Depression is a common mental illness that affects nearly 15 million Americans adults or 8 percent of U.S. population. The common treatment for depression is a class of antidepressant drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which can help alleviate the symptoms of this condition. Unfortunately, these SSRI drugs (which include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and Effexor) can have side effects that lower sexual interest and performance.
SSRIs can cause difficulties maintaining erections in men, and problems with vaginal lubrication in women, as well as lowered libido, diminished orgasms, and a loss of pleasure during sex. These side effects can continue for months even after a person stops taking SSRIs.
In a study made by University of California, San Francisco, a person taking the herbal supplement ginkgo biloba for memory enhancement had increased erections, and from then researchers decided to investigate whether this herb could counteract the sexual side effects of SSRIs.
The Californian study administered 60mg per day to 120mg twice a day (avg – 209mg/day) of ginkgo biloba to 63 people on SSRIs who had reported experiencing sexual dysfunction from their medication. Afterward, 84 percent of the subjects reported that the standardized ginkgo extract effectively treated their sexual side effects. Interestingly, women had better relief of side effects than men, with 91 percent of females experiencing improvement versus 76 percent of men. Out of the 63 people, there were 33 women and 30 men respectively.
Terpene lactones and ginkgo flavone glycosides are two active compounds found in this herb that are believed to have sexual enhancement effects. They both allow blood to flow more freely to the body’s extreme regions, including the genitals. In order to attain maximum relief of sexual side effects, researchers recommend choosing ginkgo biloba formulations using these guidelines:
- Using EGb 761 extracts. It is a standardized extract of Ginkgo biloba leaves. In U.S. it is available as Ginkoba.
- Product chosen should contain standardized extract of 24% ginkgo flavone glycosides and 6% terpene lactones.
This study suggests that in order to overcome sexual side effects from SSRIs, an optimal ginkgo dose is 60 milligrams, taken two times each day (total – 120mg). However, in order to avoid any health problem, start out taking 40 milligrams three times daily. It can be taken as tablet along with meals.
Some common side effects experienced on taking Ginkgo biloba are
- gastrointestinal disturbances
- general CNS activation
- allergic skin reactions
Since ginkgo increases blood flow to the brain, it may help relieve symptoms of depression as well. Remember to avoid ginkgo during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Ginkgo generally does not show significant interaction with other medications but in patients on anticoagulant therapy it should be used cautiously due to reports of bleeding.