Ginkgo leaves

Chinese: 银杏叶

Pinyin: Yín Xìng Yè

Parts used: Dried leaves

TCM category: Herbs that relieve coughing and wheezing

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: HeartLung

Scientific name: Ginkgo biloba

Use of ginkgo leaves (Yin Xing Ye) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Collect leaves and dry.

Dosage: 9 - 12 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Assists the Lung Qi, eases dyspnea and stops coughing. Activates Blood circulation and eliminates Blood stasis. Eases pains.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which ginkgo leaves may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Dyspnea Coughing Hyperlipidemia Angina

Contraindications*: This should not be consumed together with seafood/fish.

Key TCM concepts behind ginkgo leaves (Yin Xing Ye)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), ginkgo leaves are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that relieve coughing and wheezing' category. In TCM Phlegm is a condition of Stagnation of Fluids which tends to start in the Spleen and then goes to the Lungs. If this overly accumulates it thickens and becomes pathological Phlegm. Phlegm, being a form of Stagnation, often starts as being Cool and transforms to Hot as the condition progresses. Herbs that relieve coughing and wheezing treat branch symptoms of this Stagnation and tend to have antitussive, expectorant, diuretic or laxative properties.

Furthermore ginkgo leaves are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that ginkgo leaves typically don't affect the balance in your body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Eating too many "Hot" (Yang) ingredients can lead to an imbalance whereby one has a Yang excess. The inverse is true as well: too many "Cold" (Yin) ingredients can lead to a Yin excess. The Neutral nature of ginkgo leaves means that you don't have to worry about that!

Ginkgo leaves also taste Bitter and Sweet. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like ginkgo leaves tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing heat, drying dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such ginkgo leaves are thought to target the Heart and the Lung. In addition to regulating blood flow, in TCM the Heart is believed to be the store of the "spirit" which basically refers to someone's vitality. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the body fluids that nourish the body.

Research on ginkgo leaves (Yin Xing Ye)

Ginkgo biloba leaf tablet showed good efficacy in promoting episodic memory function in mild cognitive impairment patients.1

The leaf extract of Ginkgo biloba L. has been used for years to treat age-related memory-deficit problems, including Alzheimer's and dementia. Experimental and clinical studies have revealed its beneficial effects on a wide range of pathological conditions including hepatoprotective, photoprotective effects, DNA repair mechanism, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Recent studies have also suggested that leaf extract of G. biloba L. may exert beneficial effects on cancer.2

Numerous preclinical studies have shown the neuroprotective effects of standardized extract from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree and support the notion that it may be effective in the treatment and prevention of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.3

Clinical studies have shown that ginkgo extracts exhibit therapeutic activity in a variety of disorders including Alzheimer's disease, failing memory, age-related dementias, poor cerebral and ocular blood flow, congestive symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, and the prevention of altitude sickness.4

Sources:

1. Zhao MX, Dong ZH, Yu ZH, Xiao SY, Li YM. (2012). Effects of Ginkgo biloba extract in improving episodic memory of patients with mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled trial. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao. , 10(6):628-34.

2. Mohanta TK, Tamboli Y, Zubaidha PK. (2014). Phytochemical and medicinal importance of Ginkgo biloba L. Nat Prod Res., 28(10):746-52. doi: 10.1080/14786419.2013.879303. Epub 2014 Feb 5.

3. Shi C, Liu J, Wu F, Yew DT. (2010). Ginkgo biloba extract in Alzheimer's disease: from action mechanisms to medical practice. Int J Mol Sci. , 11(1):107-23. doi: 10.3390/ijms11010107.

4. McKenna DJ, Jones K, Hughes K. (2001). Efficacy, safety, and use of ginkgo biloba in clinical and preclinical applications. Altern Ther Health Med. , 7(5):70-86, 88-90.

Use of ginkgo leaves (Yin Xing Ye) as food

Ginkgo leaves are also eaten as food.