Ginkgo biloba, often referred to as the living fossil,  is a beautiful and robust medicinal tree whose leaves are often used for problems related to poor blood circulation. The ginkgo trees were the first plants to recover from the atomic bombs’ decimation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.




Ginkgo tree, maidenhair tree, yinxing


Ginkgo is native to China and the oldest tree species on the planet. It is robust, grows quickly and doesn’t require much care. It grows to 40 meters (13 ft) tall forming a wide crowd. Young trees are slender as the crown forms later. It can often take 20 years for the first flowers of the female ginkgo tree to appear. Female trees produce a rather smelly fruit and so garden centers often carry only male trees.

Male trees are often cultivated in the west and planted in urban areas where they thrive. However, they have a very high OPALS allergy scale rating (7 out of 10) while the females rate 2 on the same scale.

The leaves are bright green and fan-shaped and turn a gold color in the fall.


Ginkgo prefers a sunny location and usually doesn’t tolerate shade. It grows well in well-drained soils that are well watered.


The active properties of the leaves are the strongest in early fall. Because of the allergenic levels of this tree, the wildcrafting and back yard harvesting of ginkgo is no longer common.


Dry the leaves on a flat surface in a dark, cool and well-ventilated room. Alternatively, you can dry them in a dehydrator at no higher than 40 Celsius (104 F).


2.6-3.2% Ginkgolides (.02-.2% terpene and 5-7% diterpene lactones), .02-.06% sesquiterpene lactones, 2.6-3.2% bilobalide, flavonoids (acylglucosides, monoglycosides, diglycosides, triglycosides, quercetin), bioflavones (bilobetin, ginkgetin, amentoflavone), proanthocyanidins, ginkgolic acids, sterols, polyprenoles, lectins, cyclits.


Vasodilator, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, stimulant, anti-clotting, cardioprotector


Sweet, bitter, dry


Slightly bitter


Mild and characteristic


Ginkgo is one of the most important medicinal plants of our time as it is very tolerable in comparison with the synthetic anti-dementia drugs.

The flavonoids and terpenoids present in the ginkgo stimulate micro circulation in the blood vessels and capillaries, increases the blood flow rate, improves the fluidity of the blood and protects brain cells. It also increases the blood flow to the brain improving mental performance, learning ability and energy metabolism (utilization of oxygen and glucose) in the brain. It may be used to prevent and treat cerebral vascular insufficiency (poor circulation to the brain), whose symptoms are often poor memory, brain fog, depression, senility, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and headaches.

The antioxidant properties of Ginkgo biloba inhibit the build-up of free radicals preventing, therefore, the development of atherosclerosis. Ginkgo protects the nerve cells from progressive degeneration (neurodegenerative disease). Ginkgo positively influences the retina as well as organs of the senses of hearing and equilibrium (balance).

Take internally for:

  • Memory
  • Blood circulation
  • Cerebral vascular insufficiency (poor circulation to the brain)
  • Vascular disorders
  • Alzheimer symptoms
  • Hearing and vision disorders in the elderly
  • Arterial erectile dysfunction (impotence)
  • Improving mental performance, learning ability and energy metabolism.

Recommended daily dosage

120-240 mg dried leaves in 2-3 single doses
3-6 g dried leaf as infusion (to treat asthma in Traditional Chinese Medicine)

  • Infusion (TCM)
  • Capsules

Rarely some people may experience headaches and mild stomach disturbances. Allergic skin reactions are extremely rare.


Don’t use if sensitive to Ginkgo biloba, if you’re taking blood thinning medication and if you’re pregnant of lactating.


In China and Japan, the inner part of ginkgo seeds (Pa-kewo) is slowly pan roasted without any fat and nibbled as we would peanuts or almonds. Pa-kewo is also added to grilled meats.


Bühring, U. 2015. Alles über Heilpflanzen. 3rd ed. Stuttgart: Ulmer.
Wichtl M. 2004. Herbal drugs and phytopharmaceuticals – A handbook for practice on a scientific basis. 3rd ed. Stuttgart: medpharm Scientific Publishers

Learn how to grow a gorgeous medicinal and culinary garden with Giovanna Becker

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