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How Safe is Ginkgo Biloba?

Some warnings to consider before taking the ‘memory activator’ capsule.

A few years ago, Ginkgo Biloba was only recognized as a cerebral activator for old people. It was usually known as the 40 mg Tebokan tablet. Nowadays new companies produce this herbal medicine in soft gel capsules with the increased dose of 500 mg.

As an over-the-counter and prescription drug, Ginkgo biloba has been one of the most top selling product in most countries. In the Philippines, students from high school to college levels enjoy the benefits of this herbal drug for its brain power.

Ginkgo Biloba is also known as Maidenhair tree, Kew tree and Japanese silver apricot. It is referred to as a living fossil because it is believed to be the oldest living specie at about 200 million years old. While the seeds of Ginkgo tree have been used in tradition Chinese medicine for 4000 years, the extract of Ginkgo leaves is used medicinally in North America and in most parts of the world.

Image via Wikipedia

The Benefits of Ginkgo Biloba:

  • Used as a memory and concentration enhancer.
  • An anti-vertigo agent.
  • For Alzheimer’s disease.
  •  Treatment for the eye, in conditions like peripheral vascular insufficiency and macular degeneration.
  • For sexual dysfunction, improving the genital blood flow in both men and women for higher libido.
  • As an anti-oxidant.
  • Ease the symptoms of tinnitus.
  • Multiple sclerosis.
  • Treatment for arresting the development of vitiligo.
  • For asthma and allergies.

    Image via Wikipedia

 Ginkgo Biloba has indeed numerous benefits, but consider the following before popping a capsule into your mouth:

  •       Ginkgo leaf extracts shouldn’t be used by people with bleeding disorders. These contain some constituents that affect blood clotting.
  •        People with epilepsy or seizures should not take Ginkgo for this may increase the frequency of seizures.
  •     Ginkgo leaf products are not good for diabetic patients. These may affect the blood sugar levels.
  •     The safety of Ginkgo in pregnant or nursing women and children isn’t known.
  •     Digestive problems, headaches, allergic skin reactions, or muscle weakness can be seen in taking Ginkgo Biloba.
  •      Fresh ginkgo seeds may cause difficulty in breathing, seizures, unconsciousness and death.
  •      Diarrhea, nausea, indigestion, vomiting and allergic skin reactions can be some causes of a roasted Ginkgo seeds.

    Image via Wikipedia

    In addition, Gingko Biloba may affect the following:

  •  Ginkgo may result in uncontrolled bleeding or hemorrhage. It should not be taken with antiplatelet or anti-clotting drugs e.g  clopidogrel, ticlopidine, warfarin, heparin, and aspirin.
  • Certain herbs, such as danshen, devil’s claw, eleuthero, garlic, ginger, horse chestnut, papain, red clover, and saw palmetto, can also increase the risk of bleeding if combined with ginkgo.
  • Ginkgo has been found to interfere with the metabolism of drugs processed by an enzyme called cyp3A4.
  • As stated above, Ginkgo may increase the risk of seizures. It should not be taken with the following:

1.       antidepressants

2.       antibiotics such as penicillin and cephalosporins

3.       Corticosteroids

4.       Drugs that suppress the immune system  (azathioprine and cyclosporine, borage, evening primrose, and wormwood)

  •  Ginkgo shouldn’t be used with the drug cyclosporine (used to suppress the immune system), because it  has been found to decrease the effect of that drug.
  •  Ginkgo may interact with insulin and other drugs for diabetes, such as metformin (Glucophage), glyburide (Glynase), glimepiride (Amaryl), and glipizide (Glucotrol XL).
  • There have been some cases of high blood pressure in people taking Ginkgo and thiazide diuretics.

So, there you go folks. Just a reminder, herbal medicine as it is, Ginkgo Biloba should also be consulted with your doctor to avoid unnecessary complications.

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  1. Very informative article. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Very useful information..

  3. Good info on this herb. Used to take Ginko daily but stopped taking it a few years and ironically cannot remember why I stopped taking it.

  4. Very well written. The bonsai society have even come up with the version of this plant. I must say no pain no gain so people in need just have to take the risk. Nice post kabayan.

  5. very informative piece.

  6. Nice write!
    “Ginkgo has been found to interfere with the metabolism of drugs processed by an enzyme called cyp3A4.”

    Watch out with it, this particular enzyme is for the biodegradation of older anti-depressive medication and for things like barbiturates.

    I’m curious however in which doses the dangers come prevalent though, it’s a herb and most herbs are only dangerous (generally) in high dosages.

  7. very nice\’ but what is the recommended dosage for the students (as they use it as a memory enhancer)?

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