English: Ginkgo nuts

Chinese: 白果

Parts used: Dried ripe seed

TCM category: Herbs that stabilize and bind

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): BitterSweet

Organ affinity: Lung

Scientific name: Ginkgo biloba

Other names: Maidenhair

Use of Bai Guo (ginkgo nuts) 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 practitioner, 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 Bai Guo 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 Bai Guo is used*

Ding Chuan Tang

Source date: 1550 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Lung Heat. Expectorant for asthma.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic bronchitisAsthma and others

Bai Guo is a king ingredient in Ding Chuan Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Ding Chuan Tang, Bai Guo transforms Phlegm, contains the leakage of Lung Qi, stops wheezing, and prevents Ephedra (Ma Huang) - the other key herb - from causing excessive dispersion and depletion.

Read more about Ding Chuan Tang

Yi Huang Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Strengthens the Spleen. Dries Dampness. Clears Heat. Stops vaginal discharge.

Conditions targeted*: CervicitisCervical erosion and others

Bai Guo is a deputy ingredient in Yi Huang Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Yi Huang Tang, Bai Guo stabilizes the Lower Burner and restrains the discharge.

Read more about Yi Huang Tang

Wen Qi Hua Shi Tang

Source date: 1827 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Supports Kidney Yang. Supplies Spleen Qi. Expels Cold and Dampness from the Uterus.

In Wen Qi Hua Shi Tang, Bai Guo removes obstructions from the Directing Vessel (Ren Mai)

Read more about Wen Qi Hua Shi Tang

Key TCM concepts behind Bai Guo's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Bai Guo belongs 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 Bai Guo is Neutral in nature. This means that Bai Guo typically doesn'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 Bai Guo means that you don't have to worry about that!

Bai Guo also tastes Bitter and Sweet. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like Bai Guo tends 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 Bai Guo is 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 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 Bai Guo as food

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