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Ginkgo

General Information

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 Name(s)

ginkgo, Ginkgo biloba, fossil tree, maidenhair tree, Japanese silver apricot, baiguo, bai guo ye, kew tree, yinhsing (yin-hsing)

Scientific Name(s)

Ginkgo biloba

Scientific Name(s)

extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingredients 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 is this product used for?

Ginkgo leaf extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingredient 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.

Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What else should I be aware of?

Numerous studies of ginkgo have been done for a variety of conditions. Among the most widely researched are dementia, memory impairment, intermittent claudication, and tinnitus.

An NCCAM-funded study of the well-characterized ginkgo product EGb-761 found it ineffective in lowering the overall incidence of dementia and Alzheimer's disease in the elderly. Further analysis of the same data also found ginkgo to be ineffective in slowing cognitivecognitiverelating to the ability to think, reason, remember, and discern decline, lowering blood pressure, or reducing the incidence of hypertensionhypertensionhigh blood pressure. In this clinical trial, known as the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory study, researchers recruited more than 3,000 volunteers age 75 and over who took 240 mg of ginkgo daily. Participants were followed for an average of approximately 6 years.

Some smaller studies for memory enhancement have had promising results, but 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.

Overall, the evidence on ginkgo for symptoms of intermittent claudication has not yet shown a significant benefit for this condition, although several small studies have found modest improvements. There is conflicting evidence on the efficacy of ginkgo for tinnitus.

Other NCCAM-funded research includes studies on ginkgo for symptoms of multiple sclerosis, intermittent claudication, cognitive decline, sexual dysfunction due to antidepressants, insulin resistance, and short-term memory loss associated with electroconvulsive therapy for depression.

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.

Fresh (raw) ginkgo seeds contain large amounts of a chemical called ginkgotoxin, which can cause serious adverse reactions – even seizures and death. Roasted seeds can also be dangerous. Products made from standardized ginkgo leaf extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingredients appear to contain little ginkgotoxin and appear to be safe when used orallyorallyto be taken by mouth (swallowed) and appropriately.

Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.

Source(s)

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Herbs at a Glance. Ginkgo. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/ginkgo/

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