Ultimate Herbals Guide: Ginkgo Biloba

Ultimate Herbals Guide: Ginkgo Biloba

Your Herb Guide to Ginkgo Biloba

What is Ginkgo Biloba?

This Herb Guide provides everything you need to know about the herb Ginkgo Biloba – it’s common names, how and why it’s used, whether it works and what it works for best, research conducted, whether it’s safe to use and the potential side effects and cautions.

In general, an herb plant or part of a plant used for its flavor, scent, or potential therapeutic properties; and it includes the flowers, leaves, bark, fruit, seeds, stems, and roots of the plant.

The ginkgo tree is one of the oldest types of trees in the world. Ginkgo seeds have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, and cooked seeds are occasionally eaten.

Common Names - Ginkgo, Ginkgo Biloba, Fossil Tree, Maidenhair Tree, Japanese Silver Apricot, Baiguo, Bai Guo Ye, Kew Tree, Yinhsing (yin-hsing)

Latin Name-Ginkgo Biloba

What conditions is Ginko Biloba used to treat?
  • Ginkgo leaf extract has been used to treat a variety of ailments and conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, fatigue, and tinnitus (ringing or roaring sounds in the ears).
  • Today, people use ginkgo leaf extracts hoping to improve memory; to treat or help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia; to decrease intermittent claudication (leg pain caused by narrowing arteries); and to treat sexual dysfunction, multiple sclerosis, tinnitus, and other health conditions.
How is Ginkgo Biloba taken as a dietary supplement?

Extracts are usually taken from the ginkgo leaf and are used to make tablets, capsules, or teas. Occasionally, ginkgo extracts are used in skin products.

What the Science Says

Does Ginkgo Biloba work? If so, prove it!
  • Numerous studies of ginkgo have been done for a variety of conditions. Some promising results have been seen for Alzheimer’s disease/dementia and intermittent claudication, among others, but larger, well-designed research studies are needed.
  • Some smaller studies for memory enhancement have had promising results. However, a trial sponsored by the National Institute on Aging of more than 200 healthy adults over age 60 found that ginkgo taken for 6 weeks did not improve memory.
  • The National Institute of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is conducting a large clinical trial of ginkgo with more than 3,000 volunteers. The aim is to see if the herb prevents the onset of dementia and, specifically, Alzheimer’s disease; slows cognitive decline and functional disability (for example, inability to prepare meals); reduces the incidence of cardiovascular disease; and decreases the rate of premature death.
  • Other research includes studies on ginkgo biloba for:
    • Asthma
    • Symptoms of multiple sclerosis
    • Vascular function (intermittent claudication)
    • Cognitive decline
    • Sexual dysfunction due to antidepressants
    • Insulin resistance.
  • A current study is focusing on potential interactions between ginkgo and prescription drugs which will lead to valuable information for those using prescription medicines and ginkgo biloba herbal dietary supplements together.

Side Effects and Cautions

Is Ginko Biloba safe? What should I be careful about while using Ginkgo dietary supplements?
  • Side effects of ginkgo may include headache, nausea, gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, dizziness, or allergic skin reactions. More severe allergic reactions have occasionally been reported.
  • There are some data to suggest that ginkgo can increase bleeding risk, so people who take anticoagulant drugs, have bleeding disorders, or have scheduled surgery or dental procedures should use caution and talk to a health care provider if using ginkgo.
  • Uncooked ginkgo seeds contain a chemical known as ginkgotoxin, which can cause seizures. Consuming large quantities of seeds over time can cause death. Ginkgo leaf and ginkgo leaf extracts appear to contain little ginkgotoxin.
  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Content Created/Medically Reviewed by our Expert Doctors