Ginkgo biloba is a very old, very special plant. Some scientists have dated it as old at 270 million years.
Humans have only been around for a fraction of that time, about 200,000 years, although it was only more recently discovered (relatively that is) in the early 1500’s that ginkgo biloba holds many potential health benefits.
Since ginkgo’s discovery people have been using it for a wide range of conditions from depression and anxiety, to migraines, and even for asthma, plus many more. As if ginkgo wasn’t spectacular enough already, there is also some pretty solid evidence suggesting that it can help people who are suffering from hair loss.
In this article, we are going to take a look at the research surrounding ginkgo biloba to help better understand exactly how ginkgo affects your hair and the benefits that can be derived from it if you are losing it up top.
Ginkgo’s main benefit for hair loss
There is one thing that ginkgo affects that is paramount above all its other benefits to overcoming hair loss: blood flow.
Ginkgo biloba has been shown to increase levels of nitric oxide in the blood. This helps improve circulation because the nitric acid causes the blood vessels to dilate (open) which allows for a higher volume of blood to travel throughout the body. This process is called vasodilation and is why ginkgo is commonly used as a vasodilator. For reference, minoxidilis also a vasodilator that is FDA approved for hair loss treatment.
Red blood cells are responsible for delivering vital oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles that they then use to grow and complete healthy growth cycles. Although hair loss is not caused entirely by blood flow, the two are certainly correlated (1). This is why so many hair loss treatments, including minoxidil, work to promote blood flow. When your hair follicles are not receiving enough blood, they cannot maintain the anagen (growth) phase of the hair cycle for as long as they need to. This results in the hair not growing as long or thick as it did the previous cycle (i.e. thinning), this process is aptly named miniaturization. By promoting blood flow ginkgo may be able to suppress miniaturization.
Although ginkgo has not been directly studied for its hair growth effects on humans, there are a couple of studies that revealed information that supports the narrative. One of the studies (1) found that ginkgo was effective an increasing cerebral blood flow, and the other study (2), conducted on mice, found that significant positive effects on hair growth can be derived from ginkgo. These studies, as well as an abundance of anecdotal evidence of successful regrowth, make a strong case for gingko’s hair growth benefits.
What else can gingko do for your hair?
When acting as an antioxidant, ginkgo is actively reducing oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals on the body.
Free radicals are essentially atoms with unpaired electrons. They scrounge the body, stealing electrons from other atoms. This is what causes oxidative stress, and it can cause damage to hair cells that results in graying or hair loss (1). By neutralizing the free radicals, ginkgo provides protection against the damage that they would otherwise cause.
Again, this benefit of gingko has not been specifically tested solely on human hair, but it can be strongly inferred that the protective elements of ginkgo apply to the hair.
What ginkgo can’t do
Now that you know what ginkgo can do, it is important that you understand what it cannot do, and it’s quite simple: ginkgo biloba has no effect on DHT.
DHT is derived from testosterone and, in most cases, it is the hormone that is primarily responsible for male and female pattern hair loss. Several popular hair loss treatments, including finasteride, work to block DHT. But, no matter what treatment you use, blocking DHT is easily the most important aspect of overcoming hair loss and should not be ignored.
Since ginkgo cannot block DHT, it is probably best used as a “sidekick” to the more well-researched hair loss treatments such as finasteride and minoxidil. That way, even though the chances are good that you will receive some benefit from taking ginkgo, you are not completely dependent on it.
There is a reason it is a key ingredient in our formula Follicle Foundation. Follicle foundation was designed to optimize your hair and scalps health so that treatments like finasteride, minoxidil, and others can be the most effective. It was made intentionally to use alongside those treatments as a booster instead of claiming to be a standalone hair loss treatment like so many other hair supplements do (hint: they won’t work as a standalone treatment).
There is a lot of research surrounding ginkgo biloba and some of its benefits are well known. It is unfortunate that more of this research is not targeted towards hair loss because it is seemingly evident that there are a couple of potentially profound benefits to be derived from this ancient plant for hair loss sufferers.
It can increase blood flow, which has the potential to help hair grow by lengthening the anagen phase, and it can also protect hair against damage that could lead to hair loss worsening.
If you decide to start taking gingko, just make sure of two things: one: that you use other treatments alongside it if you are serious about overcoming hair loss, and two: do not use it to block DHT, use a treatment that has been well researched in that regard, otherwise your hair will keep falling out and you will not be happy.