Gingko Biloba for the treatment of migraine headaches: an introduction
Gingko Biloba – one of the most popular natural remedies in the world – has been used for thousands of years as an herbal treatment. It is often called the world’s oldest type of tree. Gingko Biloba has been used for migraine headache symptoms, other headaches, dementia, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), poor leg circulation, asthma, treating memory loss, depression, anxiety, fatigue, altitude sickness and other ailments.
A 2002 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey found that 21% of the 30,000 people polled have tried gingko biloba.
How Gingko Biloba is found
The Gingko Biloba tree can live up to 1,000 years and its leaves and seeds have been used for many millennia in Chinese medicine. Currently, most supplements use the concentrated Gingko Biloba extract which comes from dried green leaves of the tree.
Gingko Biloba and Migraines
The leaves of the Gingko tree contain flavonoids and terpenoids. These chemicals are antioxidants, which means they attack free radicals which damage cells. Therefore Gingko Biloba is believed to reduce or prevent the damage that free radicals might cause.
Studies on Gingko Biloba and Migraines
There are very few studies of Gingko Biloba in migraine sufferers. One, small 2009 study looked at 50 women who suffered from migraine with aura or migraine aura without headache. For four months, the Italian women were given Gingko Biloba supplements for migraines. The study found that the total number of migraine attacks were reduced significantly. The study’s results aren’t as convincing because there it wasn’t compared to an inactive placebo or another treatment. Also, women in the study as well as the investigators knew they were given Gingko Biloba, so the results may have been clouded by that knowledge.
- Dried leaves
- Liquid extract
- Liquid drinks
- Herbal Tea for migraines
- Soft gels
- Skin cream, skin masks for topical use (applied to the skin)
Side effects and other precautions
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Upset stomach
- Irritation around the mouth
- Skin rash, when using skin products
Who should nottake Gingko Biloba for migraines
Before taking Gingko Biloba for migraines, discuss it with your doctor. Also, people who have health conditions or take other medications and supplements, your doctor should be consulted before considering taking Gingko Biloba.
Fresh, raw or roasted Gingko seeds should not be eaten. The seeds contain large amounts of gingkotoxin, a chemical that can cause seizures and even death. The Gingko fruit should not be eaten either. Natural remedies and supplements seem safe because they are made from leaf extracts, which don’t contain large amounts of gingkotoxin.
Gingko Biloba should not be taken with blood thinners, before surgery or dental procedures without discussing it with your doctor.
People who have an allergic reaction to mango rind, sumac, poison ivy, poison oak and cashews may also be sensitive to Gingko Biloba.
People with diabetes should use caution and discuss it with their doctors before using Gingko Biloba because it may impact blood sugar and insulin levels.
Research also suggests that Gingko Biloba may negatively impact fertility in both men and women.
Women who are pregnant, may become pregnant or who are breastfeeding should consult their doctor before taking Gingko Biloba or any other supplement.
As with many herbal supplements and natural migraine remedies, Gingko Biloba hasn’t been studied enough in children and therefore shouldn’t be given to youth.
As always, the best source for advice on treating your migraines is your own migraine specialist. These descriptions of natural remedies are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no medication or supplement without first checking with your physician. Again, this information should in no way substitute or be mistaken for medical advice.