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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. Ginkgo may:
In the United States, ginkgo is considered a dietary
People have used ginkgo to
treat a variety of health conditions. There is some evidence that ginkgo may be
helpful in the treatment of:
Many people take ginkgo hoping to improve and preserve
memory. But some studies show that there is no convincing evidence that it can
help improve memory and prevent dementia.1, 2, 3
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,
NSAIDs. This is because ginkgo may reduce the blood's
ability to clot. The combined effect of ginkgo and these medicines may be
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
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:
CitationsBirks J, Grimley Evans J (2009). Ginkgo biloba for
cognitive impairment and dementia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1). DeKosky ST, et al. (2008). Ginkgo biloba for
prevention of dementia. JAMA, 300(19):
2253–2262.Solomon PR, et al. (2002). Ginkgo for memory
enhancement. JAMA, 288: 835–840.
June 29, 2011
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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