Ginkgo (Maidenhair Tree)

Botanical Information
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Ginkgophyta
Class: Ginkgoopsida
Order: Ginkgoales
Family: Ginkgoaceae
Genus: Ginkgo L.
Species: Ginkgo biloba L.

Ginkgo biloba is an ancient tree, considered a 'living fossil' and known more commonly as the Maidenhair tree. It is one of the oldest trees today, even dating back to times before the dinosaurs, and "represents the only living bridge between 'higher' and 'lower' plants,"3 that is, between ferns and conifers. Ginkgo biloba thrives in sandy soil in sunny areas, but it is very adaptable, and can grow in a variety of temperate conditions. This ability to flourish under many conditions, along with it's immunity to many diseases, made Ginkgo the first tree to bud after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan in WWII.4 Though it grows very slowly, when it does reach it's maximum height, it ranges from 40 to 70 feet, and it's width may exceed 3 feet. The large size of the tree categorizes it as a Shade Tree, with fan-shaped leaves and often flowers and fruit.

Leaves are typically 2 to 3 inches, green in the spring and summer but turning shades of yellow in the fall, finally falling off completely in the winter. These leaves are alternate and simple, coming in clusters of 3 to 5.
Ginkgo Biloba are either male or female trees; this depends on their flowers. Female trees have imperfect, incomplete flowers, because they do not have stamen. Male trees have hanging catkins that pollenate female trees in early spring. Female trees have "tan-orange oval fruits" hanging from spur shoots, while male trees do not bear fruit.

Geographical Information
Ginkgo biloba is a tree native to China, but over the years has spread around the world. The first Ginkgo seeds were brought to Europe in the 1700s, as a result of the contact between Oriental and European merchants. In the US today, the Ginkgo tree can be found in Zones 3-8, pictured below.
Though the Ginkgo is an extremely old species, it is currently considered an endangered species. Global deforestation is thought to be the cause of this. This is of particular concern, because not only is Ginkgo biloba an ancient and versatile tree, but it is also the last surviving species of its genus.

Human Use
Seeing as the Ginkgo is native to China, Oriental nations like China and Japan have used Ginkgo leaves and seeds in a variety of ways for thousands of years. When cooked, the nuts of the tree are edible, and are customary to the diets of Chinese and Japanese people. Leaves and seed extract were also used for ancient herbal medicine. Because of their value, Ginkgo seeds were sold in market, and planted by many people at the time. Still, today, Ginkgo nuts are part of Japanese and Chinese culture, and have become a global herbal remedy.

Current Uses for Ginkgo biloba
Alzheimer's Disease
Improve Memory
Increase Blood Flow/ Circulation

Ginkgo Biloba in Energy Drinks
Ginkgo biloba extract is most commonly found in Rockstar Energy Drinks.


Other energy drinks that contain Ginkgo Biloba include Lightning Bolt, Quick Boost, and Crunk brands.
The three major reasons for including Ginkgo biloba leaf and seed extract are:
  1. improved memory
  2. improved concentration
  3. improved circulation
Memory, concentration, and circulation are all crucial when studying for long periods of time, working late hours, or experiencing mid-day lags- the exact situations targeted for energy drinks. By adding Ginkgo biloba to their product, companies claim that their drink can actually increase productivity during these stressful, strenuous times.
In fact, “a study from Purdue University found that after 3 weeks, men who drank 184 milligrams of the supplement daily were 20 percent more productive in the afternoons.”2
Though the effects of Ginkgo biloba seem to be both mild and beneficial, there is typically not enough of the herb in energy drinks to actually make a positive impact for consumers. Note how the study at Purdue dealt with 184mg of Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, where as the Nutrition Label of a standard Rockstar Energy Drink has 150mg. What this small amount of Ginkgo can do, though, is interfere with other prescriptions taken by the consumer, specifically anti-depressants. Dangerous side effects from mixing Ginkgo with other medications include
  1. nausea
  2. dizziness
  3. headaches
  4. diarrhea
  5. blood thinning
While the amount of Ginkgo biloba is essentially insignificant in most energy drinks, if consumers are not cautious, they could suffer from these undesirable side effects. This is why it's important when drinking energy drinks to be aware of the ingredients and the effects they could have on your body.

Works Cited

1. "Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings - WebMD." WebMD. WebMD, n.d.
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2. "Ginkgo Biloba." Supplement Center., n.d.
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3. "Maidenhair Tree (Ginkgo Biloba)." Maidenhair Tree Videos, Photos and Facts., n.d.
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4. "Ginkgo, (Maidenhair Tree) Ginkgo Biloba." Tree Details- €”The Tree Guide., n.d.
Web. Nov. 2012. <>.

5. "Ginkgo Biloba." Ginkgo Biloba. The Ohio State University, n.d.
Web. Nov. 2012. <>.
6. Tremblay, Louise. "Rockstar Energy Drink Side Effects." Rockstar Energy Drink Side Effects., n.d.
Web. Nov. 2012. <>.
7. Tyler, Varro E. "Herbs Affecting the Central Nervous System." Herbs Affecting the Central Nervous System. Purdue University, n.d.
Web. Nov. 2012. <>.