The Ginkgo tree holds a special place in Chinese culture, and especially in Confucianism and Buddhism. Its presence today, after upwards of 150 million years on earth, owes much to careful nurturing of the tree by Buddhist monks. It is now cultivated more widely, but no longer exists in the wild.
Ginkgo is used primarily as an aid for memory and mental clarity, but is also effective for vertigo and tinnitus. Some find that it delays the effects of aging, improves mood and lifts energy levels. It is commonly taken by elderly people in China.
Ginkgo is an extremely long-lived tree, perhaps the oldest known tree species, and a few of its kind were tenacious enough to have survived the nuclear fallout at Hiroshima. It can grow in urban areas and other locales where many trees struggle to survive. It is often termed a â€˜living fossilâ€™, due to its age and a lack of any surviving peers from that time.
The tree itself can grow up to 50m (160ft) tall, and has long branches with distinctive fan-shaped leaves. The name Ginkgo is a corruption of the Japanese ginkyo, which supposedly was written incorrectly by the first Westerner to find the tree, in 1690.
Ginkgo is such a useful herb because of its effect on circulation. By increasing the blood supply to the brain by up to 20%, Ginkgo can make your body and mind function more efficiently and keep you sharper and younger.
The advantages of this improved circulation to the brain include improved memory, increased mental clarity, elevated mood and faster reaction times. As you might expect, it has been shown to help sufferers of Alzheimerâ€™s retain their mental acuity for longer. Other ailments that may be aided by Ginkgo include vertigo and tinnitus.
As a powerful antioxidant, Ginkgo plays a vital role in combating free radicals in the blood. As such, it helps to delay the effects of aging, preserve eyesight and keep skin looking fresh and vital.
Ginkgo is regularly found in energy drinks; however the dosage is usually far too low to have any appreciable effect.
Ginkgo nuts feature prominently in Chinese cuisine, particularly in dishes such as congee and 'Buddha's Delight'.
The dried leaf is the part used for herbal remedies. It is available in capsule from any herbalist.
Any patients with blood disorders, or those who are taking aspirin to thin the blood, should be careful not to take Ginkgo. Side effects include possible nausea, vomiting, headaches and diarrhea, but Ginkgo is usually thought of as a particularly safe herb.
As always, be sure to consult your doctor before beginning a course of herbal treatment.