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Ginkgo Supplements May Reduce Visual-Field Damage in Glaucoma Patients

BACKGROUND: Ginkgo biloba, a popular herb, is known to be a potent antioxidant and capable of increasing blood flow in the eye. Since impaired blood flow to the optic nerve may be involved in some types of glaucoma, researchers tested the effect of a Ginkgo extract on patients with glaucoma who had established visual-field damage and impaired vision.

RESEARCH: Researchers asked 27 patients with glaucoma to take either a placebo or Ginkgo extract (40 mg three times daily) for four weeks. This was followed by an eight-week "washout" period without any treatment. Then, for four weeks, the patients' treatments were reversed, so those who took Ginkgo now took placebos and vice versa.

RESULTS: In this short-term study, Ginkgo supplements significantly improved pre-existing visual-field damage in glaucoma patients. The herb had no effect on intraocular eye pressure, blood pressure, or heart rate.

No ocular or systemic side effects were reported during the study.

IMPLICATIONS: The partial but significant reversal of visual-field damage among glaucoma patients indicates that some of the eye damage may be reversed with Ginkgo supplementation. The researchers recommended that a long-term study be conducted to confirm and to better understand these potential benefits.

Quaranta L, Bettelli S, Uva MG, et al, "Effect of Ginkgo biloba extract on preexisting visual field damage in normal tension glaucoma," Ophthalmology, 2003;110:359-364.

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