The Johns Hopkins University researchers said in the journal Stroke that their work supported other evidence that ginkgo biloba triggers a cascade of events that neutralizes free radicals known to cause cell death.
"Our results suggest that some element or elements in ginkgo actually protect brain cells during stroke," lead researcher and Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine associate professor, Sylvain Dore, said.
Mice given daily doses of ginkgo biloba extract before having a stroke induced in a laboratory suffered about half the neurological damage as animals not given it, the researchers said.
Mice denied ginkgo before a stroke but given it five minutes afterward sustained nearly 60 percent less damage the day after the stroke than those not given ginkgo at all, the researchers said.
Mice given ginkgo 4 1/2 hours after a stroke had about a third less damage than those not given ginkgo, the researchers said.
"If further work confirms what we've seen, we could theoretically recommend a daily regimen of ginkgo to people at high risk of stroke as a preventive measure against brain damage," Dore said.
A stroke is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to a disturbance in the blood vessels supplying blood to the brain.
Roughly 700,000 people experience a stroke in the United States annually.