Ginkgo nuts

Chinese: 白果

Pinyin: Bái Guǒ

Parts used: Dried ripe seed

TCM category: Herbs that stabilize and bind

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: Lung

Scientific name: Ginkgo biloba

Other names: Maidenhair

Use of ginkgo nuts (Bai Guo) 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: The mature fruits are harvested and immersed in water so that the outer coat around the seed rots. The coat is then removed and the seeds are washed and dried.

Dosage: 1 to 3 seeds

Main actions according to TCM*: Assists the Lung Qi, stops cough and expels Phlegm. Stops leakage of Bodily Fluids.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which ginkgo nuts may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Asthma Whooping cough Leukorrhea Enuresis Urinary incontinence

Contraindications*: Raw ginkgo seeds are toxic, they should not be used in large doses or for long periods of time. They should also not be used when there is Excess Cold-Damp and should be used with caution when there is thick, difficult to expectorate sputum.

Common TCM formulas in which ginkgo nuts are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind ginkgo nuts (Bai Guo)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), ginkgo nuts are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that stabilize and bind' category. This category of herbs is used for treating abnormal discharges and displacement of organs. This includes conditions such as diarrhea, discharges from the vagina, penis or rectum as well as prolapse of the uterus or rectum. It is important to note that herbs in this category only treat symptoms, so one should also use herbs to treat the underlying Deficiency.

Furthermore ginkgo nuts are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that ginkgo nuts 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 nuts means that you don't have to worry about that!

Ginkgo nuts 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 nuts 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 nuts are thought to target the Lung. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the body fluids that nourish the body.

Research on ginkgo nuts (Bai Guo)

Ginkgo biloba extracts appears capable of stabilizing and, in a substantial number of cases, improving the cognitive performance and the social functioning of patients suffering from Alzheimer disease and multi-infarct dementia for 6 months to 1 year..1


1. Pierre L. Le Bars, MD, PhD; Martin M. Katz, PhD; Nancy Berman, PhD; et al (1997). A Placebo-Controlled, Double-blind, Randomized Trial of an Extract of Ginkgo Biloba for Dementia. JAMA. 1997;278(16):1327-1332. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550160047037

Use of ginkgo nuts (Bai Guo) as food

Ginkgo nuts are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Buddha's delight or Sweet Barley and Ginkgo Nut Soup.