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Ginkgo Biloba and Migraine

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: January 2024 | Last updated: February 2024

Ginkgo biloba or ginkgo is one of the most popular natural remedies in the world. It was traditionally used in Chinese medicine. The ginkgo is one of the world’s oldest trees. Ginkgo has been used historically to treat asthma, bronchitis, kidney and bladder disorders, and more.1

What is ginkgo biloba?

Ginkgo biloba is full of flavonoids, which are a type of antioxidant. Research shows that oxidative stress plays a big role in migraine, so antioxidants may help people with migraine.2,3

Ginkgo is also full of terpenoids, which can help to dilate blood vessels and improve circulation. Today, ginkgo supplements use the dried leaves of the tree to help ease symptoms of many conditions, including:2,3

  • Dementia or memory issues
  • Anxiety
  • Allergies
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Eye problems

Ginkgo biloba is available without a prescription in several forms, including:2

  • Capsules
  • Oral tablets
  • Liquid extracts
  • Herbal tea

Ginkgo biloba and migraine research

Researchers have not found conclusive evidence that ginkgo biloba is beneficial for any condition. Some studies show it may be helpful for dementia. Other studies show different findings. There has not been a lot of research on how ginkgo may help people with migraine. Most of the research done on ginkgo biloba is focused on how it can help 2 conditions:2,3

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  • Dementia
  • A type of pain caused by too little blood flow (claudication)

One study of women with migraine with aura looked at the effects of ginkgo biloba supplement over 4 months. This study found that ginkgo was helpful for reducing the frequency of migraine attacks and shortened the duration of aura.3

But the women in the study knew they were being given ginkgo. They also were not compared to a group receiving other treatment or a placebo. These details can influence study results and make the results difficult to interpret.3

What are the possible side effects?

Side effects of ginkgo biloba may include:1,2,4

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach
  • Heart palpitations (fluttering or racing feeling)
  • Allergic reactions
  • Constipation

Ginkgo seeds should not be eaten because they can be poisonous. This is true whether the seeds are fresh, raw, or roasted. For most people, ginkgo extract is safe when taken in small amounts.1,2,4

These are not all the possible side effects of ginkgo biloba. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when taking ginkgo biloba. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when taking ginkgo biloba.

Other things to know

Ginkgo may be unsafe to take during pregnancy. It also may be unsafe for older people. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking ginkgo supplements, especially if you have:1,2,4

  • A bleeding disorder, since ginkgo may increase the risk of bleeding
  • Epilepsy or a history of seizures, as it may cause seizures
  • Diabetes, as it can interfere with diabetes management

Supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the same way other drugs are. This means that no outside agency confirms the ingredients or suggested dose.5,6

For example, a fish oil supplement may have more or less fish oil than listed on the label. A supplement may also contain ingredients that are not labeled correctly or at all. This can be dangerous. It can lead to taking too much or taking unwanted ingredients.5,6

The FDA created good manufacturing practices (GMPs) to help this situation. GMPs are guidelines for companies to follow when making supplements. The FDA rarely inspects facilities making supplements in the United States. Companies outside the United States do not have these inspections. But many more supplements are sold than are tested. Your doctor can help you decide if a supplement is safe.5,6

Ginkgo biloba can interact with many medicines, including antidepressants, beta-blockers, diabetes medicines, ibuprofen, antiseizure medicines, and anticoagulants (blood thinners).1,2,4

Before beginning treatment for migraine, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.