In the News: Herbal First Aid for a Nosebleed

| 2/18/2010 3:24:46 PM

A.TilsonEarlier this year I got a nosebleed for the first time. It seemed like a completely random event; I thought perhaps it was because of the dry August weather. But then it happened again in December and then again just a few days ago. Now I’m left wondering what is going on with my nose? 

A bloody nose, or epistaxis, can occur for many reasons: extremely dry weather, use of blood thinners and anticoagulants, traumatic head injuries, or high blood pressure, to name a few. Growing up in Minnesota’s winters, I never had a bloody nose. Also, I very rarely take pain killers (such as Ibuprofen or Aspirin), I don’t have high blood pressure and, to my knowledge, I haven’t recently been hit in the face.

During my search for answers I came across a couple of recent articles on the websites and, which suggest that certain herbal supplements, such as ginkgo biloba, may cause episodes of epistaxis because they increase blood flow to the brain. I’ve been taking ginkgo biloba regularly since this summer, so this had me a little worried.

Very little research proves that herbal supplements, such as ginkgo biloba, causes episodes of epistaxis.
Photo by Hawaiian Sea/Courtesy Flickr

Before I tossed my pricey bottle of ginkgo in the trash, I searched the American Botanical Council’s Journal for some herbal research. I couldn’t find anything that correlated ginkgo biloba supplements directly with nosebleeds. In fact, the studies that I found said that there was very little reliable evidence connecting ginkgo supplements to spontaneous bleeding.

A 2005 study led by Professor Edzard Ernst of the University of Exeter, systematically reviewed medical databases from around the world, including 9,772 subjects in 44 controlled trials. The study concluded that ginkgo biloba’s ability to inhibit platelet aggregation does not cause bleeding abnormalities. Another study, also from 2005 and also based on a medical database that included 5 million outpatients from more than 1,000 medical practices in Germany, concluded that ginkgo biloba did not increase the risk of bleeding.