Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

Some people prefer treatment options that complement traditional medicine such as acupuncture or herbal supplements that can help you stay healthy, feel better, and manage medical problems safely. To ensure the best possible treatment, please talk to us about your options.


Ginkgo biloba is a species of tree that has various uses in complementary and alternative medicine. It may be useful in adults with Alzheimers, vascular or mixed dementia.  Some early clinical evidence suggested that ginkgo leaf extract might result in small improvements in memory and cognitive function in non-demented patients with age-related memory issues, however more recent clinical evidence shows that taking ginkgo leaf extract orally does not improve memory or attention in elderly individuals with normal mental function

Ginkgo may help peripheral vascular disease (poor circulation) to reduce pain while walking. Some additional research suggests that ginkgo may help several other conditions such as anxiety, pre-menstrual syndrome, glaucoma and vertigo. Ginkgo is generally well tolerated, but there are many reports of problems with bleeding associated with ginkgo use.

Before treating symptoms, talk with us. You may also refer to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, which provides information about when to get professional care and when it's safe to self-treat.

To manage your health, you need to be an informed consumer. Learn about herbal supplements and talk with your health care providers about everything you are doing to stay well.

Side Effects

Side effects are not common, but they may include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach due to gas
  • Skin rash or redness
  • Headache
  • Risk of bleeding in the brain (subdural hematoma)

Do not swallow ginkgo seeds. If you notice any side effects, stop taking ginkgo and call your health care professional. You may report side effects directly to the FDA MedWatch at 1-800-FDA-1088 or on the Internet at

Safety and Quality Issues

Many people think that because an herb is natural, it must be safe. However, anything that is strong enough to affect your health is also strong enough to have side effects. In fact, some herbs can cause sickness and even death.

It's important to know the facts about all of your medications, including natural products. We work with the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database to provide you with recent information so you can better understand dietary supplements, including:

  • Herbal remedies
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Other natural products

Before beginning any herbal treatment, talk to your doctor or other medical professional. They will be able to tell you if your treatment helps or interferes with other medications or with your treatment plan.

Our pharmacies carry only herbs and supplements known to be effective in treating certain medical conditions.

Regulation of Herbs and Supplements

In the U.S., herbs are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that they are not tested for safety or purity by manufacturers. The amount of any herb in an herbal product can range from 0 to 150 percent of the amount stated on the label. The herb in the bottle may even be different from the herb on the label. Here are some of the other problems that can occur:

  • Toxicity. Certain herbs can make you sick.
  • Contamination. The herb (or a pesticide used on the herb) may make you sick
  • Impurity. Herbs imported from other countries may have prescription drugs added to them.
  • Incorrect dosage. You may be getting less – or more – of an ingredient than the label shows, even if it uses the word "standardized" or "certified." 

However, if a product has the U.S. Pharmacopeial stamp (USP), this means the dietary supplement has passed rigorous testing and contains the ingredients listed on the label, and in the stated strength and amounts. It also does not contain harmful levels of ingredients and is made according to FDA and USP Good Manufacturing Practices by using sanitary and well-controlled processes.   

To manage your health, you need to be an informed consumer. We strongly recommend that you talk to your doctor before taking herbs or supplements so that you will be aware of the effects the herb or supplement may have on you.

Before You Use Herbs and Supplements

Talk to us before taking any herbs or supplements. We need a full picture of everything you do to manage your health, so that we can take the best care of you. Talk to us in person or by e-mail or visit your nearest Health Education Department. Before using herbs or supplements, think about these things:

  • Some herbal supplements can interact with prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Pregnant or nursing women should be especially careful when using herbal supplements. This caution also applies to giving children herbal supplements.
  • The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database provides information about when to get medical care and when it's safe to self-treat.
  • Information about the safety and effectiveness of herbal supplements can change as new research results are reported. To check for recent updates, please visit the Herbs at a Glance series online at

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If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder. This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.

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