An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.
Ginkgo - Ginkgo biloba - family: Ginkgoaceae (Ginkgo Family).
This deciduous tree may grow up to about one hundred feet high. It has lobed fan-shaped leaves.
The Ginkgo tree is the only surviving member of its ancient family. It
is a relic from the first age of the dinosaurs, some two hundred million
years ago. The tree is possibly extinct in the wild. This tree may live
for a very long time. Some specimens are supposedly about ten centuries
old. The male trees produce clusters small hanging catkin flowers in the
spring. The female trees produce small round solitary flowers which are
followed by yellow-green plum-shaped fruits. These fruits contain edible
ivory-colored kernels or nuts (seeds). In Asia, the kernels have been traditionally
used in soups, meat dishes and desserts. The leaves are harvested for medicinal
use when they are in the green-yellow stage and are then dried. The leaves
(Bai Guo Ye) and seeds (Bai Guo) of the Ginkgo have been used in Traditional
Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. This herb has also been used in
Kampo, traditional Japanese medicine as a remedy for coughs, diarrhea, dysentery,
flu and intestinal parasites. Modern Japanese (Kampo) use of leaves in the
medical treatment of some cancers. Ginkgo leaf has been used for different
geriatric disorders including depression, headache, fatigue, senility, tinnitus
and vertigo. It has also been used for asthma and for poor circulation.Traditional
Asian folk use of fruit as a remedy for bronchitis, gonorrhea and intestinal
worms. Traditional Asian use of kernels as a folk aphrodisiac. Approved
by the German Commission E as a remedy for tinnitus and vertigo. Extracts
of leaves are currently used in North America as a internal remedy for age
spots, allergies, anxiety, atherosclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, coronary
artery disease, depression, diabetes, diabetic retinopathy, dizziness, eczema,
hay fever, glaucoma, impotence, macular degeneration, migraines, muscle
pain, multiple sclerosis, varicose veins and for easing the discomforts
of menopause. Modern American folk use of leaves as a possible remedy for
Parkinson's disease and for slowing cataracts in the eye. Some authorities
suggest that an extract of leaves may prove of value in easing the symptoms
of the Attention Deficit Disorder. An extract from its leaves is now being
marketed in North America as a possible remedy for Alzheimer's disease.
Some suggest that Ginkgo may possibly help prevent strokes and slow down
the aging process. Some research indicates that Ginkgo may have value in
slowing down the macular degeneration, an eye disease [Williams, Special
Report]. Leaf extracts are currently being sold and used in North America
as a remedy for loss of memory, but there are no scientific studies that
support any claims of effectiveness of Ginkgo for this purpose. Note: do
not use the membrane (pulp) around the nut of the Ginkgo, it will produce
allergic reactions, similar to those caused by members of the Sumac family.
Note: in Asia, the nut is eaten after being roasted, after the orange-colored
membrane is removed from around the nut. Note: do not take if on aspirin
or prescription blood-thinning drugs, as Ginkgo can enhance the blood thinning
effect to a possibly dangerous degree. Note: seeds may be quite toxic, leading
to cramps, headaches, indigestion and overall weakness: do not ingest seeds.
Note: do not use if allergic to plants such as mangos or cashews. Note:
consumption of leaves or leaf extracts may cause diarrhea, headaches, indigestion,
nausea or vomiting. Native to China in Asia. Cultivated as an ornamental
in North America. It has several cultivars.
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Web page last updated on 21 May 2003.