Ginko Biloba 101
Ginkgo biloba, commonly referred to as ginkgo, contains flavonoids and terpenoids, antioxidants that attack free radicals that cause damage to cells in the body. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that ginkgo is one of the most studied botanicals and one of the oldest tree species alive today.
Ginkgo is used to treat a wide variety of conditions. Dementia, or age-associated memory impairment, cerebral insufficiency, seasonal affective disorder, depression, dyslexia and Graves' disease are some of the conditions noted by the Mayo Clinic that may be treated with ginkgo. Glaucoma, intermittent claudication, multiple sclerosis, asthma, premenstrual syndrome and some gastrointestinal conditions may also respond to ginkgo treatments. This supplement, which can be used for up to six months at a time, is also used to enhance memory function in otherwise healthy people.
Ginkgo is available as standardized extracts, dried leaves, liquid extracts, capsules and tablets in many health food or supplement stores. When purchasing ginkgo products, choose a reputable source to ensure that the product is safe for consumption.
Like any supplement, ginkgo may cause undesirable side effects in some users. Headaches and dizziness may occur with use. Gastrointestinal upset, including nausea and diarrhea, are also possible, according to National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. Some individuals may also experience allergic reactions, which result in trouble breathing, wheezing, a rash, swelling near the mouth or throat and/or itching.
Medline Plus reports that ginkgo may interact with blood thinners, insulin, diuretics, anti-platelet drugs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and antipsychotic drugs. Ginkgo may also interact with monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Garlic and saw palmetto, along with herbs that affect serotonin, may also interact with ginkgo. This supplement may affect the way the liver breaks down any medication or supplement, so consult with a physician familiar with supplements and alternative medicine before taking ginkgo in conjunction with any other medication or supplement.
A risk of seizures and death is associated with using uncooked ginkgo seeds because of the chemical ginkgotoxin. The ginkgo leaf and leaf extracts don't have high amounts of this chemical and are considered safe. Any abnormal symptoms that appear after taking ginkgo products should be evaluated by a medical professional to determine if elevated levels of ginkgotoxin are present.