Side Effects of Ginkgo
If you experience serious side effects of ginkgo, contact your healthcare provider, as some of these side effects can be quite dangerous and even life threatening. Some of the potentially serious side effects include seizures, internal bleeding, and allergic reactions. However, not all side effects of ginkgo are serious; some are merely bothersome, such as dizziness, nausea, and stomach upset.
As with any medication or supplement, ginkgo (ginkgo biloba) can cause side effects. Although some people assume that natural products (such as ginkgo) are automatically free of side effects, this is simply not the case. Remember, many poisons and toxins are also natural products. Ginkgo can cause side effects; 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. Your healthcare provider can discuss a more complete list of ginkgo side effects with you.)
There are a number of potential side effects with ginkgo that you should report to your healthcare provider. These include, but are not limited to:
- Increased bruising or bleeding (ginkgo can increase the risk of bleeding)
- 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. This toxin can cause seizures and death. Ginkgo leaves (which are used to make ginkgo supplements) contain much less of this toxin. In general, ginkgo seeds should be avoided.
Ginkgo 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 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 supplement contains less than 5 ppm (parts per million) of ginkgolic acid. Also, fresh or dried ginkgo 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 product.