Dear Alice,

I am 65-year-old white female who stopped smoking and drinking around 20 years ago. My blood pressure has been normal until very recently. It is now over 100. I've recently begun taking 30 mg of ginkgo a couple times a day for memory enhancement (it really works). Could there be a connection?

— Ginkgo User

Dear Ginkgo User,

It’s great that you’re taking some positive steps to support your well-being. There’s currently no research to suggest any connection between taking ginkgo and increased blood pressure. You mentioned that the change in your blood pressure is recent. If so, it’s recommended you speak to your health care provider — quick changes in health markers such as blood pressure could indicate an underlying problem. That being said, it’s possible that other factors, not the gingko, may have contributed to your condition.

Most of the existing research on ginkgo and blood pressure has been related to whether or not ginkgo is effective at lowering blood pressure. However, results are inconclusive as the few studies that have been conducted show conflicting results. Without more research on the subject, the relationship between gingko and blood pressure remains relatively elusive.

You mention using ginkgo as a memory enhancement tool. Similar to the connection between hypertension and gingko, more research needs to be done on memory enhancement and this herbal supplement. While some research indicates that gingko helps to improve blood flow to the brain, thus enhancing memory in people who suffered impairment, there’s no proof that ginkgo will improve memory in people who haven’t had an impairment. Unless you’ve had a decrease in memory due to an impairment of blood flow, there hasn't been evidence to suggest that ginkgo could improve memory.

Though taking gingko in moderate amounts isn’t known to cause severe side effects, there are some risks to keep in mind if you decide to continue taking the supplement. Gingko use may lead to headaches, constipation, heart palpitations, or allergic reactions. It can also increase the risk of bleeding, seizures, and certain cancers. For anyone thinking about starting or those who choose to continue using gingko, it’s good to talk with your health care provider to ensure the supplement doesn’t interact with other medications. It’s also worth noting that it may not be advisable to consume gingko while breastfeeding or pregnant. Additionally, since ginkgo can be expensive it may not be the best (or least expensive) option for some people.

It may be helpful to look at some other parts of your life to see if they may provide a potential explanation for your change in blood pressure. High blood pressure may be an isolated condition, or it may be an indicator of an underlying condition. Some modifiable risk factors for high blood pressure include increased weight, not being physically active, using tobacco, consuming a lot of alcohol, experiencing a lot of stress, and consuming too much sodium or too little potassium. Some other risk factors include age, race, family history, and other chronic conditions. Speaking with a health care provider about any changes in your life or a cause in the change in blood pressure may help you figure out your next steps. 

Ultimately, whether the cause of your increase in blood pressure is associated with ginkgo, it's great to ask questions about the effects of any supplements you may be taking.

Take care,

Alice!

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