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Ginkgo Biloba 

Botanical name(s):

Ginkgo biloba. Family: Ginkgoaceae

Other name(s):

maidenhair tree

General description

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.

Unsubstantiated claims

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's disease or cognitive decline. It did not 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 the age of 60 who took ginkgo biloba for six 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.

Dosing format

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 to your healthcare provider before taking ginkgo if you take any other medicines. It may change the effects of other medicines, especially blood thinners (anticoagulants).

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare providers before taking any herbal medicines.

Online Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Godsey
Online Medical Reviewer: Diane Horowitz MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019