effectiveness of ginkgo to that of anti-anxiety medications in the treatment of any type of anxiety disorder.

The Science Behind Ginkgo and Anxiety Relief

So far, few clinical trials have tested ginkgo's effects on people with anxiety.

Still, one clinical trial published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in 2007 found that ginkgo may benefit people with generalized anxiety disorder (a condition characterized by persistent, excessive worrying about everyday matters). 

For the study, 82 people with generalized anxiety disorder (as well as 25 people with adjustment disorders accompanied by anxiety) were given either ginkgo or a placebo for four weeks.

By the study's end, participants treated with ginkgo showed a significantly greater improvement in anxiety symptoms (compared to study members given the placebo).

Preliminary research in animals suggests that certain compounds available in ginkgo may act as anxiolytics (i.e., substances that inhibit anxiety). In a study published in the Journal of Natural Products in 2003, for example, tests on mice demonstrated that a compound called ginkgolide-A may have anxiolytic-like effects.


Ginkgo is known to trigger a number of minor side effects such as:

Due to the lack of clinical trials testing the effects of ginkgo supplements, little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of such supplements or how it might interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications.

Ginkgo supplements may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in people with bleeding disorders and those taking drugs or supplements that may increase the risk of bleeding such as warfarin, pentoxifylline, aspirin, garlic, or vitamin E. It is usually recommended that people taking ginkgo stop in the weeks before and after any type of surgery.

Pregnant or nursing women should avoid ginkgo.

Since chronic anxiety may worsen when left untreated, it's crucial to consult a mental-health professional if you're frequently experiencing such symptoms as feelings of nervousness, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and difficulty concentrating.

Ginkgo contains a compound called ginkgotoxin. Although it is found mainly in ginkgo nuts, it's present in small amounts in the seeds. Ginkgotoxin is thought to block the activity of vitamin B6.

Using Ginkgo for Anxiety Relief?

While ginkgo may help lessen some symptoms of anxiety, relying solely on this herb in treatment of an anxiety disorder is not advised.

For most individuals, effective management of chronic anxiety requires a combination of treatments and lifestyle changes (such as exercising regularly, getting sufficient sleep, and limiting your intake of alcohol and caffeine). Furthermore, some research indicates that dietary approaches such as regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids may help lower anxiety.

Many stress reduction techniques (including meditationguided imagery, and breathing exercises) may also be helpful for anxiety relief. In addition, there's some evidence that undergoing alternative therapies such as acupuncture, hypnosis, and biofeedback may be beneficial in the treatment of anxiety.

If you're considering the use of ginkgo in treatment of an anxiety disorder, talk to your doctor for help in incorporating the herb into your anxiety management plan.


Kuribara H1, Weintraub ST, Yoshihama T, Maruyama Y. "An anxiolytic-like effect of Ginkgo biloba extract and its constituent, ginkgolide-A, in mice." J Nat Prod. 2003 Oct;66(10):1333-7.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "Ginkgo: Science and Safety." NCCAM Publication No.: D290. June 2013.

National Institute of Mental Health. "Anxiety Disorders." Last accessed December 2014.

Satyan KS1, Jaiswal AK, Ghosal S, Bhattacharya SK. "Anxiolytic activity of ginkgolic acid conjugates from Indian Ginkgo biloba." Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1998 Mar;136(2):148-52.

Woelk H1, Arnoldt KH, Kieser M, Hoerr R. "Ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in generalized anxiety disorder and adjustment disorder with anxious mood: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." J Psychiatr Res. 2007 Sep;41(6):472-80.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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