Vitiligo is a skin disorder that occurs when the cells that produce melanin (a pigment) stop functioning—leaving smooth, painless, white patches on the skin or hair above. Its causes are not well understood, though, but it may be due to a combination of autoimmune and genetic factors. However, oxidative stress seems to play a critical role in vitiligo development (1). Thus antioxidant therapy may prove effective in arresting or even inducing repigmentation. There are many animal and plant-based products available on the market that claim to have therapeutic antioxidant effects. One plant that stands out among them is the ginkgo biloba—a tree native to China.
The leaf extract of ginkgo biloba has many benefits for the human body. It contains high levels of flavonoids and terpenoids, two of the most powerful antioxidants. It is also known to have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects. Its supplements are widely used for their benefits on brain function and blood circulation. Hence, plenty of studies have been conducted to see if it helps in other disorders, including vitiligo as well. Many of these studies have reported promising results in treating this disorder.
What Are Oxidative Stress And Antioxidants?
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants in the body in favor of the oxidants. Oxidants are highly reactive molecules and free radicals produced during normal metabolic functions. These have a high potential to damage healthy cells and tissues by reacting with amino acids, fats, and DNA of cells. The body has natural substances known as antioxidants to detoxify these oxidants. But, during oxidative stress, the level of oxidants increases, and they begin to destroy healthy cells and tissues.
What Role Does Oxidative Stress Play In Vitiligo Development?
The cells that produce the body’s pigment melanin are known as melanocytes. These cells are sensitive to oxidation during melanin production. Oxidative stress disturbs melanin metabolism and undermines cell survival through excessive H2O2 (an oxidant) accumulation (2). It can also induce the immune system to target melanocytes (3). All these effects of oxidative stress cause death of the melanocytes—leading to vitiligo.
How Can Ginkgo Biloba Help In Vitiligo?
As stated earlier, ginkgo biloba has anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and antioxidant effects. Thus it is a potential substance to reduce oxidative stress and have a beneficial impact on vitiligo. Many studies conducted on this topic support this claim, such as the following studies:
In a study, 26 patients with vitiligo received ginkgo biloba extract (40mg) three times daily, while 26 patients were given a similar placebo. A significant cessation of progression of vitiligo was seen in patients given ginkgo extracts. In addition, 10 patients from the former group showed significant repigmentation compared to only 2 from the latter (placebo) group (4).
In another study, 12 patients received ginkgo biloba capsule (75mg) twice daily for 8 weeks, while 12 patients were given a placebo. They were evaluated at weeks 4 and 8 for a percentage of neutrophils (cells of the immune system), interleukin 6 (a pro-inflammatory substance), and serum glutathione (an antioxidant). The group receiving the ginkgo capsule showed a significant decrease in interleukin 6 and a significant increase in serum glutathione compared to the placebo group at both weeks 4 and 8, showing a decrease in inflammation and an increase in anti-oxidant status (5).
In yet another study, 12 people were given ginkgo biloba (60mg) two times daily for twelve weeks. After two months, all the patients reported a complete cessation of depigmentation. In addition, the patients showed repigmentation by at least 15 percent as well (6).
The exact mechanism of ginkgo biloba action in treating vitiligo remains unclear. However, one study on this topic gives some clues as to how ginkgo biloba may have its effects. The study shows that ginkgo biloba protects melanocytes from H2O2-induced apoptosis (cell death). It also reduces the level of oxidants by activating antioxidant-producing enzymes. Thus, it arrests the progression of depigmentation and potentially induces repigmentation of the skin (7).
Ginkgo biloba is a simple, safe, and effective therapy for people with vitiligo. However, it is not recommended for people with bleeding disorders or those taking blood thinners.
Written by Michael Dawson – nutritionist, health consultant, and author of Natural Vitiligo Treatment System: The Home Vitiligo Cure that Doctors Don’t Want You to Discover.
P.S. You can buy Gingko Biloba from Amazon.com