Ginkgo Biloba

A single species of deciduous tree makes up this genus, which is found wild in Zhejiang and Guizhou Provinces, C China, and which has no close relatives. Ginkgo biloba is rare in the wild, but has long been grown as a sacred tree in China and Japan. Seeds reached Europe c.1727, and ginkgos rapidly became popular in cultivation. Male and female flowers are borne on separate plants; fruiting occurs only when male and female trees are grown together, and in warm summers. Ginkgo is often referred to as a living fossil, because trees alive today are almost identical to those in fossil records that predate the evolution of mammals. It is classified in the same group as conifers and cycads, but is distinct from both. Seeds have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine, but Western research has concentrated on the leaves. Among the plant's main constituents are ginkgolides, which are not known in any other plant species; these are PAF (platelet activating factor) blockers, which inhibit allergic responses. Ginkgo flavonoids appear to be particularly effective in improving the circulation to the brain, and the herb is increasingly used in geriatric medicine. Ginkgo comes from the Japanese words gin, "silver", and kyo, "apricot".

Taken from a tree native to China and Japan that dates back to 200 million years, ginkgo biloba has been used for thousands of years by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine for coughs, allergies, and asthma. Today ginkgo biloba has a reputation for being able to improve the memory and ward off signs of senility, possibly through its ability to increase blood flow to the brain.

Erect deciduous tree with a conical habit when young, furrowed gray bark, and fan-shaped leaves, to 12cm (5in) across, which turn yellow in autumn. Male flowers are borne in thick, yellow, pendulous catkins, 8cm (3in) long; females round, solitary, on long stalks, followed by yellow=green, plum-like fruits, 3cm (1¼in) long, which smell unpleasant when ripe.

Common Name:
Ginkgo Biloba
Other Names:
Ginkgo, Maidenhair tree, Rokan, Silver Apricot, Tanakan, Tebonin
Botanical Name:
Ginkgo biloba
Native Location:
Fertile, well-drained soil in sun. Ginkgos die back if pruned.
By seed sown when ripe (species only); by semi-ripe cuttings in summer; by side-veneer grafting in winter.
Leaves are picked as they change color in autumn, and are dried for use in distilled extracts, infusions, powders, tinctures, and tablets. Kernels from ripe fruits are cooked for use in decoctions.
40m (130ft)
20m (70ft)
Mother Load
Is a female clone that produces large crops of odor-free fruits.

Pendula Group
Has a weeping habit
Height: 3m (10ft)
Width: 5m (15ft)

Princeton Sentry
Is a narrow upright male clone.
Many scholars believe that ginkgo is the oldest of the trees and the lone survivor of an ancient plant family that dates back almost 200 million years—to the time of the dinosaurs. In America we take for granted the many lovely ginkgo trees that adorn our city streets and parks. But in Asia—where it is called bai guo—the ginkgo tree is venerated as a sacred "living fossil". Its leaves and seeds have been used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine for almost 4,000 years, and ginkgo has the distinction of being one of the few Chinese herbs that is potent enough to be used alone. The tree traveled to Europe in the 1700s and soon became a popular Western treatment for asthma, allergies, arthritis, and colds. It wasn't until about 10 years ago, however, that Western scientists—having studied the herb for almost 50 years—declared that ginkgo's greatest therapeutic potential lay in its ability to boost brain and circulatory functioning. Two of ginkgo's primary chemical compounds—flavone glycosides and terpene lactones—work together to dilate blood vessels, inhibit blood clotting, and dramatically increase blood-oxygen levels in the brain and heart. Seemingly overnight, ginkgo joined the ranks of the super herbs and was touted as a major preventative weapon against coronary artery disease, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease. The jury is still out on ginkgo's role in fighting heart disease, but several years ago, after rigorous clinical trials, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved ginkgo as treatment for Alzheimer's.
Parts Used:
Leaves, seeds (bai guo), oil.
A bitter-sweet, astringent herb that dilates bronchial tubes and blood vessels, controls allergic responses, and stimulates the circulation (leaves); has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial effects (seeds).
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for asthma, allergic inflammatory responses, cerebral insufficiency in the elderly, senile dementia, circulatory complaints, such as Raynaud's disease, varicose veins, or irregular heartbeat (leaves); also for asthma, coughs with thick phlegm, and urinary incontinence (seeds). Combined with Tilia spp. (See, small-leaved linden), and Vinca major (See, greater periwinkle) or Crataegus laevigata (See, hawthorn) for circulatory disorders, and with Melilotus officinalis (See, yellow melilot) for venous complaints (leaves); with Ephedra spp. (See, joint fir), Tussilago farfara (See, coltsfoot), and leaves of Morus alba (See, white mulberry) for asthma and coughs (seeds). Excess may cause dermatitis, headaches, diarrhea, and vomiting.
To treat asthma, angina, tonsilitis, dizziness, headache; to combat inflammation; to improve concentration and memory deficits due to peripheral arterial disease. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of ginkgo biloba to treat the symptoms of organic brain dysfunction, cramp like calf pain (Intermittent claudication), vertigo caused by vascular problems, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus) due to vascular problems.
Ginkgo has antibacterial, antifungal, astringent, cardiotonic, memory-boosting, vasodilating, and stimulant properties. It also helps to prevent blood clots, lessen allergic reactions, inhibit production of damaging free radicals, and strengthen blood vessels in the heart and brain. Ginkgo is taken internally as a general tonic to treat allergies, asthma, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries in the heart), Alzheimer's disease, blood-clotting disorders, cerebral atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries in the brain), coughs, depression, fatigue, headaches, heart attacks, phlebitis (inflammation of the veins), poor circulation, poor concentration and memory, Raynaud's disease, strokes, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and vertigo (dizziness), and wheezing.
Ginkgo is widely available as ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) and in commercially prepared capsules, teas, and tinctures. Follow the manufacturer's or your practitioner's directions.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of ginkgo biloba may range from 40 to 80 mg.
Consult your practitioner before self-treating with ginkgo is you have a preexisting medical problem. Do not use ginkgo if you have a bleeding disorder, such as hemophilia, or if you are pregnant, nursing, or trying to conceive. Minor side effects may include diarrhea, irritability, jitteriness, nausea, and restlessness. Overconsumption of the herbs may cause headaches, skin rashes, and vomiting.
Possible Side Effects:
Ginkgo Biloba's side effects include headache, anxiety, restlessness, and mild gastrointestinal complaints.
Drug Interactions:
Taking ginkgo biloba with these drugs may increase the risk of bleeding or bruising:
Abciximab, (ReoPro)
Acemetacin, (Acemetacin Heumann, Acemetacin Sandoz)
Alteplase, (Activase, Cathflo Activase)
Antithrombin III, (Thrombate III)
Argatroban, (Argatroban)
Aspirin, (Bufferin, Ecotrin)
Aspirin and Dipyridamole, (Aggrenox)
Bivalirudin, (Angiomax)
Celecoxib, (Celebrex)
Choline Magnesium Trisalicylate, (Trilisate)
Choline Salicylate, (Teejel)
Clopidogrel, (Plavix)
Dalteparin, (Fragmin)
Danaparoid, (Orgaran)
Diclofenac, (Cataflam, Voltaren)
Diflunisal, (Apo-Diflunisal, Dolobid)
Dipyridamole, (Novo-Dipiradol, Persantine)
Dipyrone, (Analgina, Dinador)
Drotrecogin Alfa, (Xigris)
Enoxaparin, (Lovenox)
Eptifibatide, (Integrillin)
Etodolac, (Lodine, Utradol)
Etoricoxib, (Arcoxia)
Fenoprofen, (Nalfon)
Flurbiprofen, (Ansaid, Ocufen)
Fondaparinux, (Arixtra)
Heparin, (Hepalean, Hep-Lock)
Hydrocodone and Aspirin, (Damason-P)
Hydrocodone and Ibuprofen, (Vicoprofen)
Ibritumomab, (Zevalin)
Ibuprofen, (Advil, Motrin)
Indobufen, (Ibustrin)
Indomethacin, (Indocin, Novo-Methacin)
Ketoprofen, (Orudis, Rhodis)
Ketorolac, (Acular, Toradol)
Lepirudin, (Refludan)
Magnesium Salicylate, (Doan's, Mobidin)
Meclofenamate, (Meclomen)
Mefenamic Acid, (Ponstan, Ponstel)
Meloxicam, (MOBIC, Mobicox)
Nabumetone, (Apo-Nabumetone, Relafen)
Nadroparin, (Fraxiparine)
Naproxen, (Aleve, Naprosyn)
Niflumic Acid, (Niflam, Nifluril)
Nimesulide, (Areuma, Aulin)
Oxaprozin, (Apo-Oxaprozin, Daypro)
Piroxicam, (Feldene, Nu-Pirox)
Reteplase, (Retavase)
Rofecoxib, (Vioxx)
Salsalate, (Amgesic, Salflex)
Streptokinase, (Streptase)
Sulindac, (Clinoril, Nu-Sundac)
Tenecteplase, (TNKase)
Tenoxicam, (Dolmen, Mobiflex)
Tiaprofenic Acid, (Dom-Tiaprofenic, Surgam)
Ticlopidine, (Alti-Ticlopidine, Ticlid)
Tinzaparin, (Innohep)
Tirofiban, (Aggrastat)
Tolmetin, (Tolectin)
Urokinase, (Abbokinase)
Valdecoxib, (Bextra)
Warfarin, (Coumadin, Jantoven)
Taking ginkgo biloba with these drugs may reduce the effectiveness of the drug and worsen hypertension (elevated blood pressure):
Chlorothiazide, (Diuril)
Hydrochlorothiazide, (Apo-Hydro, Microzide)
Hydrochlorothiazide and Triamterene, (Dyazide, Maxzide)
Hydroflumethiazide, (Diucardin, Saluron)
Methyclothiazide, (Aquatensen, Enduron)
Olmesartan and Hydrochlorothiazide, (Benicar HCT)
Polythiazide, (Renese)
Trichlormethiazide, (Metatensin, Naqua)
Xipamide, (Diurexan, Lumitens)
Taking ginkgo biloba with these drugs may increase the risk of seizures:
Acetazolamide, (Apo-Acetazolamide, Diamox Sequels)
Amitriptyline, (Elavil, Levate)
Amobarbital, (Amytal)
Amoxapine, (Asendin)
Barbexaclone, (Maliasin)
Bupropion, (Welbutrin, Zyban)
Carbamazepine, (Carbatrol, Tegretol)
Ciprofloxacin, (Ciloxan, Cipro)
Clonazepam, (Klonopin, Rivotril)
Clorazepate, (Tranxene, T-Tab)
Desipramine, (Alti-Desipramine, Norpramin)
Diazepam, (Apo-Diazepam, Valium)
Doxepin, (Sinequan, Zonalon)
Ethosuximide, (Zarontin)
Felbamate, (Felbatol)
Fosphenytoin, (Cerebyx)
Gabapentin, (Neurontin, Nu-Gabapentin)
Ganciclovir, (Cytovene, Vitrasert)
Imipramine, (Apo-Imipramine, Tofranil)
Lamotrigine, (Lamictal)
Levetiracetam, (Keppra)
Lorazepam, (Ativan, Nu-Loraz)
Mephobarbital, (Mebaral)
Methsuximide, (Celontin)
Methylphenidate, (Concerta, Ritalin)
Metoclopramide, (Apo-Metoclop, Reglan)
Metronidazole, (Flagyl, Noritate)
Moxifloxacin, (Avelox, Vigamox)
Nortriptyline, (Aventyl HCl, Pamelor)
Ofloxacin, (Floxin, Ocuflox)
Olanzapine, (Zydis, Zyprexa)
Oxazepam, (Novoxapam, Serax)
Oxcarbazepine, (Trileptal)
Pentobarbital, (Nembutal)
Phenobarbital, (Luminal Sodium, PMS-Phenobarbital)
Phenytoin, (Dilantin, Phenytek)
Primidone, (Apo-Primidone, Mysoline)
Prochlorperazine, (Compazine, Compro)
Quetiapine, (Seroquel)
Thiopental, (Pentothal)
Tiagabine, (Gabitril)
Topiramate, (Topamax)
Tramadol, (Ultram)
Valproic Acid, (Depacon, Depakote ER)
Venlafaxine, (Effexor)
Vigabatrin, (Sabril)
Zonisamide, (Zonegran)
Taking ginkgo biloba with these drugs may disrupt blood sugar control:
Acarbose, (Prandase, Precose)
Glipizide, (Glucotrol)
Glyburide, (DiaBeta, Micronase)
Insulin, (Humulin, Novolin R)
Metformin, (Glucophage, Riomet)
Miglitol, (Glyset)
Pioglitazone, (Actos)
Repaglinide, (GlucoNorm, Prandin)
Rosiglitazone, (Avandia)
Using ginkgo biloba with these drugs may increase the effect of the drugs:
Iproniazid, (Marsilid)
Moclobemide, (Alti-Moclobemide, Nu-Moclobemide)
Phenelzine, (Nardil)
Selegiline, (Eldepryl)
Tranylcypromine, (Parnate)
Using ginkgo biloba with these drugs may be harmful
Fluoxetine, (Prozac, Sarafem)—May cause or increase serotonin syndrome (symptoms of which include, agitation, rapid heart rate, flushing, heavy sweating, and possibly even death).
Nifedipine, (Adalat CC, Procardia)—May increase blood levels of the drug.
Papaverine, (Para-Time S.R.)—May increase the risk of adverse effects.
Lab Test Alterations:
May increase plasma partial thromboplastin time (PTT), prothrombin time (PT) and international normalized ratio (INR) levels and decrease platelet activity.
Disease Effects:
  • Small increase in risk of seizures in some patients due to ginkgotoxin content of ginkgo leaf and ginkgo leaf extract.
  • Increased risk of mild levels of mania (hyperexcitability) in patients with depression when taken with melatonin or St. John's Wort/
  • May worsen bleeding disorders by interfering with platelet aggregation.
Supplement Interactions:
Increased risk of bleeding when used with herbs and supplements that might affect platelet aggregation.
Culinary Uses:
Seeds (nuts) are roasted as a snack or garnish, and canned or dried for use in soups, stir-fries, and stews, Seeds yield an edible oil.
The Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Bown Copyright © 1995, 2005. Dorling Kindersley Limited. pp 224-225.
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD. Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp.239-242
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp. 142-143