Ginkgo herbal medicines may increase seizures in people with epilepsy

Jan 27, 2010
Ginkgo leaves are the source of a popular herbal remedy that new research suggests may increase the risk of seizures in people with epilepsy. Credit: iStock

Restrictions should be placed on the use of Ginkgo biloba (G. biloba) -- a top-selling herbal remedy -- because of growing scientific evidence that Ginkgo may increase the risk of seizures in people with epilepsy and could reduce the effectiveness of anti-seizure drugs, a new report concludes. The article appears in ACS' Journal of Natural Products.

It also suggests that Ginkgo may have harmful effects in other people after eating raw or roasted Ginkgo seed or drinking tea prepared from Ginkgo leaves.

Eckhard Leistner and Christel Drewke note that consumers use pills, teas, and other products prepared from leaves of the Ginkgo tree to treat a wide array of health problems. Those include Alzheimer's disease and other , , headache, irritable bladder, , blockages in blood vessels, poor concentration, and dizziness. Scientific concern focuses mainly on one in the herb. It is a potentially toxic material known as ginkgotoxin.

They reviewed scientific research on Ginkgo, and found 10 reports indicating that patients with epilepsy who take Ginkgo products face an increased risk of seizures. They note that laboratory studies explain how Ginkgo could have that unwanted effect. Ginkgotoxin seems to alter a chemical signaling pathway in ways that may trigger . Further evidence showed that Ginkgo can interact with anti-seizure medications and reduce their effectiveness.

"Contrary to our own previous assumption, we are now convinced, however, that G. biloba medications and other products can have a detrimental effect on a person's health condition," the report concludes. "It is therefore important that the large number of G. biloba product users and their health care providers be made aware of these risks, in order to enable them to make informed decisions about the use of these preparations."

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More information: "Ginkgo biloba and Ginkgotoxin", Journal of Natural Products,… ll/10.1021/np9005019

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not rated yet Jan 27, 2010
It's sad that the Western mentality is so blatantly shallow in concentrating on the use and resultant effect of what is basically ONE Eastern/Chinese medicinal herb. The thinking is a too simplistic "smash-bang" attitude. Heat beating too fast? Blood pressure too high? Slam in some drugs to lower them. Getting too fat? More drugs or the knife. Mentally out of whack in some manner? Just use whatever chemicals that "cure" those particular manifestations..In Eastern/Chinese medicine, you DON'T use just one herb. There are ALWAYS others to balance, neutralize, reduce or amplifying a whole lot of other effects of the combination of herbs for a medical condition. To put it another way, any external intervention on the human body condition is multi-faceted. In the simplest analogy - you wouldn't just pump a person dying of thirst and starvation full with just plain water, would you?