Ginkgo biloba. Family: Ginkgoaceae
Ginkgo biloba is an herb. It’s extracted from the dried leaves and seeds of the tree. It’s been sold in the U.S. with claims of enhancing memory and mental sharpness.
Medically valid uses
At this time, there are no proven medical uses for ginkgo biloba.
There may be benefits that have not yet been proven through research.
Ginkgo biloba has been studied for a lot of uses. A large study, called the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory study, found that the ginkgo biloba product studied didn’t lower the risk of dementia. It didn’t reduce the risk of Alzheimer disease or cognitive decline. It didn't lower the risk for high blood pressure.
Another large study was done by the National Institute on Aging. It showed no improvements in memory in 200 adults over age 60 who took ginkgo biloba for 6 weeks.
Some small studies have shown that ginkgo biloba may be somewhat helpful in easing leg pain due to arterial disease in the legs. But other studies haven’t shown this benefit.
Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) has flavonoids. It also has the terpenes called ginkgolides A, B, and C. GBE is used to treat cerebral insufficiency. This causes trouble with memory, dizziness, tinnitus, anxiety, and headaches. GBE is used to treat dementia, blood flow problems, and bronchoconstriction. GBE may increase clotting time and lower the risk for stroke.
Ginkgo comes as tea, tablets, capsules, or extract. Follow the instructions on the label for dosing.
Side effects, toxicity, and interactions
In rare cases, ginkgo biloba may cause side effects. These include upset stomach, headaches, and allergic skin reactions. Ginkgo biloba seeds can cause neurologic issues and allergic reactions. These can cause death. For this reason, the seeds aren’t used for medical reasons.
Talk with your healthcare provider before taking ginkgo if you take any other medicines or dietary supplements. It may change the effects of other medicines and supplements, especially blood thinners (anticoagulants) and other herbs that may increase bleeding. Stop taking ginkgo biloba at least three days prior to undergoing surgery.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk with their healthcare providers before taking any herbal medicines.
Data from 2013 showed that ginkgo biloba may be linked to cancer (potential carcinogen) in rodents. More studies are needed to figure out the risk of cancer in people who take ginkgo biloba.