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  • Ginkgo Biloba L.
  • Coniferales
  • Ginkgoaceae
  • Ginkgo family

Common Names

herbsGinkgo nut
herbsMaidenhair Tree
herbsYin-hsing (Chinese name)

Parts Usually Used

Leaves, nuts (seeds)

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

The ginkgo is a large, picturesque tree that grows up to 100 feet, with attractive fan-shaped and bright green slightly ruffles leaves. Seeds are yellow. It is often planted as a street tree, because it is not fussy about growing conditions and is virtually pest and disease free. Mostly male trees are planted; the female trees produce a yellowish fruit that emits a fetid odor after it ripens and drops.

Although the ginkgo will grow in most situations, it does best in full sun and very well-drained soil, with moisture supplied throughout the growing season. Purchase well-branched male plants, making sure that the tree is not potbound. Set out in the fall or early spring, keeping weeds away from the small seedlings. The ginkgo is hardy in the North.

Variations: Aurea has yellow leaves; variegata has yellow and green.

Another variety: The Chinese grow a ginkgo tree that is 20-39 feet high, grows south of the Yangtse (Salisburia Adiantifolia) that they call Yin-hsing.

Where Found

Native to China and Japan and closely related to conifers. Cultivated in the United States.

Medicinal Properties

Seeds: astringent, expectorant, sedative, antitussive, anti-fungal, antibacterial

Leaves: relax blood vessels, circulatory stimulant

Biochemical Information

Ginkgolides and heterosides, volatile oil tannins, resin

Legends, Myths and Stories

The Ginkgo is a "living fossil", the only surviving species of the large order that existed alongside the dinosaurs and was long believed to be extinct.

The name "Ginko" comes from the Chinese, meaning "silver fruit" or "white nuts." Grows abundantly south of the Yangtse and in regions of the Far East, cultivated in the United States and Europe.

Chinese herbalists have used ginkgo biloba for over 5,000 years. It is said the trees date back as long ago as 200 million years and we are just now beginning to understand its medicinal value. The wild trees are probably extinct now for centuries. One of the most researched herbs, a great deal of the research is being done in France and other European countries where it is commonly prescribed.

Studies show that this herb is an antioxidant, meaning it slows the formation of compounds called free radicals which are believed to be the cause of premature aging, cancer, and other conditions.

A professor of chemistry at Harvard University, Dr. Elias J. Corey, in 1988 synthesized a ginkgo compound called ginkgolide B. This new compound is being investigated as a potential drug to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs.


Ginkgo biloba expels mucus from bronchioles and lungs, stops wheezing, inhibits cough, stops leucorrhea, regulates urination, stops spermatorrhea. The ripe fruit, having been macerated in sesame oil for 100 days, has been successfully used in China for the treatment of tuberculosis. The 24 to 1 extract of the leaf is now a popular herbal product for a wide variety of vascular problems, especially increasing vascular circulation to the brain for the treatment of dementia and possibly Alzheimer's disease.

Improves memory loss, brain function, cerebral and peripheral circulation, oxygenation, and blood flow. Relieves signs of senility, phlebitis, depression. Good for vertigo and tinnitus, asthma, Alzheimer's disease, allergies, coughs, colds, flu, inflammations, hemorrhoids, positive effect on the vascular system, increases blood flow to the brain and lower extremities, heart and kidney disorders, and glucose utilization.

The seed is considered a delicacy in Japan; it is used in steamed egg custard. Ginkgo is also used in medicines for the respiratory. Researchers are testing it with elderly people to see if it improves strength and mental acuity.

Formulas or Dosages

Since the nuts are slightly toxic, they should NOT be taken in large doses over a long period of time. The shells are an antidote to the nuts and may be taken with them to help alleviate side-effects. Toxic symptoms include headache, fever, tremors, irritability, and dyspnea (difficult breathing).

Licorice also may be used antidotally if the fruits are used.

Dosage is 3-9 gms. (less if fresh)

How Sold

Capsules, tablets, or tincture

Tablets: take 40 mg. capsules or tablets 3 times daily.

Extract of the leaves or a tea made from the leaves are safe to take for long periods without problems. Maximum daily doses should be approximately 120 mg. per day.


Mildly toxic. Long-term use is believed to be safe. No known serious side effects have been reported. However, do not exceed recommended doses, this may lead to temporary skin disorders and headaches. Cases of contact dermatitis with the fruit pulp, which is not used medicinally, have been recorded.

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