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What is Gingko? A Traditional Medicine & Food

Updated on October 16, 2011

A Long-Time Friend of Humankind

Ginkgo is a prehistoric plant. It is among the oldest kinds of trees in existence. It is known by a number of names. Included are Japanese silver apricot, fossil tree, and maidenhair tree. Most people in English speaking countries know it by it's Latin name, Ginkgo Biloba.  It's seeds and leaf extract have long been believed to be beneficial when used in medicines. In fact, Ginkgo has been a standby in Chinese medicine for centuries. It's uses in traditional medicine as well as modern medicine are many and varied.

Medicinal Uses of Ginkgo

The extract of the leaf is commonly used to help with a number of problems, including tinnitus, fatigue, asthma, bronchitis, and memory loss. Recently, it has been used to treat narrowing of the arteries in the legs. This condition (claudication) is quite painful. Additionally, recent studies have indicated that gingko may help with such complex problems as multiple sclerosis, dementia caused by Alzheimer disease, and sexual dysfunction.

The effectiveness of gingko on these specific conditions, however, remains unclear. Studies have not shown tremendous effectiveness in any single condition, but anecdotal reports indicate that gingko is a good general tonic when used wisely. It is important not to exceed the dosage recommended for the type of gingko you choose to use. To do so may cause negative drug interactions and unpleasant side effects.

Some side effects of the overuse of gingko include allergic skin reactions, dizziness, diarrhea, upset stomach, nausea and headache. It is important to note that this kind of reaction is almost entirely isolated to incidents of overuse. Drug interactions are not entirely understood at this time and are under investigation. It does seem that gingko may have some blood thinning properties. While this is generally a good thing in healthy individuals, it should be taken into careful consideration for people who have bleeding disorders, are taking anticoagulant drugs, or are scheduled for surgery or a trip to the dentist. Additionally, if you are taking other supplements that cause thinning of the blood, or if you drink a great deal of wine or grape juice, you should exercise caution when using gingko.

Gingko as Food

In addition to medicinal uses, the seeds of the Gingko tree can be cooked and used as food. However, be cautious if you try this. Find a good, reliable recipe online, and be sure your gingko seeds are cooked thoroughly. When uncooked, the seeds of the gingko contain gingkotoxin. This chemical is seizure inducing and can cause death.


Gingko as a Cosmetic

Because gingko is considered an antioxidant and has been shown to increase circulation and prevent fragility in capillaries, it is also often used in skin care products. Additionally, gingko helps with collagen formation and the creation of fibroblasts, which assist with wound healing and the regeneration of the skin.

Remember! Coordinated Healthcare is Important!

Generally speaking, gingko seems to be safe and beneficial in modest doses as an occasional tonic or when used under the supervision of the health care professional of your choice. Be sure that any health counselor with whom you confer (doctor, holistic practitioner, etc.) is fully aware of any and all drugs and supplements you may be using. It is important to coordinate all aspects of your health care to get the best results from everything you are doing.

Copyright:SuzanneBennett:October 1, 2009

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