Ginkgo Biloba Safety
To help minimize the potential risks and complications of ginkgo biloba, safety warnings and precautions should be fully understood. For example, ginkgo biloba is very prone to drug interactions, many of which can be quite serious. Also, you may not be able to take ginkgo biloba safely if you have diabetes, epilepsy, or a bleeding disorder. Before taking ginkgo biloba, it is a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about any safety concerns you might have.
Ginkgo biloba (ginkgo) is an herbal supplement often used to enhance memory and mental function. You may not be able to take ginkgo biloba safely if you have:
- A bleeding disorder
- Seizures or epilepsy
- An upcoming surgery
- Any allergies, including allergies to foods, dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
- Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
You should also make sure to tell your healthcare provider about any other medications you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Some of the warnings and precautions to be aware of concerning the safety of ginkgo biloba include the following:
- Ginkgo biloba decreases the ability of blood platelets to stick together, decreasing the ability to form blood clots. While this can be beneficial in many situations, it can be dangerous for people with a bleeding disorder. It can also be dangerous during a surgery or if you are taking medications that "thin" the blood.
- Ginkgo biloba is very prone to drug interactions, many of which can be quite serious (see Ginkgo Biloba Drug Interactions).
- If you have fertility problems, check with your healthcare provider before taking ginkgo biloba. In laboratories studies, ginkgo biloba inhibited egg fertilization. However, it is not yet known if this is a real problem for humans.
- Ginkgo biloba can unpredictably affect blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, check with your healthcare provider before taking ginkgo biloba.
- Ginkgo seeds (and ginkgo leaves and supplements to a lesser extent) contain ginkgotoxin, a toxin that can cause seizures or even death. Although the small amount found in normal doses of ginkgo biloba supplements is unlikely to cause seizures in most people, it could increase the risk of seizures in people who have epilepsy.
- It is not known if ginkgo biloba is safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women (see Ginkgo Biloba and Pregnancy and Ginkgo Biloba and Breastfeeding).
- If you decide to use supplements, what you see on the label may not reflect what is in the bottle. For example, some herbal supplements have been found to be contaminated with heavy metals or prescription drugs, and some have been found to have much more or much less of the featured ingredient than their label states. Therefore, make sure the manufacturer of your ginkgo biloba supplement is a trusted and reputable manufacturer. It is a good sign if a manufacturer abides by the rules of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for drugs. It is also a good sign if a product has the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) seal, which means that the product has been independently tested and shown to contain the correct ingredients in the amounts listed on the label. Your pharmacist is a good resource for information about which manufacturers are the most reputable.