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Monday 24th October 2016

Can ginkgo cause a stroke?

3rd March 2008

A recent study into the effects of ginkgo biloba has found the plant extract is linked to a higher incidence of strokes and mini-strokes.


A study published in the journal Neurology found that while the herbal supplement may indeed delay the onset of cognitive impairment in normal elderly adults, it may also increase the risk of strokes or transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs), also known as mini-strokes.

Ginkgo biloba is extracted from a rare tree species used in traditional Chinese medicine, and is one of the most widely used dietary supplements, marketed as a memory enhancer.

Previous studies have also suggested it may help improve memory and other mental functions in people with dementia.

Lead author Hiroko H. Dodge of the Oregon State University said the risk of older people developing dementia was one of the most pressing public health problems facing the United States.

Dodge's team followed 118 people age 85 and older with no memory problems over three years. Half of them took ginkgo biloba extract three times a day and half took a placebo.

They found a slight difference between the ginkgo group and the placebo group in the numbers of people developing mild dementia.

Of these 21 people, 14 were in the control group and seven were taking ginkgo. Further analysis of the level of compliance with tablet-taking among subjects showed that those who reliably took ginkgo had a 68% lower risk of developing mild memory problems than those taking the placebo.

On the other hand, seven people taking ginkgo had strokes or mini-strokes, while none in the placebo group did.

While the team noted that ginkgo has been linked to bleeding problems, they said the strokes were caused by blood clots as opposed to excessive bleeding.

Dodge said the results still needed to be clarified with larger studies, which could be illuminating, because of the widespread availability and relatively low cost of commercially farmed ginkgo extract.

He said more information was needed to conclude whether ginkgo was safe, and whether it had any tangible benefits in preventing cognitive decline.

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