How Effective is Ginkgo Biloba in Treating Vitiligo?

When I first was diagnosed with vitiligo, I did research on the internet about it and learned about the supplement ginkgo biloba. A quick Google search will indeed report that this herb supplement is effective in slowing down or arresting a slowly spreading vitiligo. But is there any evidence of this? Let’s look into it more in depth. After additional research, I found that there have been small clinical trials for ginkgo biloba and vitiligo.
In 2013, there was an Indian study involving 26 vitiligo patients. During the trial, patients took a 40mg pill of ginkgo three times a day for six months. The result was pretty remarkable. According to the article describing the study, “A statistically significant cessation of active progression of depigmentation was noted in patients treated with G. biloba. Marked to complete repigmentation was seen in 10 patients.”

 

You can see the results of the official study here:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12780716

 

In 2008, a researcher at the University of Toronto published a study involving natural remedies which could potentially be helpful for vitiligo patients. The study reported that there is “moderate evidence that Ginkgo biloba monotherapy can be useful for vitiligo.” This means that ginkgo biloba alone was proven helpful, even without the addition of light therapy.

 

See Dr. Szczurko’s study here:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2432048/

 

In 2011, Dr. Szczurko then decided to conduct another study, this time with a specific focus on ginko biloba.

In this study, 12 patients took a 60mg pill of ginkgo twice a day (as opposed as the 40mg pill taken three times a day in the previously discussed Indian study). This study completed after three months and reported that “The progression of vitiligo stopped in all participants,” and some even repigmented to an extent.

 

See the 2011 study here:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3065445/

 

The reason why this 2011 study was less successful than the Indian one from 2013 (in which some patients apparently even fully repigmented) could be due to the fact that 2011 study only lasted for three months, while the 2013 study lasted six months. Also, the different dosages could have played a role; in the first study, patients were given 40mg of ginkgo three times a day, whereas in Dr. Szczurko’s study patients were given 60mg twice a day – the same amount but in different dosage. However, nobody really knows if that made any difference.

More recently, a Chinese study about ginkgo biloba found that the bilobalide, one of the ingredients present in ginkgo biloba, helps to protect melanocytes from the oxidative stress caused by H2O2. As the official study reports: “This study indicates for the first time that bilobalide protects human melanocytes from oxidative damage by inhibiting H2O2.”

Now, all this shows that there is some small evidence that ginkgo biloba can help a slowly spreading vitiligo, but these trials were really small. In order to confirm this or to gain more scientific evidence, larger clinical trials should be done. Realistically, this will not happen. I work in the movie industry, and I can sadly see how, in this industry, everything revolves about the money. It doesn’t surprise me that the same applies to the pharmaceutical industry. Further studies or large clinical trials would cost millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars. Ginkgo biloba is a cheap supplement, and the economic return of such big investments would not be worth it.

 

Conclusions

 

These small trials and researches on ginkgo biloba showed some degree of evidence that this supplement can help some cases of slowly spreading vitiligo (stabilizing its progression and in some cases even repigmenting). I have been reading some vitiligo discussion groups in social media and came across a few people with mild vitiligo who took ginkgo biloba, and their vitiligo was stable (although they could not tell if it was stable because of the ginkgo biloba, other treatments, or if it would have been stable anyway). However, I have also read of some people with more severe cases of vitiligo, with fast and extensive spreading, who did not get any help by taking the ginkgo biloba supplement. This led me to the conclusion that, as we see many times in our mysterious disease, some potential solutions work for some but not for others, and that if your vitiligo is spreading very fast, gingko biloba will probably not arrest its progression.

Dr. Harris of the University of Massachusetts, one of the most famous researchers of vitiligo, admitted during a presentation that there is “little evidence” that ginkgo biloba can be helpful in vitiligo. It’s likely that there will never be much more evidence than there is now due to the lack of larger studies, but “little evidence” is better than no evidence!
Antonio