Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Gingko (Gingko biloba)
My sweet little gingko tree out front was looking very much like she wanted her photo taken last night, so I obliged. I planted her several years ago and she's just now reaching waist height (on me, anyway). She's a beautiful little tree, and will surely outlive me (they have been known to live for well over a hundred years) but I'm hoping to be around here long enough to watch her grow strong and tall.
The leaves and fruit are used medicinally and are harvested in the fall. She's a Chinese native (until a hundred years ago Ginkgo was thought to be extinct until it was found growing in a remote area of western China) but is also grown elsewhere including on plantations in France and here in the Southern United States. The leaves are rubefacient (stimulate capillary dilation; draw blood from deeper tissues and organs, relieving congestion and inflammation) and a circulatory stimulant (herbal stimulants increase functional activity and energy in the body). Gingko seeds are antibacterial, antifungal, astringent, and expectorant.
Gingko is useful for improving blood flow to the brain, and studies have shown it is beneficial for people with memory loss and Alzheimer's. Gingko has also been widely used in Germany to treat Attention Deficit Disorder.
The German Commission E Monographs list the following properties for gingko:
**Increased memory performance and learning capacity.
**Improvement in the compensation of disturbed equilibrium.
**Improvement of blood flow, particularly in the region of microcirculation.
**Neuroprotective effect (ginkgolides A and B, bilobalide).
ADD, Alzheimer's, Circulation slow, Concentration loss of, Depression, Dizziness, Memory loss of, Tinnitus, Headache, Vertigo
Not everyone has a gingko tree growing in their yard. Something important to remember when purchasing herbal products is to always read labels to ensure that you are getting a pure and "whole herb" product. There are a number of "standardized" herbal capsule products now on the market containing synthetic fillers, artificial colors, and sweeteners. You don't need or want that junk. Some of the fillers may include hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose, silicon dioxide, and polyethylene glycol. Sounds pretty bad to me. It is the antithesis of herbal medicine to include artificial substances in a formula if at all possible.
If you live between USDA hardiness zones 3 - 8, I highly recommend planting yourself a gingko tree. They are durable, pest-resistant, fascinating trees with incredibly stunning yellow fall foliage (short-lived, but worth it). They tolerate almost any soil type and grow slowly to 75+ feet. Don't let the slow growing deter you, though. They are beautiful and interesting at every age. I love mine and hope you'll decide to give one a try.