1.1 What is a Ginkgo biloba?
Ginkgo biloba (also known as maidenhair tree, ginkgo or gingko, Chinese Pinyin: Yin Xing, Simplified Chinese: 银杏), is a species of big, deciduous, flowering, fruit bearing tree in genus Ginkgo in the Ginkgoaceae family. The plant is regarded as a living fossil as it first appeared during the Mesozoic Era (an interval of geological time from about 252 to 66 million years ago). Ginkgos are dioecious, with separate sexes, some trees being female and others being male. Male plants produce small pollen cones with sporophylls, each bearing two microsporangia spirally arranged around a central axis. Note that ginkgo as a gymnosperm (plants with “naked seeds”) does not have flowers nor real fruits, the seemingly ginkgos “fruits” are actually seeds inside a shell consisting of a soft and fleshy section (the sarcotesta). The plant can grow up to 50 m tall. Native to China and extensively cultivated else (Europe, North American as well as other Asian countries), habitats of Ginkgo biloba include (usually from between 40 to 2,000 meters in elevation). Characteristics of Ginkgo biloba include tolerance for air pollution, high disease resistance, ability to withstand damage caused by insect pest, adaptations to different growth conditions.
Other simplified Chinese names for Ginkgo biloba include: 白果, 公孙树, 鸭脚树, 蒲扇, 银杏子, 公孙树子, 佛指甲, 鸭脚子, 灵眼.
1.2 How does ginkgo nut taste?
Ginkgo nuts have a chestnut like chewy texture with a flavor that is slightly sweet and bitter.
1.3 What does ginkgo fruit smell like?
Ripe ginkgo fruits contain butanoic acid, making them smell like rancid butter, extremely pungent, odiferous cheese, or vomit.
1.4 How long do ginkgo trees live?
Ginkgo has long been cultivated in China with a number of trees grown at temples being over 1,500 years old. The oldest and largest ginkgo is believed to be the ginkgo king located in Fu Quan, Guizhou Province. The male Ginkgo tree is 5.8 m in diameter, 50 m tall, and estimated to be 4,000-4,500 years old.
1.5 How is Ginkgo biloba used in traditional Chinese medicine?
The seeds Ginkgo biloba are considered to have sweet, bitter, neutral, astringent and nontoxic properties and to be associated with the lung and kidney meridians. It is used as antiasthmatic, expectorant, kidney tonic, secretory and bactericide in traditional Chinese medicine (CTM) and widely adopted in treating different diseases and health problems, such as asthma and frequent urination.
2. Uses, Health Benefits of Ginkgo Biloba & Medical Formulas
2.1 Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease was first described in 1906, but about 7 decades passed before it was recognized as a common cause of dementia and a major cause of death. We have long believed that Alzheimer’s disease cannot be prevented, slowed or cured. However, according to a French research, long-term use of a ginkgo biloba extract can protect against Alzheimer’s disease by 47 percent (in a 4-year study, 29 out of almost 1,000 people who took the placebo developed Alzheimer’s disease, but only 15 out of nearly 950 of the people who took a particular type of ginkgo extract developed this disease) (extrahappiness.com 2010). Therefore, ginkgo biloba may help to reduce the risk of getting the horrible disease.
2.2 Improving Concentration And Memory
Researches found out that ginkgo can serve as a focus booster by improving oxygen flow to the brain. Our brains needs oxygen to work normally, oxygen deficiency in the brain may result in memory loss and inability to concentrate. According to NYU’s Lagone Medical Center, patients will notice difficulty with concentration and attentiveness in mild cases of oxygen deficiency to the brain (livestrong.com 2015).
2.3 Reducing Anxiety
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., impacting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18% of the total population. Ginkgo may also serve as an excellent food to help reduce anxiety naturally. A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, reveal that people experiencing generalized anxiety disorder who took ginkgo had better anxiety relief than those who instead took a placebo (Woelk 2007).
2.4 Cough Due To Cold
[CTM Formula] Pills made with ginkgos and Chinese mugwort are taken orally to treat cough accompanied with phlegm due to cold.
[CTM Formula] A decoction of ginkgos is taken orally to treat gonorrhea.
2.6 Gynecological Diseases and Disorders
[CTM Formula] Medicated soup with ginkgos, lotus seeds, sticky rice, black pepper and a silkie chicken is taken orally to treat red and white vaginal discharge.
2.7 Tooth Decay
[CTM Formula] Chewing raw ginkgos after meal may help to cop with tooth decay.
2.8 Reducing Inflammation, Swelling And Relieving Pain
[CTM Formula] External application of calcined lime powder, honey and ginkgo seeds can cope with swollen lymph nodes.
3. Contraindication, Side-effects & Cautions
Eating excessive ginkgos can cause negative consequences (excessive amounts may actually damage the body’s cells instead of securing them).
The Ben Cao Medical Book (also known as Compendium of Materia Medica or Ben Cao Gang Mu; Chinese: 本草纲目) is the most famous and comprehensive medical book ever written in the history of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Compiled and written by Li Shi-zhen (1518~1593), a medical expert of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) over 27 years.
The Ben Cao Medical Book records and describes all the plants, animals, minerals, and other objects that were believed to have medicinal properties in TCM. The book reflects the pharmaceutical achievements and developments of East Asia before the 16th century. On the basis of his predecessors’ achievements in the pharmacological studies, Li contributed further by supplementing and rectifying many past mistakes and misconception in relate to nature of many medicinal substances and causes of various illnesses. Charles Darwin, originator of the biological theory of evolution, regards the book as the “ancient Chinese encyclopedia”.
Disclaimer: The Ben Cao Medical Book is translated by ChinaAbout.net. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of CTM knowledge and information from the research and experience from the author Li Shi-zhen. Kindly be alert that the CTM knowledge and ancient formulas given above are likely NOT medically proven and may contain misconceptions.
List of reference
extrahappiness.com 2010 Ginkgo can treat depression, poor circulation, memory, concentration and more [online] link: http://extrahappiness.com/happiness/?p=4160
livestrong.com 2015 Signs of Oxygen Deficiency in the Brain [online] link: http://www.livestrong.com/article/198371-signs-of-oxygen-deficiency-in-the-brain/
Woelk, H., Arnoldt, K.H., Kieser, M., & Hoerr, R. (2007, September). Ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in generalized anxiety disorder and adjustment disorder with anxious mood: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Psychiatry Research 41(6): 472-80. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16808927