Ginkgo biloba

Common Names: ginkgo, Ginkgo biloba, fossil tree, maidenhair tree, Japanese silver apricot, baiguo, bai guo ye, kew tree, yinhsing (yin-hsing)

The living fossil tree, grandmother ginkgo biloba, is the oldest living tree on the planet. It’s been used safely for over 3000 years and was nearly wiped out during the Ice Age everywhere except in China.

Ginkgo products come from the leaves of the only surviving member of the ginkgo family, a living fossil more than 200 million years old. Most commercial leaf production is from plantations in South Carolina, France, and China.

Ginkgo as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

GinkgoThe medicinal parts of ginkgo are the fresh or dried leaves, and the seeds separated from their fleshy outer layer. The seeds smell like butyric, capric or valeric acid when ripe.

Ginkgo leaf is a relatively new herbal medicine, used in China only since the fifteenth century. The leaves were traditionally used for “benefiting the brain”, treatment of lung disorders, relief of cough and asthma symptoms, and diarrhea. The leaf tea was applied externally to treat sores of the skin and remove freckles.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, dating back to the 15th century, ginkgo was used for lung cough, asthma and diarrhea, and the leaf was used externally for sores, freckles, and perhaps as an antibacterial agent. In present day France and Germany ginkgo is the most frequently prescribed medicine, having appeared in over 400 scientific studies since the 1950’s.

Ginkgo biloba has been touted as “the ultimate brain food” due to its ability to restore mental clarity often lost with depression. It’s associated with the ability to improve blood flow to tissues and organs as well as protect cells from free radicals (often the lowered immune system-depression-stress cycle makes the body more prone to the damaging effects of free radicals).

Gingko is approved by Commission E for:

  • Symptomatic relief of organic brain dysfunction
  • Intermittent claudication
  • Vertigo (vascular origin)
  • Tinnitus (vascular origin)

Note: The Commission E approvals listed are limited to special standard extracts of Ginkgo.

Ginkgo biloba extracts are among the most popular selling herbal medicines in Europe.

Most research has focused on the use of the complex extracts to increase circulation to the extremities as well as the brain, especially in the elderly.

Ginkgo extract has also been studied for the treatment male impotence, degenerative nerve conditions such as multiple sclerosis, and other diseases. It has shown potential to relieve difficulties with short-term memory, attention span, and mood in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease by improving oxygen metabolism in the brain.

Ginkgo can also be helpful against tinnitus and vertigo, where impaired blood circulation can cause dizziness or ringing in the ears. Most often you will find ginkgo in combination with other circulatory herbs such as Gotu Kola.

Folk medicine: The drug is used for disturbed brain functions that result in dizziness and headache with emotional lability and anxiety. Ginkgo has been demonstrated to improve concentration and memory deficits as a result of peripheral arterial occlusive disease.

Homeopathic Uses: Homeopathy includes tonsillitis and cephalgia among the indications for use of Ginkgo.

The usual daily amount is 120mg to 240mg, divided into two or three doses for memory loss and dementia. For leg pain, 120mg to 160mg is recommended.

Culinary Uses of Ginkgo

Making a tea or taking a tincture is the least expensive way to use ginkgo and it will be affective over a period of time. For those who prefer tested quality and potency, use a standardized extract.

Other culinary uses unknown.


Some individuals have shown hypersensitivity to ginkgo leaf extracts including rare cases of gastrointestinal upset, headaches, or skin allergies. In such cases use of ginkgo should be discontinued. Rare side effects include gastrointestinal upset or a skin rash, and use caution if taking blood thinners. As with any medicine, consult a health care practitioner before using.

Can raise blood pressure in some individuals. Blood pressure should be monitored while using if susceptible to high blood pressure.

Uncooked ginkgo seeds contain a chemical known as ginkgotoxin, which can cause seizures. Consuming large quantities of seeds over time can cause death.

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