Treatment Options

Ginkgo

Possible Harm/No Value

The ginkgo tree is one of the oldest trees in the world and can live as long as 1,000 years, growing in the southern and eastern United States, China, Korea and southern France. Ginkgo is also known as ginkgo biloba, fossil tree, maidenhair tree, Japanese silver apricot, baiguo, bai guo ye, kew tree and yinhsing. Ginkgo is an herbal product and is referred to as a complementary and alternative treatment choice. 

Ginkgo has been used to treat asthma, bronchitis, glaucoma, premenstrual syndrome, Raynaud’s disease and feelings of tiredness. It is also used by some to treat/prevent Alzheimer's disease, to decrease leg pain and to treat multiple sclerosis and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Many of these uses for ginkgo are under scientific investigation.

Eating uncooked gingko seeds in large amounts has the potential to cause death. Uncooked ginkgo seeds contain a chemical known as ginkgotoxin, which can cause seizures. It is known that ginkgo interacts with some drugs, and these interactions can be dangerous. Based on preliminary research, it may affect insulin and blood sugar levels. Ginkgo may also increase bleeding risks. Therefore, you should talk to your health care provider prior to using ginkgo if you are taking blood thinner medication, have a bleeding disorder or are scheduled for surgery/dental procedure. There is not a standard dosage and length of treatment available for the conditions ginkgo is used to treat.

Things to Consider

  • Uncooked ginkgo seeds contain a chemical known as ginkgotoxin, which can cause seizures. Eating large amounts of the seeds over time can cause death.
  • Well-designed studies are needed to compare gingko with other treatments (e.g., prescription medications) for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Ginkgo may interact with several drugs (refer to the safety section below for examples).
  • Seek the advice of your physician when considering any kind of complementary and alternative treatment choice.

Results

Possible Harm/No Value

Will I live longer if I take ginkgo?

There is no scientific evidence available to indicate that taking ginkgo will help you live longer.

Will taking ginkgo improve my quality of life?

Long-term scientific evidence is not available to show whether or not taking ginkgo will improve your quality of life.

Safety

Possible Harm/No Value

Is taking ginkgo safe for me?

Eating large amounts of uncooked ginkgo seeds over time can cause death. It is known that ginkgo interacts with some drugs, and these interactions can be dangerous. Ginkgo may also increase bleeding risks. Ginkgo is not recommended for use by children or for use by women who are pregnant or breast feeding.

Reported complications:

  • Death
  • Bleeding
  • Convulsions
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Heart racing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Rash
  • Restlessness
  • Skin irritation
  • Stomach upset
  • Vomiting

Drug Interactions:

Some drugs that may be affected by ginkgo include, but may not be limited to, the following:

  • Antidepressants, used for the treatment of depression
  • Insulin, which affects blood sugar levels
  • Ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil, Aleve – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Plavix, an anti-platelet drug
  • Warfarin (Coumadin) and aspirin, which thins the blood - check with your physician to see if ginkgo use needs to be stopped before any surgery.

Comparison

Possible Harm/No Value

Well-designed studies comparing ginkgo to prescription drugs therapies are needed.

Cost

Possible Harm/No Value

Cost ranges from $5.99 - $18.44 for 120 capsules that are 60 mg each. Ginko is also available in caplet and table forms.  Cost varies by manufacturer.

The cost may or may not be covered by your health benefits plan.

Sources

The following are off-site links off-site link :

Medline Plus. U. S. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. (2013, August). Ginkgo. Retrieved January 8, 2014 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-ginkgo.html.  
      
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. (2013, June). Herbs at a glance. Ginkgo. Retrieved January 8, 2014 from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/ginkgo/ataglance.htm.

Next Review Date

1/23/2015

This document has been classified as public information.

Table of Findings

results:  possible harm / no value

safety:  possible harm / no value

comparison:  possible harm / no value

cost: possible harm / no value


total: possible harm / no value

legend

scale

Page modified:January 31, 2014