Ginkgo Biloba Contraindications and Drug Interactions

ginkgo-biloba-side-effectsAs a known memory enhancer, ginkgo biloba is very nutritious since it is rich in ginkgolic acids, ginnol, a variety of vitamins, many trace elements essential to humans, and so on. What’s more, its nut meat is soft with a naturally sweet taste although it is known as the “nature’s stink bomb” due to an assaulting stench. No wonder these days consuming ginkgo leaf supplement is considered one of the best way to keep memory sharp and increase male and female libido. However, it should also be mentioned that its products can have side effects too, just like most herbs. Besides, to be safe you should check out the side effects, contraindications and drug interactions before taking the leaves or the female ginkgo tree’s fruits.

Side effects and warnings

The gingko fruit is mildly toxic because it contains hydrocyanic acid in addition to starch, protein, and fat. Generally the most toxic part is the green embryo. So, its nuts should be served after they are cooked well or made into preserves. Medicinally, the cooked one has a stronger astringent property while the uncooked one works better on killing insects. However, it’s important not to overeat on the raw nuts although ginkgo seeds have long been used in the oriental cuisine.

According to modern medical research, ginkgo has a neurotoxin called Ginkgotoxin (4′-O-methylpyridoxine), which can cause convulsions and death due to central bulbar paralysis when its solution is injected into the experimental animals. At present, the medical profession believes that eating 7 to 15 raw nuts can cause poisoning in children from 7 to 15. Its toxicity will be decreased when it is cooked, but too much intake is not recommended. In addition, a child under the age of 5 shouldn’t eat ginkgo.

The incubation period of ginkgo seed poisoning can last from a few hours to ten hours. Poisoning signs and symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, and cyanosis. Besides, there are also obvious clinical manifestation of the traumatic injury to the central nervous system – headache, extreme fear, screaming, and convulsions, loss of consciousness or coma caused by even slightest sounds and stimulation. In severe cases, it may lead to respiratory paralysis and death.

The poisoning symptoms occurred within 2 to 3 hours can be relieved with the decoction of green beans and licorice. If the situation is serious, the proper treatment is to reduce the absorption of toxins by gastric lavage, catharsis, diuresis, or taking egg white or activated carbon. The patients should seek immediate medical attention if the symptoms are not relieved.


1. Ginkgo seeds cannot be eaten raw. In addition, it is recommended to eat no more than 5 pieces of the cooked one a day since in the case of consumption of more than 10 pieces the toxin risk will be outweigh the health benefits. The contact of nucleolus and fleshy exocarp may cause dermatitis. The green embryo should be removed before the eating. Once the symptoms of poisoning occur, it is recommended to drink the decoction of 30 g exocarp;

2. Ginkgo biloba leaves work steadily and slowly on the symptoms of cardiovascular problems. But it normally takes 48 weeks to see the result. So, the patients should be a bit more patient. Avoid it while you are taking anticoagulants like Aspirin. Use it with cautions in Children, pregnant women, patients with heart failure, and an allergy sufferer.

Drug interactions

During consuming ginkgo biloba nuts or leaves, you should avoid some medications. For example, aspirin or warfarin and other anticoagulants may cause bleeding when they are used together. In particular, the ginkgo leaf supplements have a strong anti-clotting effect. That’s to say, when this herb is combined with anti-clotting drugs it tends to lead to bleeding gums, skin bruising, black stools, hematuria, and so on. And the typical drug interactions are as follows while taking along with ginkgo biloba.

1. Taking acetaminophen along may cause subdural hematoma;
2. Taking aspirin along may produce hyphema;
3. Taking caffeine or ergotamine along may contribute to subdural hematoma;
4. Taking ergotamine or paracetamol along may trigger cerebral hemorrhage;
5. Taking warfarin along may induce hematoma;
6. Taking thiazide diuretics along may elevate blood pressure;
7. Taking the antidepressant trazodone along may cause coma.

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