Ginkgo Biloba

Botanical name(s):

Ginkgo biloba. Family: Ginkgoaceae

Other name(s):

maidenhair tree

General description

Ginkgo biloba is an herb. It’s extracted from the dried leaves and seeds of the tree. It’s been sold in the U.S. with claims of enhancing memory and mental sharpness.

Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) contains flavonoids. It also contains terpenes, specifically  ginkgolides A, B, and C. GBE is used to treat cerebral insufficiency. This causes trouble with memory, dizziness, tinnitus, anxiety, and headaches. GBE is also used to treat dementia, circulatory issues, and bronchoconstriction. GBE may reduce clotting time and the risk for stroke.

Medically valid uses

At this time, there are no valid medical uses for ginkgo biloba.

Unsubstantiated claims

Please note that this section reports on claims that have not yet been substantiated through studies.

Ginkgo biloba has been studied for a lot of uses. A large study, called the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory study, found that the ginkgo biloba product studied didn’t lower the risk of dementia.  They also didn’t reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease or cognitive decline. Nor did they lower the risk for high blood pressure.

Another large study was done by the National Institute on Aging. It showed no improvements in memory in 200 adults over the age of 60 years who took ginkgo biloba for six weeks. 

Some small studies have shown that ginkgo biloba was linked with moderate improvements in leg pain due to arterial disease in the legs. But other studies haven’t this benefit. 

Dosing format

Ginkgo comes as tea, supplements, or extract. Follow the instructions on the label for dosing.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

In rare cases, ginkgo biloba may cause side effects. These include upset stomach, headaches, and allergic skin reactions. Ginkgo biloba seeds can cause neurologic issues and allergic reactions. These can be fatal (cause death). For this reason, the seeds aren’t used for medical reasons.

Talk to your healthcare provider before taking ginkgo if you take any other medicines. It may interact with other medicines, especially blood thinners (anticoagulants).

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare providers before taking any herbal medicines.