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Suffolk herbs: ginkgo biloba

PUBLISHED: 11:07 16 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:50 20 February 2013

Suffolk herbs: ginkgo biloba

Suffolk herbs: ginkgo biloba

And now, a herb to help improve your memory. Ed Berger discusses the benefits and uses of ginkgo biloba

And now, a herb to help improve your memory. Ed Berger discusses the benefits and uses of ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba is the oldest living species of tree on the planet, with fossil records dating back 190 million years. This living fossil can grow to 80 feet in height and live for up to 2,000 years. It has beautiful fan-shaped leaves with two lobes (bi-loba), which have a similar appearance to the brain the part of the body most commonly associated with this herb.
Although native to the East, ginkgo thrives in our climate and can be found growing in many of the country parks and gardens in East Anglia, its foliage developing wonderful yellow shades during the autumn months.
Ginkgo is also planted in city streets as it is able to tolerate levels of pollution which are killing some tree species traditionally grown in urban areas.
Interestingly, there are male and female Ginkgo trees and city councils have to be careful to plant only male trees to avoid fertilisation of female flowers and production of oily fruits which can turn the pavement below into a sticky mess!

Harvesting and use
Ginkgo leaves are harvested during the summer and laid flat on paper in a well ventilated place till dry. The usual dosage is one teaspoon of dried leaves infused in just boiled water for 10 minutes, with three cups taken daily. Different people respond differently to ginkgo, with some people noticing results after a few days and others needing to take it for a couple of months before experiencing significant benefits. There is more scientific evidence supporting the benefits of ginkgo than for any other herb so persevere.

Medicinal use
Ginkgo seeds have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years for treating bronchial conditions and the tree is considered so sacred in the East that it is often planted around temples, much as Yew was traditionally planted around our churches. However it wasnt until the 1960s that scientists began to study ginkgo leaves, which are the part now used therapeutically in the West for improving circulation and mental function, leading to the name Memory tree.
Ginkgo dilates blood vessels and thins the blood, thereby increasing levels of blood and oxygen reaching the brain. Ginkgo is best known for treating early symptoms of dementia, with a wealth of scientific evidence confirming its benefits for improving concentration, memory and mood. Indeed, clinical trials have proved so successful that ginkgo is often prescribed by doctors in Europe in preference to conventional drugs.
Although ginkgo appears to make the biggest difference to mental function in people over the age of 50, it can improve brain power in all age groups. For instance during periods of work pressure or in the run up to exams. By improving circulation to the head ginkgo can also help deteriorating eyesight, hearing loss, tinnitus and dizziness.
By dilating blood vessels ginkgo improves circulation to every part of the body, helping to treat cold hands and feet, Raynauds, intermittent claudication and even sexual dysfunction. Ginkgo is also a powerful antioxidant for reducing free radical damage to cells and can be included in treatments for supporting the heart and reducing cholesterol.

To avoid adverse effects, dont take ginkgo if already taking blood-thinning medicines, have low blood pressure or if pregnant or breast-feeding. It should also be stopped at least ten days before surgery.

Ed Berger has been practising herbal medicine for 12 years and lives in Suffolk. He is course director of herbal medicine for the College of Naturopathic Medicine and a keen plantsman, growing many medicinal herbs. To discuss any aspect of herbal medicine, herb garden design or book a consultation, contact him on 07931 797148 or


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