Ginkgo: Uses, medicine, Synonyms, Effects, and Side Effects

Ginkgo: Uses, medicine, Synonyms, Effects, and Side Effects

The ginkgo tree is considered a “living fossil” because its shape has changed very little in almost 200 million years. The tree originally comes from China and Japan and is also cultivated as a temple tree. The tree has also been cultivated in Europe and the USA since the mid-18th century. Ginkgo is also cultivated in the Rhine Valley to obtain the leaves, but most of the material used medicinally comes from China, Japan, Korea and France.

Ginkgo in herbal medicine

In herbal medicine, the dried leaves of the ginkgo tree (Ginkgo folium) are used. However, these are not used therapeutically; an extract specially obtained from them, the Ginkgo dry extract, is produced in a complex and patent-protected process.

However, the resulting yield from the leaves could be higher: in the end, only about 100 kilograms of ginkgo extract are obtained from five tons of the leaves.


Characteristics of the ginkgo tree

Ginkgo is a vast (30-40 m), hardy and highly long-lived tree with a crown that is first conical and later spreads. The leaves are fan-shaped, often bilobed and alternate.

Male and female flowers grow on different trees; the yellow, uniform seeds develop from the female flowers.

In Asia, the ginkgo tree is considered a symbol of hope and long life.

Ginkgo leaves medicinal properties.

The starting material that can be used medicinally consists of stalked leaves, around 4-10 cm in size. These are deep green to yellowish green and have two lobes. You can see the parallel leaf veins. The edge of the sheet is smooth on the side and wavy in other places.


Smell and taste of Ginkgo

The outer layer of the female seeds smells unpleasantly of butyric acid, but the core is edible and considered a delicacy in China.

Ginkgo leaves give off a faint, somewhat peculiar smell. The taste of the leaves is slightly bitter.

Ginkgo application

Ginkgo is suitable for the treatment of cerebral disorders and circulatory disorders. The leaves can support the symptomatic treatment of reduced performance in the so-called dementia syndrome or dementia. Dementia syndrome or dementia diseases are usually associated with concentration disorders, memory disorders up to and including memory loss, sleep disordersdepressive mood, headaches, dizziness and ringing in the ears.

However, before treatment with ginkgo extract, it should be clarified whether another underlying disease is causing the symptoms.

Field of application of ginkgo extracts

Another application area for ginkgo extracts is treating peripheral arterial occlusive disease (PAD). Due to the circulatory disorders in the arms and legs associated with this disease, patients can usually no longer walk longer distances without pain. Combined with physiotherapeutic walking training, taking ginkgo extracts can extend the pain-free walking distance in PAD (stages I and II).

Furthermore, patients with dizziness and ear ringing ( tinnitus ) can also be treated with ginkgo leaves. Ginkgo leaf extracts also improve blood circulation so the drug can be used for functional heart problems.


Used in folk medicine and homeopathy

Ginkgo leaves have been used in folk medicine for at least 2800 years to strengthen the heart and lungs and to treat chilblains. In China and Japan, the ginkgo tree seeds are also considered antitussive and promote the expectoration of bronchial secretions.

Fresh ginkgo leaves treat headaches, tonsillitis, and writer’s cramps in homoeopathy.

Constituents of Ginkgo

The essential ingredients in Ginkgo leaves that determine the effectiveness include terpene lactones, including ginkgolides A to J, with a proportion of 5-7%. Flavone glycosides comprise much of the dry weight (22-27%). It also contains 4-10% proanthocyanidins, biflavones and the sesquiterpene lactone bilobalide. The plant acids that also occur (ginkgolide acids) have toxic and allergenic properties and are, therefore, primarily removed during extraction.


Ginkgo: for which indication?

Ginkgo can be used as a medicine for the following indications:

  • Dementia Syndrome, Dementia
  • Concentration disorders, memory disorders
  • peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
  • dizziness
  • Tinnitus
  • functional heart problems

Ginkgo dosage

Numerous ginkgo extracts are on the market for treating circulatory disorders. The preparations are usually uniformly dosed with 40 or 80 mg of standardized extract and are available in various forms, for example, tablets, capsules, solutions or drops.

Ginkgo: the correct dose

The average daily dose usually depends on the indication. Unless otherwise prescribed, the average daily dose for the treatment of dementia should be 120-240 mg of the dry extract, administered in 2-3 individual doses.

For peripheral occlusive disease, dizziness and tinnitus, the daily dose should be 120-160 mg, administered in 2-3 single doses.


Ginkgo – preparation and storage

Making tea from ginkgo leaves is uncommon; the drug is taken exclusively as a unique extract.

Ginkgo leaves, or the ginkgo extract, should be kept cool, dry and protected from light.

Contraindications: when not to take Ginkgo?

The use of ginkgo leaves is only conditionally recommended for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, as there is no experience with it so far. The leaves should not be used even if you are known to be hypersensitive to ginkgo preparations.


Duration of treatment with Ginkgo

The duration of treatment with ginkgo extracts depends on the type and severity of the disease:

  • In the case of dementia, the treatment duration should be at least eight weeks, and the treatment should be rechecked after three months.
  • Ginkgo should be used over at least six weeks to improve walking distance performance in peripheral occlusive disease.
  • When treating dizziness or tinnitus, use beyond 6-8 weeks will no longer provide any therapeutic benefit and should be discontinued.

Ginkgo – Synonyme

German plant name: Ginkgo

German synonyms of the plant: Ginkgo tree, fan leaf tree, maidenhair tree, elephant ear tree, temple tree, duck foot tree

Latin plant name: Ginkgo biloba L.

Latin synonyms of the plant: Ginkgo, Salisburia adiantifolia, Salisburia Macrophylla, Pterophyllus salisburiensis

German drug name: Ginkgo leaves

German synonyms of the drug: Ginkgo biloba leaves

Latin drug name: Ginkgo leaf

Latin synonyms of the drug: Ginkgo leaves, Ginkgo biloba leaf

English name: Ginkgo leaf (Droge); Ginkgo, Common Ginkgo, Ginkgo biloba, Duck’s foot tree, Ginkgo nuts, Maiden Hair Tree (Pflanze)

Plant family Latin: Ginkgoaceae

Plant family German: ginkgo family


Ginkgo – effect

The ingredients of ginkgo leaves have been chemically, pharmacologically and clinically well-researched, but recently, contradictory results have increasingly been published.

effect of Ginkgo

According to many experimental and clinical studies

  • Ginkgo increases memory and learning ability.
  • protects the brain tissue
  • promotes the compensation of balance disorders
  • improves the flow properties of the blood

The effects on the brain are achieved via various mechanisms. For example, the ingredients of the ginkgo leaves activate specific cells in the brain (astrocytes), which can then fight off pathogens better.

Ginkgo has a reparative effect on the age-related decrease in receptors in the brain and promotes the absorption of oxygen and sugar in the brain. This promotion of energy metabolism protects the nerve cells from damage and promotes the regeneration of brain cells that have already been damaged. Ginkgo extracts are also said to intercept damaging cellular substances (free radicals), protecting the nerve cells from programmed cell death (apoptosis).


Studies contradict each other.

The results of the various studies sometimes need to be more consistent. Recent studies, for example, refute the beneficial influence of Ginkgo on mental performance and dementia. According to these studies, Ginkgo has little more effect on dementia and tinnitus than a placebo.

Ginkgo: side effects and interactions

In sporadic cases, headaches, mild gastrointestinal complaints, and infrequent skin hypersensitivity reactions can occur. Bleeding has been observed in isolated cases with prolonged use of ginkgo preparations, but their connection with the intake of Ginkgo has not been proven.

Interactions with anticoagulants are possible. Therefore, ginkgo leaves and medication such as aspirin should not be taken at the same time. Ginkgo preparations should also be stopped before an existing operation.


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