Alzheimers Home > Ginkgo Biloba Side Effects

Although ginkgo biloba is a "natural" product, it may still cause side effects. Bothersome side effects of the supplement include problems such as upset stomach, dizziness, and nausea. However, some side effects of ginkgo biloba may be serious and should be reported to your healthcare provider. Some of these serious side effects include seizures, nosebleeds, and vision changes.

Ginkgo Biloba Side Effects: An Overview

As with any medication or supplement, ginkgo biloba (ginkgo) can cause side effects. Although some people assume that natural products (such as ginkgo biloba) are automatically free of side effects, this is simply not the case. Remember, many poisons and toxins are also natural products. Ginkgo biloba can cause problems; some of these side effects can be quite serious (and even life threatening).
(This article covers many, but not all, of the possible side effects with ginkgo biloba. Your healthcare provider can discuss a more complete list of side effects with you.)

Bothersome Side Effects of Ginkgo Biloba

Possible bothersome (although not usually serious) ginkgo biloba side effects may include:
  • An upset stomach
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Feelings of a rapidly or forcefully beating heart (known as heart palpitations)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness.

Serious Side Effects to Report

There are a number of potential side effects with ginkgo biloba that you should report to your healthcare provider. These include, but are not limited to:
  • Seizures
  • Increased bruising or bleeding (ginkgo biloba can increase the risk of bleeding)
  • Nosebleeds
  • Black, tarry stools, bright-red blood in the stool, or vomiting of blood (signs of gastrointestinal bleeding)
  • Signs of a hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in the brain), such as vision or speech changes, weakness or numbness in an arm or leg, or a severe headache
  • Signs of an allergic reaction, such as a rash, hives, itching, swelling of the mouth or throat, wheezing, or difficulty breathing.
Ginkgo seeds (especially fresh seeds) contain a toxin known as ginkgotoxin that can cause seizures and death. Ginkgo leaves (which are used to make ginkgo biloba supplements) contain much less of these toxins. In general, ginkgo seeds should be avoided.
Ginkgo biloba supplements contain ginkgolic acid, a toxin that can cause very severe allergic reactions and may be a carcinogen (may increase the risk of cancer) at high doses. Choosing a ginkgo biloba supplement from a reputable manufacturer is a good idea, as these manufacturers are more likely to check the ginkgolic acid levels in their supplements.
Make sure that your ginkgo biloba supplement contains less than 5 ppm (parts per million) of ginkgolic acid. Also, fresh or dried ginkgo biloba leaves should generally be avoided (as they are not tested for ginkgolic acid content). It is best to stick with a reputable, tested pharmaceutical-grade ginkgo biloba product.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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