Plant of the Month: Ginkgo
Ginkgo biloba

I’m always amazed by the beauty of these ancient trees and the rich medicine this tree has to offer. As I walked through the ginkgo leaves that are now covering the ground I realized it’s our last chance to harvest the few leaves that remain for tinctures or infusions. (for more info click herbal preparations on the Herbal Health root)  Now that they’re turning yellow, later than usual, they’re ripe for the picking! The fruits from the female trees are also considered medicinal but their offensive odour would make it very difficult to comply.  If you plan on adding a majestic gingko tree to your sunny yard, opt for the fragrance-free male version!

Gingko contains flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, glycosides, tannins, non-flavonoid terpenes, ginkgolides, sitosterol and essential oils. It’s also high in the minerals chromium, niacin, calcium, phosphorous, selenium and zinc. As we age our blood vessels get rigid and weak. Many of these nourishing antioxidants decrease the fragility of capillaries keeping blood vessels strong and elastic. The cardiac system is strengthened by an increase in arterial tone which reduces inflammation in the blood vessel wall and decreases blood clotting that can lead to blocked arteries. It helps prevent dangerous blood clots from developing thereby decreasing the risk of stroke. Ginkgo is used liberally in Europe to treat the complications of stroke including anxiety, depression, memory and balance problems. Europeans have been compiling clinical research for over forty years, although in its native China the tradition of using Ginkgo to nourish the circulatory system goes back much longer. This cardiovascular tonic is also an excellent herb for treating high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, asthma, and tinnitus.

Men experiencing erectile dysfunction may also benefit from enhanced circulation to the penile arteries and veins. Steven Buhner, a master herbalist and psychotherapist now living in New Mexico, has researched men’s health at midlife extensively and has concluded that ginkgo is the primary herb to use for “long-term resolution of erection problems from arterial insufficiency”. Most studies have used 60-240 mg. of standardized extract containing at least 24% ginkgoflavonglycosides, but most herbalists recommend using 20-40 drops of tincture twice a day for at least twelve weeks for similar effect.

Ginkgo is an effective vasodilator and increases peripheral blood flow. Increased blood flow to the brain helps to prevent damage due to oxygen deficiency. In many studies, ginkgo has successfully prevented and treated dementia, improved sociability, and decreased anxiety and depression in elderly patients. Students sipping ginkgo infusion may notice increased alertness, enhanced memory and mental clarity! It can also be powdered and sprinkled over food or added to your breakfast smoothie. Rosemary Gladstar recommends mixing dried ginkgo leaves with dried sage, rosemary and gotu kola for a brainpower infusion. Consider Ginkgo if you have difficulty concentrating, feel fatigued or confused, seem to be more forgetful than usual, or experience dizziness.

Ginkgo is extremely safe, especially when it’s consumed with food. Start with the smallest dose and gradually build up to desired amount. Side effects are very rare but include mild stomach upset, restlessness, irritability or diarrhea. There are no known drug interactions. Use cautiously, under your practitioner’s watchful eye, if you’re on blood thinners. Avoid before surgery.

Over the years I have been blessed with many inspirational teachers. I thank them for sharing their wisdom through their lectures, workshops, websites and books. For more information about Ginkgo and many other herbs, enjoy these insightful and informative resources.

Vital Man: Natural Health Care for Men at Midlife
by Stephen H. Buhner
(Avery Publishing, NY, 2003)
Traversing the Wild Terrain of Menopause: Herbal Allies for Midlife
Women & Men
by Gail Faith Edwards
(Bertha Canterbury Press, 2003) Click for website
Opening our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs by Gail Faith Edwards
(Ash Tree Publishing, 2000) Click for website
Family Herbal by Rosemary Gladstar
(Storey Books, 2001) Click for website
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