The results of a small study suggest that pregnant women may put their fetus at risk if they regularly consume the herbal supplement ginkgo biloba. Researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit reported last week that many brands of ginkgo biloba contain a plant-derived compound called colchicines. In high doses colchicine has been linked to birth defects in previous studies.
Normally, the small amounts of colchicine the average person would ingest via daily ginkgo biloba supplements would be flushed naturally from the body. But the placenta can act as a kind of reservoir for the chemical, potentially allowing it to accumulate to dangerous levels.
In their study, the researtchers examined placental blood samples obtained from 24 new mothers from the Detroit area, five of whom had regularly consumed ginkgo biloba during their pregnancy. While non-users had placental blood levels of colchicine of just 2 micrograms per liter, levels found in the blood of supplement users ranged anywhere from 49 to 763 micrograms per liter. And tests performed on one (unidentified) brand of ginkgo biloba revealed that the supplement contained about 26 micrograms of colchicine per tablet.
A this time there is no proven link between use of ginkgo biloba during pregnancy and fetal malformations but pregnant women should exercise caution when taking supplements
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