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The Side Effects of Ginkgo Biloba for Migraines & Headaches

By Carole Anne Tomlinson

Traditional medicine, now often called alternative medicine, has used the herb ginkgo biloba over the last few thousand years for many health reasons. Ginkgo biloba is popular today as an herbal supplement in the United States. Herbalists may suggest it for memory problems such as Alzheimer’s disease, premenstrual syndrome and migraines. Although you can buy it over the counter, ginkgo biloba has not been approved as a medication by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. You should mention your intention to use ginkgo biloba to your doctor before you start, as it may cause side effects.


Among the more serious potential side effect of using ginkgo biloba supplements to treat your migraines and headaches, seizures can occur because of the herb’s actions in your brain, notes. It may disturb normal electrical brain activity, disrupting the usual flow. This problem can cause a seizure to occur in your body. You may get the kind of seizure in which you stare blankly, disconnecting from the world momentarily. You also may get the more obvious type that causes unconsciousness and violent, uncontrollable movements of your entire body. Even without a seizure, ginkgo biloba may induce a sudden unconsciousness to occur. Friends, relatives or an ambulance will need to transport you to an emergency room immediately if unconsciousness or seizures occur when you use ginkgo biloba.


Arrhythmia refers to any change in your normal heart rate. Several different types exist. Taking ginkgo biloba may produce an arrhythmia in which the regular rhythm of your heartbeat becomes irregular. This typically causes an uncomfortable sensation in your chest. An irregular heart rate can produce anomalies in your normal blood flow. This can disrupt your entire body. You heart may even stop. An arrhythmia demands an immediate trip to your emergency room for treatment. Tell the doctor you have taken ginkgo biloba supplements.


Any new substance introduced into your body system, whether a new type of food, a new medication or a new herbal supplement, may create some temporary problems in your digestive tract. With ginkgo biloba, this may occur as constipation, a hardening or drying of your digesting food. This presents problems when you try to defecate. Over-the-counter remedies may help you through a bout of constipation. If ginkgo biloba causes constipation, the side effect most often stops in a few days on its own.


The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine states that using ginkgo biloba as a supplement may present another digestive problem. Specifically, you may feel nauseous during your initial use of ginkgo biloba. Nausea should appear as a mild problem and go away shortly. If it occurs otherwise or lingers, ask your physician for help.

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