New Role for Ginkgo? Herb found effective in vitiligo

It’s estimated that nearly 5% of the world’s population is affected by vitiligo, a type of skin discolouration. This condition is characterized by progressively widening areas of depigmented (very white) skin caused by damage to cells that produce pigment in the skin, called melanocytes. Conventional treatments include steroid creams, which may take months or years to work, if they work at all. According to researchers at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India, the herb ginkgo biloba may be a safe and effective treatment option for those who suffer with vitiligo.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of ginkgo extract in controlling the disease process in people with limited and slow-spreading vitiligo. They also looked at how the herb might help bring colour back in affected areas. In all, 47 patients in two treatment groups were given either ginkgo extract (40 mg, three times daily) or a placebo in similar doses.

The researchers noted that a “statistically significant cessation of active progression of depigmentation was noted in patients” taking the ginkgo extract. They also found that “marked to complete repigmentation” was seen in 10 patients in the ginkgo group compared to only two patients in the placebo group. The ginkgo was also well tolerated by the group. The researchers conclude that ginkgo biloba extract “seems to be a simple, safe and fairly effective therapy for arresting the progression of the disease.”

Clin Exp Dermatol. 2003 May;28(3):285-7