Ginkgo Biloba Side Effects

Ginkgo biloba, Image from Wikimedia CommonsAlthough Ginkgo biloba offers a lot of health benefits, there are also possible side effects. There are reports of Ginkgo biloba side effects but their number is small to cause alarm. To prevent possible side effects, the usage of Ginkgo biloba products should be under the guidance and supervision of a qualified physician. Even if Ginkgo is a herbal medicine, it should be treated like any other drug because it contains bioactive compounds that can cause harm to the body.

Common Side Effects

The common side effects of ginkgo include dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, headache, gastrointestinal upset, palpitations, restlessness, and allergic reactions. If you experience these symptoms, stop using any ginkgo product and visit your doctor for medical advice. The doctor will tell you whether you need to stop using ginkgo or you need to lower the dosage.
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Allergic Reactions Symptoms

Many organic compounds have been isolated in ginkgo. Some of these compounds can trigger allergic reactions. Symptoms of ginkgo allergy include skin rashes, hives, swelling, itching, breathing difficulty, sneezing, breathing difficulty, and anaphylactic shock. Seek medical help if you experience these allergic reactions after using any ginkgo product. Special medical attention should be given to people with anaphylactic shock because of the fatality of this condition.

Allergens found in ginkgo are long-chain alkyphenols and urushiols. Urushiol, a potent allergen, is an oily poisonous irritant found in the resin and on the leaves and stems of poison ivy, lacquer tree, mango, and related plants. If you have a history of allergy to any of the mentioned plants, you are likely to experience adverse reactions when taking ginkgo products. In ginkgo seed, urushiol is found in the outer fleshy coating. When the coating is removed, the seed is safe to handle.

Sadly, the only solution for ginkgo allergy is avoidance of ginkgo products.

Ginkgo Toxicity

Eating raw seed of ginkgo in large quantities (over 5 seeds a day) can cause poisoning due to the presence of 4-methoxypyridoxine (MPN) in the seed’s gametophyte (meat). MPN, also called ginkgotoxin, can cause seizure and convulsion. Ginkgo leaf and leaf extract contain little MPN.

Ginkgo for Children and Pregnant Women

Ginkgo products should not be taken by children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers.

Interaction with Other Medications

Ginkgo can interact with other prescriptions and non-prescription medications by altering their effectiveness and metabolism within the body. Medications known to interact with ginkgo include anticonvulsants, antidepressants (SSRIs and MAOIs), antihypertensive medications, blood-thinning medications, cyclosporine, blood sugar-lowering medications, trazodone, and thiazide diuretics.

The effectiveness of anticonvulsant medications such as carbamazepine and valproic acid can be lessen when taken with ginkgo.

Ginkgo should not be taken with serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Celexa, Lexapro, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, and Prozac. Interaction of ginkgo and SSRIs can lead to potentially fatal serotonin syndrome.

Ginkgo can improve both the good and bad effects of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) like Nardil. Hence, the two medications should not be taken together.

If you are taking antihypertensive medications, consult your doctor before using ginkgo. Ginkgo can lower blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels and physical characteristics of blood. It may reinforce the effects of antihypertensive medications resulting to dangerous drop in blood pressure. Ginkgo has been reported to interact with Procardia (nifedipine), a calcium blocker used for arrhythmias and high blood pressure.

Ginkgo reinforces the effects of anticoagulants or blood-thinners such as aspirin, clopidogrel, heparin, and warfarin. This can result to internal bleeding. People with bleeding disorder like hemophilia should not take ginkgo. You should discontinue taking ginkgo at least 36 hours before your scheduled surgery (including dental) to prevent bleeding complications.

Ginkgo can affect insulin secretion in people with diabetes. If you have diabetes, don’t take ginkgo without first consulting your doctor.

Ginkgo can interact with cyclosporine, thiazide, and trazodone medications. Talk to your doctor before using ginkgo with any of the three medications mentioned.

Additional Note

You may experience other ginkgo side effects other than those mentioned here. If it happens, discontinue using ginkgo and visit your doctor for advice.[ad#afterpost]

References and Further Reading