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 some conditions.
Some people use ginkgo to help with:
More evidence is needed to find out if and how well it helps manage or prevent these health problems.
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 breastfeeding, 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, or NSAIDs. This is because ginkgo may reduce the blood's ability to clot. The combined effect of ginkgo and these medicines may be harmful.
The Natural and Non-Prescription Health Products Directorate (NNHPD), within the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada, regulates natural health products in Canada. Natural health products, including ginkgo biloba, must be reviewed and approved by the NNHPD before they can be sold in Canada.
Always tell your doctor if you are using a natural health product or if you are thinking about combining a natural health product with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on a natural health product. This is especially important for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
When using natural health products, 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.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineBrian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Current as ofDecember 6, 2017
Current as of: December 6, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
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