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Ginkgo Biloba

Veterinarian Reviewed on May 31, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba, also known as the Maidenhair tree, Buddha’s Fingernails, Flying Moth Leaf and Duck-foot, is a large deciduous tree. The Ginkgo tree has a large trunk with gray colored bark that has a very cracked appearance. The leaves are green with subtle hints of yellow and are fan shaped. When the tree is very old the branches take on a crown shape. Ginkgo trees produce flowers as well as fruit. Male flowers have five to six elongated pendulous catkins and have a light yellow color. Female flowers are solitary, long-stalked and round-shaped. They are followed by yellowish fruits that have a very foul smell when ripe. The tree is often planted as a shade tree along city streets due to its disease and pollution resistance. Gender of the tree makes a big difference to city planners. If it is a male tree it is left to continue growing. However many female trees are removed due to the offensive smell of the rotting fruits. Unfortunately it does take 20 years to find out the gender of the trees.

Eastern Uses

Products made from Ginkgo are derived primarily from the leaves. There is only one known surviving species of Ginkgo family and thus makes it a valued 200 million year old living fossil. Most modern day harvesting is from plantation groves found in France, China and South Carolina in the United States of America.
The Ginkgo leaf is an herbal remedy that is traced back to 15th century China. Leaves were harvested and used for “benefiting the brain”, Lung disorders such as coughs, asthma symptoms and even to quell diarrhea. The leaves have been brewed as a tea and the leaves were applied topically to the skin for sores of the skin and to remove freckles.

Western Uses

Modern uses incorporate the abovementioned treatments and have also been found to be beneficial for:

• Allergic inflammatory responses

• Mental alertness, senility, dementia, improving memory, balancing mood swings, treating Morbus Alzheimer, disruptive concentration and other symptoms of cerebrovascular insufficiency

• Increasing circulation, decreasing varicose veins, stabilizing irregular heartbeats

• Seed extract has been used for treating Tinnitus or constant ringing in the ears

As Ginkgo does increase blood flow it has been beneficial in the increase of blood flow to the genital regions. It stimulates the endothelium and has been noted as being effective for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

Scientists are using Ginkgo to study the benefits in stroke treatments and prevention. It is thought that by using Ginkgo extracts it will alleviate blood clots from developing and increase blood flow to the brain. There is also research suggesting that Ginkgo can reduce brain damage from inhibiting free-radicals after a stroke occurs. Due to its natural anti-inflammatory properties it may make it a viable option in the treatment of multiple sclerosis and organ transplant patients.

In Europe, Ginkgo extracts are among the best selling herbal medicine and remedies found. There are more than four hundred scientific clinical studies conducted on Ginkgo since the later part of the 1950’s. The beneficial part of the Ginkgo extract is thought to be from a compound called flavone glycosides and from a unique compound called ginkgolides. These are rather potent inhibitors of platelet-activating factors causing development of various inflammatory, cardiovascular and other respiratory ailments.

The other important beneficial effect from Ginkgo is its strong antioxidant properties. It scours reactive oxygen, known as free-radicals, from the body especially vital areas such as the brain, cardiovascular system and the central nervous system. Due to this ability, it makes it among the top promising treatments of declining brain functions brought on by aging.

Forms of Ginkgo Biloba

The seeds are a delicacy in Chinese cuisine and are usually roasted and eaten or are used in various soups, stews and stir fry. The seed can also be pressed for delicate tasting edible oil.

Preparation of Ginkgo for consumption is fairly straight forward. The leaves can be dried and used as a tea. As Ginkgo is an astringent herb and bittersweet, it dilates the bronchial tube, surrounding blood vessels and can help control allergic responses.

To get the most benefit from Ginkgo though, it must be concentrated by commercially extracting it. This process has predictable effects from the highly concentrated Ginkgo leaf extract.

Although the benefits of Ginkgo can help so many people, there are some that show hypersensitivity to Ginkgo leaf extracts. These cases are rare and have been found to result in intestinal and gastrointestinal upsetting, mild headaches and slight allergic reactions of the skin. If one ingests a large amount of Ginkgo along with several seeds, headaches, diarrhea, vomiting and dermatitis can occur. As it naturally increases blood flow it may increase the effects from blood thinner medications, so be sure to inform your physician if you take Ginkgo and are concerned as to how it will react.

Read also: Insomnia Causes

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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