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Safety of Ginkgo

Before using ginkgo, safety concerns should be fully understood, as this supplement is not suitable for everyone. For instance, you may not be able to take ginkgo if you have certain health conditions, such as diabetes, a bleeding disorder, or epilepsy. Also, make sure the manufacturer of your ginkgo product is a trusted and reputable manufacturer. It is a good sign if the manufacturer abides by the rules of GMP for drugs and if the product label has the USP seal.

Is Ginkgo Safe?

Ginkgo (ginkgo biloba) is an herbal supplement often used to enhance memory and mental function. You may not be able to take ginkgo safely if you have:
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
  • Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
  • Breastfeeding.
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.

Specific Ginkgo Safety Warnings and Precautions

Some of the warnings and precautions to be aware of concerning the safety of ginkgo include the following:
  • Ginkgo decreases the ability of blood platelets to stick together, which decreases 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 is very prone to drug interactions, many of which can be quite serious (see Drug Interactions With Ginkgo).
  • If you have fertility problems, check with your healthcare provider before taking ginkgo. In laboratory studies, ginkgo inhibited egg fertilization. However, it is not yet known if this is a real problem for humans.
  • Ginkgo can unpredictably affect blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, check with your healthcare provider before taking ginkgo.
  • 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 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 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 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.
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