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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, 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 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 its safety.
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.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine|
|Last Revised||June 11, 2013|
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