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Ginkgo extract, from the
leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree, has been used for
thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine. It also is the most
commonly used herbal medicine in Europe. Although the benefits of ginkgo are
not entirely understood, it is known that ginkgo has properties that may help
treat certain conditions.
People have used ginkgo
to treat a variety of health conditions. There is some evidence that ginkgo may
be helpful in the treatment of:
Ginkgo is widely used
throughout Europe to treat age-related dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.
Ginkgo appears to be safe and has
few side effects. Direct contact with the pulp of the ginkgo tree may cause a
skin reaction similar to
poison ivy, but this is not a problem with ginkgo that
is taken by mouth (oral supplements). Experts don't know whether ginkgo is safe
for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, so these women should consult a
doctor before taking ginkgo.
Bleeding problems are the only major
complication that has been linked to use of ginkgo, and the risk seems to be
very low. Ginkgo is not recommended for people who are taking medicines that
thin the blood (anticoagulants), such as warfarin (Coumadin), aspirin,
NSAIDs. This is because ginkgo may reduce the blood's
ability to clot. The combined effect of ginkgo and these medicines may be
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not
regulate dietary supplements in the same way it regulates medicines. A dietary
supplement can be sold with limited or no research on how well it works or on
Always tell your doctor if you are using a dietary
supplement or if you are thinking about combining a dietary supplement with
your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your
conventional medical treatment and rely only on a dietary supplement. This is
especially important for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
When using dietary supplements, keep in mind the following:
Other Works Consulted
Freeman L (2009). Herbs as medical intervention. In L Freeman, ed., Mosby’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Research-Based Approach, 3rd ed., pp. 409–447. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
Ginkgo biloba (2011). In A DerMarderosian, JA Beutler, eds., Review of Natural Products. St. Louis: Wolters Kluwer Health.
Murray MT (2013). Ginkgo biloba (ginkgo tree). In JE Pizzorno, MT Murray, eds., Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 780–789. St. Louis: Mosby.
Sierpina VS, et al. (2011). Western herbalism. In M Micozzi, ed., Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 322–331. St. Louis: Saunders.
June 11, 2013
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
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