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Ginkgo, one of the oldest living tree species in the world, has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine. Members of the royal court were given ginkgo nuts for senility. Other historical uses for gingko were for asthma, bronchitis, and kidney and bladder disorders.

Today, the extract from ginkgo leaves is used as a dietary supplement for many conditions, including dementia, eye problems, intermittent claudication (leg pain caused by narrowing arteries), tinnitus, and other health problems.

Ginkgo is made into tablets, capsules, extracts, tea, and cosmetics.

How Much Do We Know?

There have been a lot of studies on the possible health effects and risks of people using ginkgo.

What Have We Learned?

There’s no conclusive evidence that ginkgo is helpful for any health condition.

Ginkgo doesn’t help prevent or slow dementia or cognitive decline, according to studies, including the long-term Ginkgo Evaluation Memory Study, which enrolled more than 3,000 older adults and was funded in part by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

There’s no strong evidence that ginkgo helps with memory enhancement in healthy people, blood pressure, intermittent claudication, tinnitus, age-related macular degeneration, the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, or with other conditions.

Ongoing NCCIH-funded research is looking at whether a compound in ginkgo may help with diabetes.

What Do We Know About Safety?

For many healthy adults, ginkgo appears to be safe when taken by mouth in moderate amounts.

Side effects of ginkgo may include headache, stomach upset, and allergic skin reactions. If you’re older, have a known bleeding risk, or are pregnant you should be cautious about ginkgo possibly increasing your risk of bleeding.

In a 2013 research study, rodents given ginkgo had an increased risk of developing liver and thyroid cancer at the end of the 2-year tests.

Ginkgo may interact with some conventional medications, including anticoagulants (blood thinners), research reviews show.

Eating fresh (raw) or roasted ginkgo seeds can be poisonous and have serious side effects.

Keep in Mind

Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Key References

  • Brinkley TE, Lovato JF, Arnold AM, et al. Effect of Ginkgo biloba on blood pressure and incidence of hypertension in elderly men and women. American Journal of Hypertension. 2010;23(5):528-533.
  • DeKosky ST, Williamson JD, Fitzpatrick AL, et al. Ginkgo biloba for prevention of dementia: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2008;300(19):2253-2262.
  • Evans JR. Ginkgo biloba extract for age-related macular degeneration. Cochrane Database Systematic Review. 2013;(1):CD001775. Accessed at is external) on April 10, 2015.
  • Ginkgo. Natural Medicines Web site. Accessed at on on April 8, 2015. [Database subscription].
  • Hilton MP, Zimmermann EF, Hunt WT. Ginkgo biloba for tinnitus. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2013;(3):CD003852. Accessed at is external) on April 10, 2015.
  • Kuller LH, Ives DG, Fitzpatrick AL, et al. Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study Investigators. Does Ginkgo biloba reduce the risk of cardiovascular events?Circulation. Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2010;3(1):41-47.
  • Laws KR, Sweetnam H, Kondel TK. Is Ginkgo biloba a cognitive enhancer in healthy individuals? A meta-analysis. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental. 2012;27(6):527-533.
  • Stramgaard K, Vogensen SB, Steet J. Ginkgo. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements, 2nd ed. New York, NY: Informa Healthcare; 2010:332-338.
  • Vellas B, Coley N, Ousset PJ, et al. Long-term use of standardized Ginkgo biloba extract for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease (GuidAge): a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Lancet Neurology. 2012;11(10):851-859.


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