What is ginkgo biloba?
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 supplement.
What is ginkgo used for?
People have used ginkgo to treat a variety of health conditions. There is some evidence that ginkgo may be helpful in the treatment of:
Ginkgo is widely used throughout Europe to treat age-related dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.
Is ginkgo safe?
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, or NSAIDs. This is because ginkgo may reduce the blood's ability to clot. The combined effect of ginkgo and these medicines may be harmful.
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 its safety.
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:
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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