Category Archives: Health Canada

Vision & Vitamins: Ginkgo Biloba, Glaucoma, and Macular Degeneration

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Vitamins and natural herbs have become more and more popular for alternative treatment as additional treatments for medical conditions.  Ginkgo Biloba has been used for centuries as a traditional treatment which may help blood flow to the brain and aid in treatment of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  It might help treat leg pain that results from blood vessel disease, and there is some suggestion that ginkgo biloba might also help PMS symptoms, depression, multiple sclerosis, and ADHD.  Ginkgo Biloba is extracted from the leaves of the Ginkgo Biloba tree.  As far as vision and eye health are concerned, it is possible that Gingko Biloba might be helpful to eye health but as with many natural products the scientific studies show some favorable and some unfavorable results.

There are some scientific studies that have been reported in the peer reviewed literature which is a data base of articles that have been reviewed by scientists with expertise in the particular field of study before the article is allowed to be published.  Peer review helps to make sure that studies are done in a way that will provide strong statistical evidence for or against a specific area of study.  The most powerful studies are randomized and double-blinded which means the researcher and the subject who is taking the supplement do not know if it is the actual supplement or a placebo being taken.  The “placebo” effect has been well studied and up to 30% of people taking a fake pill who are told it will have beneficial effects will report that it helps whether or not there is any measurable effects.  By double-blinding and using large and randomized numbers of subjects the results will show with more confidence that a particular supplement is helpful or not for a specific condition.  Because there are a lot of different conditions that are being studied, so far there are only a few published peer reviewed scientific studies that have been done to find out if Ginkgo Biloba is good for your eyes.

According to the Mayo Clinic there is some scientific evidence suggesting that Ginkgo Biloba may be helpful in preventing worsening in age related macular degeneration which can lead to central vision loss, but there is little evidence to suggest it might be helpful for treatment of glaucoma.  In the peer reviewed literature there are a few studies including this 2012 study by Cybulska-Heinrich, Mozafferieh and Flammer that suggests supplementation with Ginkgo Biloba might be helpful in addition to traditional medical treatment in cases that are not responding as well as needed to these traditional treatments.  They suggest that antioxidant effects along with a variety of other effects on blood flow might be responsible for the beneficial effects of supplementation with Ginkgo Biloba.  The American Academy of Ophthalmology reported there was a single small randomized trial that showed promise for using Gingko Biloba to slow macular degeneration.

A commonly reported dose of Ginkgo Biloba is a standardized extract, standardized to 24% flavone glycosides and 6% terpene lactones starting at 40 milligrams of that extract three times daily, but there does not seem to be enough evidence in the scientific studies to prove the most effective doses for a specific condition.  Risks and side effects of Ginkgo Biloba supplements include headaches and dizziness, bleeding, and other side effects.  If you are on a blood thinner or aspirin, or are on other medications you should talk to your pharmacist and/or doctor to make sure that there won’t be dangerous interactions.  There is also some question about the quality of the products in some cases and as with all supplements it is important to be sure you are getting a high quality product.  In Canada a DIN or NPH number can be found on products that have been reviewed by Health Canada.  In the US the FDA does not require approval of supplements before the product is marketed but does collect information on adverse events.  The other thing to consider is the cost of a product like Ginkgo Biloba versus the proof that it will be helpful for your health.

Whether you already had LASIK, Intralasik, EpiLasik, PRK, wear glasses or contacts, reading glasses or no glasses at all you should be sure to get regular checks with your eye care specialist (optometrist or ophthalmologist) in order to optimize your vision for the rest of your life.  If you have questions about laser vision correction or wish to book a complimentary evaluation with Dr. Anderson Penno, contact Western Laser Eye Associates.