Last Updated on September 27, 2022
Did you know you can make tea from the abundant ginkgo leaves growing near you? Ginkgo biloba tea is easy to forage in your neighborhood and has some promising health benefits that make it a brilliant addition to your foraged tea collection. Here’s what to know about making ginkgo tea.
WHAT IS GINKGO BILOBA TEA?
Ginkgo tea is made from the leaves of the ginkgo biloba tree. Also known as maidenhair, the ginkgo tree is native to Asia but has become a popular landscape tree in many parts of the world. Like so many other plants growing all around us, the ginkgo biloba tree hasn’t been widely recognized as a source of useful ingredients anyone can gather in their area.
Some other medicinal trees you might explore include conifers like pine and spruce as well as mulberry, which in addition to its yummy fruits provides ample ingredients for tasty mulberry tree leaf tea. Here are recipes for birch tea, spruce tea and pine needle tea as well.
You’ll find ginkgo biloba supplements in most drugstores and online touting their ability to support memory and brain function, though research to support these benefits isn’t yet conclusive. Supplements are made by extracting compounds from ginkgo leaves and are much more concentrated than what you’ll get in a cup of ginkgo tea.
Female ginkgo trees produce an edible seed, but because the smell of the fruit is so revolting, most ginkgo trees you’ll find growing in landscaping are male and produce no fruit. These non-stinky trees produce abundant leaves, however, and provide plentiful foraging for eager tea makers.
BENEFITS OF GINKGO BILOBA TEA
There’s a good reason ginkgo biloba tea and supplements have become so popular. Research suggests there are numerous benefits of ginkgo biloba. Below are some of the benefits researchers are exploring that may make you want to consider drinking ginkgo biloba tea.
1. GINKGO LEAVES ARE RICH IN ANTIOXIDANTS
Like so many plants growing in our yards and neighborhoods, ginkgo biloba is rich in antioxidants, compounds that help combat the effects of what’s known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a condition in which our bodies have excessive numbers of unstable atoms called free radicals, which can damage our cells and DNA and have been linked to numerous chronic diseases. By reducing the number of free radicals, antioxidants lower our risk of these diseases.
Get valuable antioxidants into your diet every day with these top superfoods.
2. GINKGO BILOBA IMPROVES CIRCULATION
Several studies have noted ginkgo biloba’s positive effect on the circulatory system, which is believed to be part of the reason ginkgo biloba supports heart and brain health.
In The Green Pharmacy, ethnobotanist James Duke recommends ginkgo biloba for Raynaud’s disease, a condition where constriction of the small arteries leading to the fingers (and less often, the toes) results in painful lack of blood flow. He also lists it as an herb to try for headaches and varicose veins.
3. GINKGO BILOBA MAY FIGHT INFLAMMATION
Like many other antioxidant-rich plants, ginkgo biloba contains anti-inflammatory compounds. One study determined that ginkgo leaf extract inhibited inflammatory responses related to osteoarthritis. Duke suggests ginkgo’s anti-inflammatory actions may help with allergies and asthma, which it’s commonly prescribed for in China.
4. GINKGO BILOBA MAY PROMOTE BRAIN HEALTH
Ginkgo has been studied extensively for its positive effects on memory and cognitive function. Ginkgo’s beneficial effect on the circulatory system may help protect against stroke, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Studies to date haven’t been conclusive, though, so the jury is still out on how helpful ginkgo might be for this purpose.
One metareview looking at ginkgo’s effect on cognition concluded that supplementation with ginkgo “had no ascertainable positive effects on a range of targeted cognitive functions in healthy individuals.”
James Duke points out that the concentration of active compounds that can be derived from the ginkgo biloba leaves in ginkgo tea is too low to be therapeutically useful. The studies above use standardized extracts, but also warns that large amounts can cause unpleasant side effects. See cautions below.
You might enjoy ginkgo tea as a fun foraged addition to your herbal tea rotation rather than expecting significant health effects from your foraged ginkgo biloba tea.
CAUTIONS WITH GINKGO BILOBA TEA
Always discuss herbs you’re considering with your doctor before consuming, as they can have interactions with other medications or are contraindicated for certain health conditions. As with many herbs, there are concerns about ginkgo’s interactions with drugs and toxicity issues.
Ginkgo’s blood-thinning properties make it best avoided for anyone on blood-thinning medication or planning to undergo surgery.
As with many other herbs, there are no studies examining the use of ginkgo in pregnancy, so ginkgo is best avoided if you’re pregnant.
Duke warns that some people experience side effects when consuming ginkgo, especially in large amounts, such as diarrhea, nausea, and headache.
IDENTIFYING GINKGO BILOBA LEAVES
Ginkgo leaves are pretty easy to identify, but you should always consult a good foraging guide to be certain you’ve correctly identified any wild plant. Check out my top recommendations for the best foraging books to add to your home reference library.
You might also consider taking a class like the Herbal Academy’s online foraging course to gain confidence foraging a wide variety of edible wild plants and master plant identification and wildcrafting practices.
Identifying ginkgo leaves: The distinctive shape of ginkgo leaves makes them pretty easy to identify. They tend to have a fan shape, though you can see in the photo below that there can be some variation in the shape of leaves on an individual tree.
Tree form: Mature trees grow up 80 feet tall with a spread of up to 40 feet.
Bark: The bark of mature ginkgo biloba trees is greyish and fissured, as in the photo below:
Habitat & distribution: Native to Asia, ginkgo trees can now be found growing worldwide. Often planted as street trees in urban environments, ginkgo trees can tolerate a range of soils and grow in zones 3 to 9.
FORAGING & PRESERVING GINKGO BILOBA LEAVES FOR GINKGO TEA
Ginkgo leaves are usually gathered in fall, just as they begin to yellow. Because you’ll be drying plenty for future use, it’s ideal if you can pick them after they’ve dried following a good rainfall. Then you don’t need to rinse them, which can make them wetter than ideal for drying.
Drying ginkgo leaves for ginkgo tea:
To dry a big bunch of ginkgo leaves for tea, you’ll want a drying screen with a good deal of space. I’ve been using this one, and love it: It has tons of space and folds up into a tiny flat circle when not in use. I’ve used it for drying foraged nettles, elderflowers, goldenrod, wild violets, creeping Charlie, and many more.
The air in your house needs to be dry for a drying screen to work, so if your house is humid when you’re drying ginkgo leaves, you’ll want to use a dehydrator. I prefer stainless steel dehydrators like this one.
Dehydrators last for decades and are so helpful for preserving huge quantities of dried fruit from your garden. We use ours for drying bananas, apples, peaches, and plums as well as making delicious homemade fruit leather from our plentiful rhubarb.
How to dry ginkgo biloba leaves:
Place harvested leaves on your drying screen or dehydrator trays. Leave on the drying screen until brittle, usually a few days (or leave in a dehydrator on low heat for several hours).
Store leaves whole and crumble when you’re ready to make ginkgo biloba tea.
Here’s more about preserving herbs if you want useful medicinal herbs on hand all year round.
HOW TO USE GINKGO LEAF
The simplest way to use your foraged ginkgo leaves is in tea, but perhaps the most efficient way is in tincture. You’ll find a tea recipe below, and here’s information on how to make a tincture from Herbal Academy.
WHAT DOES GINKGO BILOBA TEA TASTE LIKE?
Ginko tea has a mild, green flavor with a note of citrus. If its taste isn’t your cup of tea, it’s easily blended with other, more pleasant-tasting herbs, like lemon balm or hibiscus, which both have many benefits of their own. A slice of lemon would also work well.
GINKGO BILOBA TEA RECIPE
- 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginkgo leaves (or 2-3 teaspoons dried leaves)
- 2 cups boiled filtered water
- Collect fresh ginkgo leaves from trees you've positively identified or use dried ginkgo leaves.
- If it hasn't rained recently, rinse fresh leaves to remove dirt and bugs.
- Chop or snip fresh leaves into small pieces, or crumble dry leaves.
- Place prepared ginkgo leaves in a teapot or cup and cover with freshly boiled water.
- Allow to steep 10-15 minutes, strain, and enjoy.
I recommend using the larger amounts of ginkgo leaf per cup of water and dilute it according to taste. Note that the amount of fresh leaf you can fit in a tablespoon will vary according to how finely it's chopped.
Use listed amounts as a guideline and don't worry about exact measurements.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 6Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 0mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g
Nutritional information was auto-generated based on serving size, number of servings, and typical information for the ingredients listed. To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in a given recipe, please calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients and amounts used, using your preferred nutrition calculator. Under no circumstances shall this website or author be responsible for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on the given nutritional information. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate and complete.
RECOMMENDED SUPPLIES FOR GINKGO BILOBA TEA
All you need to make ginkgo biloba tea is ginkgo leaves and hot water, but some helpful tools can take your foraged tea up a notch.
Most important: A quality water filter. Municipal water supplies contain scores of unregulated chemicals that you don’t want in your healthy tea! Here’s what to know about choosing an effective water filter. You may be surprised to learn that most popular filters leave lots in your water that you’d rather not drink.
Some other tools to help with your ginkgo biloba tea making:
You can find many more suggestions for awesome green living gear on my recommended products page.
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Disclaimer: I’m a health & foraging enthusiast, not a medical professional. Content on this website is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to provide personalized medical advice. I draw on numerous health sources, some of which are linked above. Please consult them for more information and a licensed professional for personalized recommendations.
Additional ginkgo biloba tea /ginkgo tea photo credits on Pinterest pins: xiefei, aleroy4
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.