The EclecticPhysician

The Eclectic Physician
Medicinal Herb Monographs


Botanical Name 
Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba

The information on this page compiled by
Beth Burch N.D.
(click on the keywords)


Ginkgo has been cultivated in China for centuries where its medicinal use dates back to 2800 BC. The traditional Chinese uses of Ginkgo include the relief of asthma and cough, and to support brain function. Currently, Ginkgo is widely prescribed in Europe for conditions including brain dysfunction, peripheral vascular disease and erectile dysfunction, with more than 10 million prescriptions written worldwide in 1989.

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  • Ginkgo biloba is the oldest living tree species in the world and is the only surviving species of the family Ginkgoaceae. A single tree can live up to 1000 years. Ginkgo is indigenous to China, Japan and Korea, but is widely planted as an ornamental throughout the US. It grows to a height of 100 feet or more. The female trees have a pointed pyramidal shape, with the male trees broader. Ginkgo has a unique leaf in the shape of a fan, light green in the summer and turning to golden yellow in the fall. The leaves are the medicinal part used fresh or dry. The seed is fleshy and round with a foul smell when ripe and contains an edible nut.

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  • Flavonoids- including quercitin, isorhamnetins, kaempferol, 3’-O-methymyristicins
  • Bioflavonoids- including amentoflavone, bilobetin, 5-methoxybilobetin, ginkgetin, isoginkgetin
  • Proanthocyanidins
  • Trilactonic diterpenes-including gingolides A, B, and C
  • Tilactonic sesquiterpene- bilabolide

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  • Stabilizes cell membranes
  • Antioxidant
  • Enhances oxygen utilization and uptake of glucose by cells
  • Anticoagulant-Potent inhibitor of platelet activating factor & stimulates synthesis of prostacyclin
  • Balances vascular tone

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Conditions used for

  • Alzheimer’s disease (1,2,3)
  • Cerebral vascular insufficiency with decline in mental function (4,5)
  • Peripheral vascular disease (6)
  • Vertigo of vascular origin (7)
  • Erectile dysfunction of vascular origin (8)
  • Asthma(9)
  • Antidepressant medication induced sexual dysfunction(10)
  • May be of benefit in angina, tinnitus, migraine and depression.


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  • Dried extract assayed for flavone glycosides & terpene lactones content-most commonly available capsules have 24% & 6% respectively and the dose is 40-80 mg three times a day.
  • Dried leaves-1-3 grams per day prepared as a tea three times a day.
  • It will take 6 weeks to 6 months to reach maximum effects in most conditions.

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Side Effects

  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Headache
  • Allergic reactions

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  • Hypersensitivity to Ginkgo
  • Ginkgo supplements should be discontinued at least 2 weeks prior to surgery or dental extractions to prevent excessive bleeding

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Interactions with medications

  • Should not be used with anticoagulants including warfarin, aspirin, ibuprofen and other non- steroidal antiinflammatory medications. (11)
  • May counteract the therapeutic effects of corticosteroids. (12)

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Use in pregnancy & lactation

  • Gingko is contraindicated while trying to get pregnant and during pregnancy (Ginkgo constituents are being studied as a possible contraceptive and Ginkgo is also a potent blood thinner increasing the possibility of bleeding).
  • No information on the effects of Gingko during lactation, but it should be avoided during the immediate postpartum period due to its anticoagulant effects which could cause increased bleeding.

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1. Oken BS et al, The efficacy of Ginkgo biloba on cognitive function in Alzheimer disease, Arch Neurol 1998;55(11):1409-15
2. Kanowski S et al, Proof of efficacy of the Ginkgo biloba special extract EGb761 in outpatients suffering from mild to moderate primary degenerative dementia of the Alzheimer type or multi-infarct dementia, Pharmacopsychiatr 1996;29:47-56
3. Hofferberth B, The efficacy of EGb761 in patients with senile dementia of the Alzheimer type, Human Psychopharmacol 1994;9:215-22
4. Rigney U et al, The effects of acute doses of standardized ginkgo biloba extract on memory and psychomotor performance in volunteers, Phytother Res 1999;13(5):408-15
5. Curtis-Prior P et al, Therapeutic value of Ginkgo biloba in reducing symptoms of decline in mental function, J Pharm Pharmacol 1999;51(5):535-41
6. Peters H et al, Demonstration of the efficacy of ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 on intermittent claudication--a placebo-controlled, double-blind multicenter trial, Vasa 1998;27(2):106-10
7. Cesarani A et al, Ginkgo biloba (EGb 761) in the treatment of equilibrium disorders, Adv Ther 1998;15(5):291-304
8. Sikora R et al, Ginkgo biloba extract in the therapy of erectile dysfunction, J Urology 1989; 141:188A
9. Li MH et al, Effects of ginkgo leave concentrated oral liquor in treating asthma, Chung Kuo Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih 1997;17(4):216-8
10. Cohen AJ et al, Ginkgo biloba for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction, J Sex Marital Ther 1998;24(2):139-43
11. Kim YS et al, Antiplatelet and antithrombotic effects of a combination of ticlopidine and ginkgo biloba ext (EGb 761)Thromb Res 1998;91(1):33-8.

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* The information presented in this web site is intended to inform and educate. It is not intended replace a qualified medical practitioner to diagnose or treat medical conditions.

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