Did you know that there’s an edible herb that may help slow the signs of aging? Ginkgo biloba is not just any herb, it’s an ancient plant that has thrived for millions of years, has a long record in the medicinal world, and is currently becoming a popular choice in anti-aging skincare.
If you’re looking for something tasty to help you naturally combat aging, and also provide health benefits, then the seeds of the ginkgo biloba tree might be just what you need.
Gingko Biloba: 300 Million Years Old and Still Kicking
Sometimes spelled as gingko, the ginkgo biloba tree is known as yin xing in Chinese. It is also known as the maidenhair tree. And, as all others of its kind have gone extinct, it is the oldest and last species of the Ginkgophyta division.1
This mildly endangered plant, native to China, has been around for over 300 million years. It is one of the rare deciduous trees that drop their leaves seasonally, usually during cold or dry periods. The tree bears orange-yellow drupe fruits that blossom and mature from May to October. Ginkgo biloba grows slowly, but these trees can live for thousands of years.2
In fact, it is said that the oldest tree on earth is a ginkgo tree currently found in the Di Lin Temple located in Mt. Fu Lai in Shandong, China. It is believed that this tree dates back to the Shang Dynasty (over 3,500 years ago). Ginkgo biloba is a tree that’s so old, Peter Crane, dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, describes it as “a living link to the age of dinosaurs.”3
Ginkgo Biloba Nuts: Delicious, Edible Jade Jewels
Ginkgo biloba nuts are actually the seeds from the ginkgo tree. This seed is a beautiful egg-shaped bead, with white powder on its fleshy outer coat that turns yellow or orange-yellow when it’s ripe. Some say they’re “delicious, edible jade jewels” with a slightly bittersweet flavor, and a punchy texture. Others think they taste a little like plums. Still others note that the nuts seem to smell a bit like particularly odoriferous cheese.4 Since they are prevalent in East Asia, the nuts are a staple in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisine. You may also find them as canned nuts in Asian specialty stores elsewhere in the world.
Alas, where ginkgo biloba nuts are concerned, you can have too much of a good thing. Ginkgo biloba nuts are actually mildly toxic if consumed in large quantities. Turns out, the nuts contain ginkgotoxin, a naturally occurring neurotoxin that can cause a whole host of unpleasant symptoms, including vomiting, nose bleeds, and even seizures. In addition, some people are sensitive to the chemicals in the outer flesh of the nuts, which can cause rashes. Just in case, consider using gloves while handling ginkgo nuts.5
So how do you eat gingko nuts without getting sick? You cook them first. Cooking the nuts will significantly reduce the toxin. Still, moderation is advised. Depending on your flavor palette, or sense of taste, the flavor may vary by experience and preparation. But remember, moderation is key to staying healthy while enjoying these nuts.6
Ginkgo Biloba as a Medicinal Herb
Ginkgo biloba is a popular natural nutrient to help the skin, but its protective effects go beyond that. It is an important traditional plant in Chinese medicine. It’s so important, in fact, that ginkgo biloba trees are now being cultivated to try and protect the species. Because ginkgo biloba’s health benefits are being widely studied, it is one of the most sought after herbal supplements in the medicinal market.7
Both the seeds and leaves are being used to help with various health concerns, as well as to create herbal supplements that may aid your brain’s cognitive functions.8
The list of things that ginkgo biloba, or its extract, may help with is incredibly impressive.
Ginkgo Biloba in Skincare: An Anti-Aging Wonder?
Ginkgo biloba is used as a dietary supplement, and as a potential brain booster, but it also serves another purpose, in the skincare and cosmetics industry.
Not only is ginkgo biloba a tasty treat and a traditional herbal medicine, it’s also an anti-aging ingredient used in skincare and cosmetics. In ancient times, the Chinese, knowing its favorable effects on the skin, used ginkgo biloba as a tribute in the Song Dynasty.9 For centuries, the herb has been associated with skincare, and today, ginkgo biloba extract has become one of the best-selling skincare ingredients in the western world.
Today, some skincare products are fortified with ginkgo biloba. You’ll find them in little bottles and tubes as topical creams, oils, and even in serums, providing a myriad of specific uses for improving the quality of your skin. Why so? One study found that ginkgo biloba extract may help to boost collagen production in the skin.10
So, what’s so wonderful about Ginkgo Biloba Extract?
Historically, the many components of ginkgo biloba were used to help with fatigue and asthma. The main components are terpenoids, the component that improves blood flow, and flavonoids, the component that protects your skin from damage. Studies proved these functions with their findings.11
A study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science showed that ginkgo biloba could help to protect the skin from the harmful effects of exposure to UVA/UVB light. Researchers proved that it could prevent inflammation and redness caused by the rays.12
Reduces Fine Lines and Wrinkles
Remember that ginkgo biloba is full of antioxidants such as polyphenols and flavonoids. It is the herb’s main promise in benefiting your skin. Antioxidants help to reduce the damage caused by your body’s free radicals, diminishing fine lines and wrinkles, keeping your skin firm, and making you look younger and healthier.13 And this is exactly why we’ve included it in our line smoothing serum.
Increases Collagen Production
In 1997, a study conducted by Chonnam University Medical School in Korea proved that ginkgo biloba leaf extract could increase the production of collagen by stimulating fibroblasts in the skin. For those of you who might not know this, a key to keeping your skin young, plump and free of wrinkles is the production of collagen, a protein that our cells produce to hold our skin together. As you grow older, collagen production grows slower too, making skin vulnerable to exposure to the sun, and to sun damage. So if you want to keep those wrinkles from developing, think about increasing your collagen production by applying ginkgo-based sunscreen.14
Contains Antibacterial properties
Ever wonder why facial cleansing masks are fortified with ginkgo biloba leaf extract? That’s because the ingredient helps keep your skin free from bacteria.15
A study in India revealed that bacteria, actinomycetes, and fungi were sensitive to the antimicrobial effects of ginkgo biloba leaf extract that was prepared in different organic solvents and water. This proved the antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that GBE has to offer.16
May Help Swelling of Skin, Acne, and Other Disorders
Ginkgo biloba extract has been shown to offer anti-inflammatory properties. If you’re suffering from acne, rosacea, eczema, and skin sensitivity, GBE may help these conditions. Ginkgo can help reduce the swelling of your capillaries, and improve your skin’s regenerative abilities, speeding up the healing process, and preventing scars and other marks on your skin.17,18
Should I Use a Gingko Biloba Cream?
Good question! We certainly think it’s a good idea to incorporate ginkgo biloba into your skincare routine in some aspect. But since ginkgo biloba is such a powerful ingredient — we would actually recommend using it in a serum. Why a serum? We’ll explain.
Serums have a thin consistency and they’re incredibly easy to spread onto the skin. But this thin consistency doesn’t mean serums aren’t extremely effective — quite the opposite!
Serums are actually made up of very small molecules which have the ability to penetrate more deeply into your skin than heavier creams.
Because these molecules have the ability to penetrate more easily, they can deliver potent ingredients — like ginkgo biloba — deep into your skin’s tissue where they can do renewing and restorative work.
Keep in mind — antioxidants play a huge role when it comes to the fight against the visible signs of aging. Because of this, it’s a good idea to get antioxidant protection at every level. So don’t get us wrong — we love creams and they are an essential part of keeping skin youthful. But when it comes to preventing the signs of aging, it’s important to address the layers underneath the surface of your skin as well!
Let’s face it, none of us are getting any younger, are we? We all deal with different signs of aging. We all want to combat those signs of aging, be it cognitive decline or the fine lines, wrinkles, spots and skin sensitivity that comes with getting older.
Is ginkgo biloba extract the be all, end all answer? Certainly, it’s a potential major player in the anti-aging fight. It’s been used for thousands of years as a traditional herbal medicine. New studies are being done to help find out more about the wonders of ginkgo biloba. In the meantime, it’s worth considering.
Article updated: March 29, 2018
1Health Benefits of Ginkgo. Organic Facts. 2015. Accessed October 17, 2016.
2Ginkgo Nuts (Bai Guo) – The Smart Anti-aging Herb. Chineseherbshealingcom. 2015. Accessed October 17, 2016.
3Cohn R. Ginkgo: The Life Story of The Oldest Tree on Earth by Roger Cohn: Yale Environment 360. E360yaleedu. 2013. Accessed October 17, 2016.
4Wang C. The Nasty Bits: Ginkgo Nuts. Seriouseatscom. 2016. Accessed October 17, 2016.
5Marcelis D. Feel Like Trying Ginkgo Nuts? Four Ways to Eat the Seed. WSJ. 2014. Accessed October 17, 2016.
6Marcelis D. Feel Like Trying Ginkgo Nuts? Four Ways to Eat the Seed. WSJ. 2014. Accessed October 17, 2016.
7Health Benefits of Ginkgo. Organic Facts. 2015. Accessed October 17, 2016.
8Health Benefits of Ginkgo. Organic Facts. 2015. Accessed October 17, 2016.
9Ginkgo Nuts (Bai Guo) – The Smart Anti-aging Herb. Chineseherbshealingcom. 2015. Accessed October 17, 2016.
10Kim SJ. Effects of flavonoids of Ginkgo biloba on proliferation of human skin fibroblast.PubMed NCBI.1997. Accessed Oct 17, 2016.
11Yan Bing W. Effects of Ginkgo Biloba Extract on Free Radical Metabolism of Liver in Mice During Endurance Exercise. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines. 2010;7(4):291. Accessed October 17,
12Zillich O, Schweiggert-Weisz U, Eisner P, Kerscher M. Polyphenols as active ingredients for cosmetic products. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2015;37(5):455-464. doi:10.1111/ics.12218.
13Chuarienthong P, Lourith N, Leelapornpisid P. Clinical efficacy comparison of anti-wrinkle cosmetics containing herbal flavonoids. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2010;32(2):99-106. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2494.2010.00522.x.
14Kim SJ e. Effects of flavonoids of Ginkgo biloba on proliferation of human skin fibroblast. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 1997. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9413894. Accessed October 17, 2016.
15Sati SJoshi S. Antibacterial Activities ofGinkgo bilobaL. Leaf Extracts. The Scientific World JOURNAL. 2011;11:2237-2242. doi:10.1100/2011/545421.
16Sati P, Pandey A, Palni L. Antimicrobial Potential of Leaf Extracts of Ginkgo biloba L., Growing in Uttarakhand, India. National Academy Science Letters. 2012;35(3):201-206. doi:10.1007/s40009-012-0036-8.
17Sati P, Pandey A, Palni L. Antimicrobial Potential of Leaf Extracts of Ginkgo biloba L., Growing in Uttarakhand, India. National Academy Science Letters. 2012;35(3):201-206. doi:10.1007/s40009-012-0036-8.
18Beljanski SHall J. Use of Golden Leaf Ginkgo Extract for Skin Fibrosis – Integrative Practitioner. Integrative Practitioner. 2008. Accessed October 17, 2016.