Ginkgo biloba is an herbal supplement derived from the leaves of the ginkgo biloba tree. It is used for a variety of reasons, but is most often used to improve memory or mental functioning. Ginkgo biloba may also have blood-thinning properties and may help to prevent cell damage. Common side effects reported with supplements include an upset stomach, headaches, and dizziness.
What Is Ginkgo Biloba?
Ginkgo biloba (ginkgo) is a popular herbal supplement. These supplements are made from extracts of the leaves of the ginkgo biloba tree, one of the longest living trees in the world. The product is said to be useful for many different medicinal uses, although most people take it to improve memory or mental functioning.
It is not exactly clear how ginkgo biloba works. There appear to be a wide variety of different active compounds in it, and a combination of several of these active compounds are likely responsible for the actions of ginkgo biloba. Some of these compounds have "blood-thinning" properties, helping to keep blood platelets from sticking together. Other compounds work as antioxidants, protecting cells from free radical damage. Ginkgo biloba may also help to prevent cell damage caused by beta-amyloid proteins (which may contribute to Alzheimer's disease). There are several other theoretical effects, which have been demonstrated in laboratory studies but not yet in humans, that may also contribute to the actions of ginkgo biloba.
Is Ginkgo Biloba Effective?
Ginkgo biloba may be effective for several uses, although larger studies are needed to confirm the early positive findings of some studies. However, some alleged uses have no scientific basis whatsoever.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Jellin JM, editor. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Available at: http://naturaldatabase.com/. Accessed March 10, 2008.
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Herbs at a glance: Ginkgo (September 2005). NCCAM Web site. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/ginkgo/. Accessed March 10, 2008.
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