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Herbs, Vitamins and Supplements - Vitamins and Supplements

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Ginkgo Biloba

Botanical name(s):

Ginkgo biloba. Family: Ginkgoaceae

Other name(s):

maidenhair tree

General description

The herb ginkgo biloba is the extract from the dried leaves and seeds of the tree.

Ginkgo biloba has been promoted commercially in the United States with claims of enhancing memory and mental sharpness.

Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) contains flavonoids and terpenes (the largest fraction being the known ginkgolides A, B, and C). GBE is widely used for cerebral insufficiency (memory difficulty, dizziness, tinnitus, anxiety, headaches), dementias, circulatory disorders, and bronchoconstriction. GBE may reduce clotting time and may reduce the risk for stroke.

Medically valid uses

Currently, there are no documented valid medical uses for ginkgo biloba.

Unsubstantiated claims

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Ginkgo biloba has been studied for a wide variety of uses. A large study, known as the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory study, found that the ginkgo biloba product studied was not effective for lowering the risk of dementia, Alzheimer's disease, or cognitive decline. The same study found no decreased risk for hypertension in those who took ginkgo biloba supplements. Another large study sponsored by the National Institute on Aging also showed no improvements in memory in 200 adults over the age of 60 who took ginkgo biloba for six weeks. 

Several small studies of ginkgo biloba have shown moderate improvements in leg pain due to arterial disease in the legs, but other studies have not found a significant benefit. 

Dosing format

Ginkgo is supplied as tea, supplements, or ginkgo biloba extract (GBE). Follow label instructions for dosing.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

There have been rare reports of stomach upsets, headaches, and allergic skin reactions. Ginkgo biloba seeds can cause fatal neurologic and allergic reactions and are not used medicinally.

Consult your health care provider before taking ginkgo if you are on any medication, especially an anticoagulant (antithrombotic medication).

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a physician before taking any herbal medications.

Additional information

Click here for a list of reputable websites with general information on nutrition.

Online Resources

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine  http://nccam.nih.gov/health/ginkgo/ataglance.htm