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.