Ginkgo Biloba

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Ginkgo biloba L.
Family: Ginkgoaceae

COMMON NAME(S): Ginkgo, maidenhair tree, kew tree, ginkyo, yinhsing (Silver Apricot-Japanese)

The Ginkgo ( Ginkgo biloba ), frequently misspelled as "Gingko", and sometimes known as the Maidenhair Tree , is a unique tree with no close living relatives.

Many scientists believe that ginkgo biloba is one of oldest living species of tree. These amazing trees can live up to 1,000 years. Ginkgo grows most predominantly in the southern and eastern United States, southern France, China, and Korea. The leaves of the tree are used for their medicinal effects.


In China, ginkgo was cultivated as a sacred tree, and is still found decorating Buddhist temples throughout Asia. It is not found in the wild. Preparations have been used for medicinal purposes for more than 1000 years. Traditional Chinese physicians used ginkgo leaves to treat asthma and chilblains. The ancient Chinese and Japanese ate roasted ginkgo seeds, and considered them a digestive aid and preventive against drunkenness.The flavonoids act as free radical scavengers and the terpenes (ginkgolides) inhibit platelet activating factor. Currently, oral and IV forms are available in Europe. Neither form has been approved for medical use in the US, where ginkgo is sold as a nutritional supplement.

Botany :- Ginkgo is the world's oldest living tree species and can be traced back more than 200 million years to the Permian period. It is the sole survivor of the family Ginkgoaceae. Individual trees may live 1000 years, growing to a height of approximately 37 m and have fan-shaped leaves. The species is dioecious; male trees more than 20 years old blossom in the spring. Adult female trees produce a plum-like fruit that falls in late autumn.Its fleshy pulp has a foul odor and causes contact dermatitis. The edible inner seed resembles an almond and is sold in Asian markets.

Uses of Ginkgo

Ginkgo has been used to treat Raynaud disease, cerebral insufficiency, anxiety/stress, tinnitus, dementias, circulatory disorders/asthma. It has positive effects on memory and diseases associated with free radical generation.

Today, people use ginkgo leaf extracts hoping to improve memory; to treat or help prevent Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia; to decrease intermittent claudication (leg pain caused by narrowing arteries); and to treat sexual dysfunction, multiple sclerosis, tinnitus, and other health conditions.

Side Effects of Ginkgo

Severe side effects are rare; possible effects include headache, dizziness, heart palpitations, and gastrointestinal (GI) and dermatologic reactions. Ginkgo pollen can be strongly allergenic. Contact with the fleshy fruit pulp causes allergic dermatitis, similar to poison ivy.

Uncooked ginkgo seeds contain a chemical known as ginkgotoxin, which can cause seizures. Consuming large quantities of seeds over time can cause death. Ginkgo leaf and ginkgo leaf extracts appear to contain little ginkgotoxin.


Because there are no known scientific reports about the use of ginkgo in children, we cannot offer any dosage recommendation for this age group.

General dosage recommendations for adults are 120 mg daily in two or three divided doses of 50:1 extract standardized to 25% flavone glycosides. For adults initial results often take four to six weeks, but should continue to accumulate beyond that period. You may not see any dramatic changes for six months.


Ingestion of the extract has not been associated with severe side effects. Adverse events from clinical trials of up to 160 mg/day for 4 to 6 weeks did not differ from the placebo group. German literature lists ginkgo's possible side effects as headache, dizziness, heart palpitations, and GI and dermatologic reactions. Injectable forms of ginkgo may cause circulatory disturbances, skin allergy, or phlebitis. Willmar Schwabe Co. has withdrawn its parenteral ginkgo product Tebonin from the market because of the possible severity of side effects from this form.

A toxic syndrome ("Gin-nan" food poisoning) has been recognized in Asia in children who have ingested ginkgo seeds, Approximately 50 seeds produce tonic/clonic seizures and loss of consciousness. Seventy reports (between 1930 and 1960) found 27% lethality, with infants being most vulnerable. Ginkgotoxin (4-O-methylpyridoxine), found only in the seeds, was responsible for this toxicity.

Contact with the fleshy fruit pulp is known to irritate the skin. Constituents alkylbenzoic acid, alkylphenol, and their derivatives cause reactions of this type. Allergic dermatitis such as erythema, edema, blisters, and itching have all been reported. A cross-allergenicity exists between ginkgo fruit pulp and poison ivy. Ginkgolic acid and bilobin are structurally similar to the allergens of poison ivy, mango rind, and cashew nut shell oil. Contact with the fruit pulp causes erythema and edema, with the rapid formation of vesicles accompanied by severe itching. Symptoms last 7 to 10 days. Ingestion of two pieces of pulp has been reported to cause perioral erythema, rectal burning, and painful spasms of the anal sphincter.

Allergans ginkgols and ginkgolic acids can cause contact reactions of mucous membranes, resulting in cheilitis and GI irritation. However, oral ginkgo preparations do not have this ability. Ginkgo pollen can be strongly allergenic.

In one report, spontaneous bilateral subdural hematomas have been associated with ingestion of the plant.

Because no human data are available about pregnancy and lactation, ginkgo should be avoided by this population.

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