Ginkgo for Lauren


Scientific Name-

The scientific or latinized name for Ginkgo is Ginkgo biloba. (NCCAM, 2010)

Common Names-

There are a number of different common names for Ginkgo which are listed below:
  • Ginkgo
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Fossil tree
  • Maidenhair tree
  • Japanese silver apricot
  • Baiguo
  • Bai guo ye
  • Kew tree
  • Yinhsing
(NCCAM, 2010)


Plantae (Plants)
Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)
Spermatophyta (Seed plants)
Ginkgophyta (Ginkgo)
Ginkgoaceae (Ginkgo family)
Ginkgo L. (ginkgo)
Ginkgo biloba L. (maidenhair tree)


The Ginkgo Family is an extremely small family. It contains only one genus and one taxa.

Distribution of Ginkgo-


One can see from the image above that Ginkgo is confined to a rather small portion across North America. It can be found along the east coast in Washington DC, Kentucky, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Ginkgo is actually native to Asia and specifically China. Ginkgo biloba is the only remaining living species of Ginkgophyta. This is why ginkgo is sometimes referred to as the fossil tree because it is the only remaining species of a large group that was present on the earth during the Mesozoic era, which at that time covered large portions of the world. In addition, it has been discovered through the examination of fossils that Ginkgo has changed very little over time. So while Ginkgo became extinct in many areas of the world it was still cultivated in China, leading to its survival there. In the eighteenth century the Europeans became aware of Ginkgo, and then it spread to the United States in 1784. (Levetin & McMahon, 148)

Another factor in where a plant can be found present is the condition it needs to survive. Ginkgo is known to grow successfully in soil that is considered to have average, medium moisture and full sun. The Ginkgo growth is aided by damp, sandy, and well-drained soil. The Ginkgo is also tolerant of a number of soil conditions. This includes maintaining the ability to grow in soil that include alkaline, acidic soils, and compacted soils. It can also live in areas that are salty, air polluted and have immense heat. (Missouri Botanical Garden)

As a result of Ginkgo's ability to grow in somewhat harsh condition it has been found that Ginkgo can adapt to most urban settings. This makes Ginkgo a popular choice in landscaping for cities. Ginkgo survives well in cities because it can withstand air pollution. So because of its ability to survive in cities and the fact that it is a choice plant for city landscapers, the US distribution would make sense considering the regions it is found in contain various cities. (Levetin & McMahon, 148


Plant Structure-

Ginkgo Seeds- Maidenhair_Tree_Ginkgo_biloba_Plant.jpggibi2_001_lhd.jpg

Ginkgo seeds are similar to most other plant seeds in that they contain the cotyledons, endosperm and are covered in a seed coat. What differentiates a ginkgo seed is that it is surrounded partially by a fleshy coat. This fleshy coat is thought to be quite smelly when the seed is mature. The first picture shown above shows the ginkgo seed both with and without the fleshy seed coat. The second image is a diagram of the ginkgo seed showing the approximate size an all of the elements that make up the seed. Also it is important to know that ginkgo is dioecious, meaning that a ginkgo tree will be either male or female. (Levetin & McMahon, 148)

Ginkgo seeds, sometimes called a ginkgo nut, are actually considered a delicacy in China and other Asian regions. The seeds can be boiled or roasted, and used in a variety of different dishes. It is often used for meals at Chinese weddings because they believe the seeds to be a sign of good luck. The seeds are also used sometimes as medical remedies. (Levetin & McMahon, 148)

Ginkgo Leaves- yellow_leaves_images.jpg branch_025_1.jpg

The ginkgo leaf can be seen above. The foliage from the ginkgo tree varies from yellow to green in color. The shape of the leaf is a fan-like blade, and the leaf arrangement is alternate. The ginkgo leaf is the primary source for the medicine produced from ginkgo. (Levetin & McMahon, 36-39)

Ginkgo Tree- Ginkgo_biloba_Princeton_Sentry_11-04.jpg

The Ginkgo tree is picture above. It is considered to be a hardy plant that can live in harsh environments. It is a vascular plant that produces seeds.

Medicinal Uses of Ginkgo-

How ginkgo is used for medical purposes- ginkgo-full.jpg

Ginkgo is used as a source to cure a number of different health issues. Ginkgo extract from the leaves can help to improve blood circulation, which can prove to be helpful in a number of ways regarding one's health. It might help the brain, eyes, ears, and legs function better by having improved blood flow in these areas. It has also been thought that ginkgo can be used to slow down Alzheimer's disease. It can improve Alzheimer's by slowing down the changes in the brain that cause Alzheimer's to progress meaning that it lessens the interference with the person's thinking. Ginkgo seeds also can be used as a source of medicine. Ginkgo seeds contain substances that have the ability to kill fungi and bacteria that cause infections in the human body. (Medline Plus)

Ginkgo extract is thought to be possibly effective for-

  • Alzheimer's and other dementia diseases
  • Improve thinking problems that occur as we age
  • Improved thinking among young people
  • Improves pain that results from cold especially in toes and fingers
  • Leg pain when walking that occurs because of poor circulation
  • Vertigo and dizziness
  • Lessens Premenstrual syndrome
  • Glaucoma
  • Improves color vision for people with diabetes

The rating of possibly effective falls between likely effective and possibly ineffective. This means that there is reason to believe that Ginkgo can help with the conditions listed above. (Medline Plus)

Ginkgo seeds could possibly be effective at helping the following-

  • Coughs
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Urinary problems
  • Digestion disorders
  • Scabs
  • Skin sores

So while Ginkgo seeds could possible help with the aforementioned list, more research and evidence is needed to rate how effective ginkgo seeds would be at aiding with these conditions. (Medline Plus)

Possible Side Effects of Ginkgo-

  • Leaf extract could possible cause an upset stomach, dizziness, headache, constipation, forceful heartbeat and allergic reactions.
  • Ginkgo fruit and pulp might cause allergic reactions. People with allergies relating to poison ivy, poison sumac, mango rind, cashew shell oil and poison oak are thought to be more susceptible to allergic reactions to ginkgo.
  • Increased risk of bleeding and bruising.
  • Eating the roasted seeds can be dangerous when eaten in excess. It can cause difficulty breathing, weak pulse, seizures, and shock.
  • Fresh ginkgo seeds are poisonous. (Medline Plus)

Negative Interactions with Other Medications and Other Herbs-

  • Ibuprofen- both ibuprofen and ginkgo slow blood clotting, so if taking both it can slow blood clotting too much. This would result in increased bruising and bleeding.
  • Other medications that slow blood clotting
  • Warfarin- This is also know as Coumadin. It is also used to slow blood clotting.
  • Herbs that increase the risk of seizure- ginkgo has a chemical in it that can cause seizures when doses are high, therefore other herbs that increase the risk of seizure would put the person at even greater risk.
  • Herbs and supplements that slow blood clotting
  • St. John's wort- can cause manic symptoms in people with depression (Medline Plus)

Video: What is Ginkgo Biloba?


Garden, Missouri Botanical. "Ginkgo Biloba." Missouri Botanical Garden. Web. 11 Jan. 2012. <>.

"Ginkgo: MedlinePlus Supplements." National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. MedlinePlus. Web. 11 Jan. 2012. <>.

"Ginkgo [NCCAM Herbs at a Glance]." National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine [NCCAM], July 2010. Web. 11 Jan. 2012. <>.

Levetin, Estelle, and Karen McMahon. Plants and Society. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2012. Print.

"Plants Profile: Ginkgo." United States Department of Agricuture: Natural Resources Conservation Service. Web. 11 Jan. 2012. <>.