January 2015

Not All Ginkgo Supplements Contain Ginkgo

Some Ginkgo biloba supplements, often marketed for improving cognitive function, might not contain any Ginkgo biloba, according to recent research.

Ginkgo biloba has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Today, it is one of the top-selling herbs in the United States. Research published in 2012 suggests that Ginkgo is the fifth best-selling herbal supplement in the United States. Ginkgo is used for the treatment of numerous conditions, including dementia and other cognitive function disorders, many of which are under scientific investigation.

In a new study, researchers used DNA barcoding to test Ginkgo biloba supplements currently on the consumer market for the presence of Ginkgo biloba. The authors noted that the mislabeling of dietary supplements is a problem, and using this test can provide an estimate for how many Ginkgo biloba supplements being sold in the United States fall into this category.

The researchers found that of the 37 tested supplements, 83.8% contained Gingko biloba, while 16.2% contained fillers and no identifiable Ginkgo. The authors noted that previous research on other supplements, including black cohosh and saw palmetto, have found similar findings, with 75% and 85% identifiable ingredients in black cohosh and saw palmetto, respectively.

The authors concluded that they encourage manufacturers to use DNA barcoding to test their products to ensure that the ingredients listed on their product labels are actually in their products.

For information about Ginkgo biloba, please visit Natural Standard’s Food, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Little DP. Authentication of Ginkgo biloba herbal dietary supplements using DNA barcoding. Genome, 10.1139/gen-2014-0130
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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