History, Identification, & Uses of Ginkgo

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You have probably seen these trees lining streets and neighborhoods. The ginkgo is commonly planted as an ornamental tree.

Ginkgo

The ginkgo is well known for being a “living fossil.” It is considered one of the oldest tree species in the world and has not changed much from it’s 200 million-year-old ancestor.

There are both male and female ginkgo trees but nurseries usually only sell male trees. The female tree produced a fruit that has an awful smell to it. Female trees are often avoided in cities and neighborhoods because of the smell. A branch from a male tree that is grafted onto a female tree will cause the female to produce fruit.

In China, where the ginkgo tree is native to, it is a symbol of longevity and vitality. Ginkgo trees are often planted near and around temples, though there are many of these trees that predate the temples built around them.

The ginkgo is a very tolerant tree. It is favored in cities because it is easily grown in polluted areas. It can also survive severe damage from lighting and it’s even been said that ginkgos and cockroaches were the first to thrive in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after WWII.

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Ginkgo has been used medicinally in China for hundreds of years. In China, the seed is primarily used while in the west the leaf is used instead. It is best known in the west for its ability to aid in circulatory problems.

There have been many studies done on gingko however, there is no strong evidence that ginkgo may improve health or prevent various ailments. Since ginkgo contains flavonoids and terpenoids it is believed that it could potentially help with  Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression, circulatory problems, and more. More research is being done on ginkgo but there is no conclusive evidence that ginkgo can aid in or prevent health issues.

Profile

Common Name: Ginkgo, Gingko, Silver Almond Tree, White Nut Tree, Duck Feet Tree
Scientific NameGinkgo biloba
Identification:
Leaves- fan-shaped, lobed (2 lobes), green, yellow in fall, leathery, 2″-4″
Bark- gray and furrowed
Flower- yellow-green catkin
Fruit- drupe, round-oval, yellowish when mature, about 2 inches long, very bad odor
Height- 50-100 feet tall
Harvest Time: Leaves-late summer to early autumn, before turning colors, Seed-late autumn
Parts Edible: Leaves & seed
Found: Native to China, planted as an ornamental, moist and well-drained soils, highly tolerant

Historic Uses

-Seeds were made into a lung tonic in China to treat asthma, bronchitis, and leukorrhea
-Powdered ginkgo leaf and flower was once baked into cookies to treat diarrhea
-Ginkgo leaf has been used much in the same way as the seed to treat various illnesses
-The root has been used before for its astringent properties
-Has been used to treat dementia, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), intermittent claudication, eye problems, and Raynaud’s disease
-Oil from the seeds have been used as lighting oil

Vitamins, Minerals, & More

Leaves

Contains:

  • Flavonoids (plant-based antioxidants)
  • Terpenoids (improve blood flow)

Properties: Anti-inflammatory

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Seed

Contains:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin A, B1, B2, and B3

Properties: Antiasthmatic, Antibacterial, Antifungal, Astringent, Digestive, Expectorant, Ophthalmic, Sedative, Vermifuge

Preparations

-Leaves are dried for teas
-Leaves are dried, powdered, and put into capsules
-Seeds are made into tonics
-Seeds are used in culinary recipes

Precautions

-Raw seeds are possibly toxic. Cook before consuming and don’t consume in large quantities
-Has few side effects, though upset stomachs, headaches, skin reactions, and dizziness have been reported
-Do not take ginkgo and consult your doctor before using ginkgo if taking any of these medications:

  • Medications that are broken down by the liver
  • Seizure medications (anticonvulsants)
  • Antidepressants
  • Medications for high blood pressure
  • Blood-thinning medications
  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Ibuprofen
  • Medications to lower blood sugar
  • Cylosporine
  • Thiazide diuretics (water pills)
  • Trazodone

-Do not give ginkgo to children
-Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding should not take ginkgo
-Do not take ginkgo is you have epilepsy
-If you have diabetes consult your doctor before taking ginkgo
-Stop taking ginkgo 1 to 2 weeks before surgery or any dental procedures

 

Harvest

-Leaves are best harvested in the late summer and early autumn before they begin to turn colors
-Seeds are best harvested in late autumn and early winter

Where to Purchase

Ginkgo Leaves

Ginkgo Seeds

Recipes

Harvesting & Roasting Ginkgo Nuts
SWEET BARLEY AND GINKGO NUT SOUP
Gingko Nuts and Ginseng Chicken Soup
Ginkgo Nut Rice Recipe
Chawan Mushi (Japanese Savory Egg Custard)

Practicing Sustainable Wild Harvesting

  1. Only harvest plants you know are safe and can identify
  2. Only harvest plants in safe areas that are not contaminated or polluted
  3. Do not harvest on private property without permission
  4. Harvest no more than 10% or use the method: take 1 leave 2
  5. Know how to handle and prepare the plants you are harvesting
  6. Always check the legal status of the plant you want to harvest (is it endangered?)

Ginkgo Profile (1)

 


Sources

Plants for a Future-Gingko
Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo: Cultural Background and Medicinal Usage in China
Ginkgo biloba University of Maryland Medical Center
Ginkgo NIH
Missouri Bontical Garden Ginkgo
The Life Story of The Oldest Tree on Earth
Ginkgo Biloba-Herb Wisdom

Disclaimer: All information on Not Your Typical Hippie is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor, veterinarian, dietician, or health expert. If you wish to have advice on a medical problem, please consult a doctor. I cannot guarantee that any information provided will work for every person. Please consult a doctor before making any health changes. I am not liable for any choices you make based on the information provided on this website. (Learn more here)