Ginkgo Biloba

Botanical Name(s):

Ginkgo biloba. Family: Ginkgoaceae

Other Name(s):

maidenhair tree

General Description:

Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest trees on the planet. The herb ginkgo biloba is the extract from the dried leaves and seeds of the tree.

Ginkgo biloba has been promoted commercially in the United States with claims of enhancing memory and mental sharpness.

Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) contains flavonoids and terpenes (the largest fraction being the known ginkgolides A, B and C). GBE is widely used for cerebral insufficiency (memory difficulty, dizziness, tinnitus, anxiety, headaches), dementias, circulatory disorders and bronchoconstriction. GBE may reduce clotting time and may reduce the risk for stroke.

Medically Valid Uses:

Currently, there are no documented valid medical uses for ginkgo biloba.

Unsubstantiated Claims:

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

For centuries, Chinese herbalists have used ginkgo leaves to treat cerebral, pulmonary and cardiovascular problems.

Ginkgo biloba is claimed to improve memory and the functioning of the central nervous system. It may increase cerebral and peripheral blood flow with resultant improvement in oxygenation. Ginkgo may improve functioning in the very early stages of Alzheimer syndrome.

It may also be effective in reducing symptoms of cerebrovascular insufficiency, with improvement in memory performance, concentration and learning capacity. Ginkgo also may decrease the depression, dizziness, tinnitus and headache associated with decreased vascular blood flow. 

Some theories suggest that ginkgo is useful in treating multi-infarct dementia (a series of small strokes), depression, headaches, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), vertigo, inflammation of the veins (phlebitis), impotence, mood swings accompanied by anxiety, mountain sickness, asthma, kidney disorders, eczema and contact dermatitis.

Gingko may also assist in treating heart disorders, blood clots and leg cramps (by improving circulation).

Dosing Format:

Ginkgo is supplied as tea, supplements or ginkgo biloba extract (GBE). 

The typical dose is 40 mg of native dry extract three times a day, unless otherwise directed on the label. Depending on the ailment, ginkgo usually needs to be taken daily over extended periods of time -- two weeks to three months -- before results are noticed.

Side Effects, Toxicity and Interactions:

There have been rare reports of stomach upsets, headaches and allergic skin reactions. Ginkgo biloba seeds can cause fatal neurologic and allergic reactions and are not used medicinally.

Consult your health care provider before taking ginkgo if you are on any medication, especially an anticoagulant (antithrombotic medication).

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should consult a physician before taking any herbal medications.

Additional Information:

Click here for a list of reputable Web sites with general information on nutrition.


  1. Hopfenmuller W. Evidence for a therapeutic effect of Ginkgo biloba special extract: meta-analysis of 1 clinical trials in patients with cerebrovascular insufficiency in old age. Arznein Forsch. 1994;44:1005-1013.

  2. Kleijnen J, Knipschild P. Ginkgo biloba for cerebral insufficiency. Br J Clin Phamacol. 1992;34:352-358.

  3. Ernst E. Ginkgo biloba extract in peripheral arterial diseases: a systematic research based on controlled studies in the literature. Fortsch Med. 1996;114:85-87.

  4. Hindemarch I, Subhan Z. The pharmacological effects of Ginkgo biloba extract in normal healthy volunteers. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res. 1984;4:89-93.

  5. Woerdenbag HJ, Van Beck TA. Ginkgo biloba. Adverse effects of herbal drugs. Vol 3. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag; 1997.

  6. Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C, eds. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 1998.

  7. Blumenthal M, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Rister RS, eds. German Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; 1997.

  8. The US Department of Agriculture publications.

  9. Robbers JE, Tyler VE. Tyler's Herbs of Choice: The therapeutic use of phytomedicinals. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press, 1999.

  10. Dr. Duke's phytochemical and ethnobotanical databases. Agricultural research service, Duke University.

  11. O'Hara M, Kiefer D, Farrell K, Kemper K. A review of 12 commonly used medicinal herbs. Arch Fam Med. 1998;7:523-536.

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