Analysis of the inhibitory potential of Ginkgo biloba, Echinacea purpurea, and Serenoa repens on the metabolic activity of cytochrome P450 3A4, 2D6, and 2C9

J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Jun;11(3):433-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2005.11.433.


Objective: To study the potential of three top-selling herbal products, Ginkgo biloba, Echinacea purpurea, and Serenoa repens to inhibit the in vitro enzymatic activity of three of the most important drug metabolizing enzymes, cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4, 2D6, and 2C9.

Methods: High throughput CYP inhibition screening was used to test the inhibitory capacity of extracts of commercially available herbal medications on the metabolism of CYP enzyme substrates.

Results: S. repens showed potent inhibition of the metabolic activity of all three CYPs tested. The effects of G. biloba and E. purpurea varied. E. purpurea demonstrated mild inhibition of CYP3A4 activity with 7- benzyloxy-4-trifluoromethylcoumarin (BFC) as the model substrate, but mild inducing effects in the presence of the model substrate resorufin benzyl ether (BzRes). Little effect on CYP2D6 and moderate inhibition of CYP2C9 was seen with both E. purpurea and G. biloba. G. biloba also showed mild-to-moderate inhibition of CYP3A4 depending on the model substrate.

Conclusions: The inhibitory capacity of herbal products varies depending on the concentrations of the model substrate and the herbal extract, as well as the identity of the model substrate, as demonstrated by the varied effects of CYP3A4 enzymatic activity with different model substrates. The potential for strong adverse interactions exists for Serenoa repens, which was a potent inhibitor of all three CYPs examined. Physicians are encouraged to advise patients of the risks of combining herbal products with prescription medications.

MeSH terms

  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases / metabolism
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2C9
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2D6 / metabolism
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2D6 Inhibitors
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme Inhibitors*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Echinacea* / metabolism
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Ginkgo biloba* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating / metabolism
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Serenoa* / metabolism


  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2D6 Inhibitors
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Plant Extracts
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • CYP2C9 protein, human
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2C9
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2D6
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating