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One hundred and fifty million years ago, in the lands today called Asia, Europe, and North America, there stretched immense forests of Ginkgo inhabited by dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, and then all that world disappeared. The emotion can be imagined when, in 1754, a botanical expedition found that in China the Ginkgo biloba plants had survived all geological eras. At the news the scientific world entered fibrillation and the most important botanical gardens competed to ensure a sample of this living fossil. The botanical garden in Paris paid its first plant as many as 40 coins: it must have been a good sum if since then Ginkgo is also known as the ‘Tree of the 40 coins’.
Ginkgo is considered a flavonoid and adaptogenic drug, with a particularly geriatric value. The leaves of this dioecious tree, mainly used for ornamental purposes, are dried and are rich in flavonoids. Other associated compounds that contribute to the herbal expression of Ginkgo are sesquiterpenes with alcoholic functions. Today, Ginkgo biloba is widespread in the temperate areas of the planet, as an ornamental plant for parks and city avenues; precisely for this purpose it was introduced in Europe and America in the middle of the eighteenth century.
What is Ginkgo biloba?
The term ‘ginkgo’ comes from the Japanese Yin-kuo, which means golden apricot; ‘biloba’ refers instead to the leaf shape, more or less bilobed. Ginkgo is given by the leaves of Ginkgo biloba, a plant that has its roots in very remote times, since it appeared about 200 million years ago. Up to 30-40 meters high, with a trunk that can reach a meter in diameter, Darwin has defined a living fossil, as the only specimen belonging to the Ginkgoine family. These plants are an ancient group of tall gymnosperms, with a characteristic fan shape, belonging to the Mesozoic era and now extinct for about 100 million years.
Ginkgo, in addition to being considered the oldest tree present on the face of the Earth, is also one of the most long-lived, since it can reach 1000 years of life. It is not surprising, therefore, that in Japan it is considered a sacred tree, often present near the temples. For this reason it is believed that the species has been preserved thanks to the cultivation made by the Chinese monks to decorate the places of worship.
The leaves that are used are often those of the cultivated male Ginkgo plant; the female specimens, on the other hand, are smaller, because they are disadvantaged by the inconvenience of having seeds rich in butyric acid, short chain fatty acid, therefore volatile, which gives off a bad odor in the surrounding environment. The leaves are characterized by the fan shape and the typical yellow color, which arises once the present chlorophyll is completely degraded, leaving only the flavonoids (flavus = yellow).
Ginkgo is called geriatric adaptogen, because usually the products formulated on the basis of this drug are recommended to elderly people, who have difficulties concerning the memory; the Ginkgo, in fact, with its flavonoids, improves cerebral circulation. Not surprisingly, therefore, Ginkgo is a drug capable of improving the cerebral microcirculation, thus decreasing the intensity of cell death that strongly characterizes the advanced age of people. Ginkgo, in addition to its adaptogenic properties, also boasts an antithrombotic action, ie anti-platelet aggregation; therefore reduces the formation of microtrombi, which promote the necrosis of brain cells (today very common pathology among elderly people).
How Ginkgo Biloba works and benefits the mind
Ginkgo biloba is a plant of Chinese origin known since ancient times for its energetic and antioxidant properties. Today it is one of the most used and loved natural supplements, along with aloe vera, thanks to the numerous active ingredients that make it useful for strengthening memory and stimulating concentration.
The extract of Ginkgo biloba leaves is rich in antioxidants and vitamins that improve tissue oxygenation and blood circulation. In particular, it increases the spraying of brain tissues making it one of the most powerful natural supplements to strengthen the brain functions, memory, concentration, especially during periods of high stress, fatigue and during seasonal changes.
In addition, the properties it is rich in (especially the flavonoids and polyphenols) are excellent allies to strengthen the blood vessels, clean the blood from free radicals and enhance the body’s ability to repair the damage caused by aging.
Ginkgo biloba can be taken as a natural supplement during periods of prolonged fatigue, mental fatigue and stress. Seasonal changes and demanding periods at work and at school are the typical cases in which it can be useful to supplement one’s diet with ginkgo biloba extracts. From this plant can also benefit for those who have memory problems due to old age or those who have problems with circulation.
The benefits of ginkgo biloba for the brain reside in the name of the plant: biloba in fact indicates the bilobed shape of its leaves, which are precisely divided into two lobes just like the brain! Also the ribs of the leaves recall the nerve fibers of the cerebellum.
Ginkgo biloba is not the only plant or food that suggests its beneficial effect in its form: nuts have the shape of a brain and in fact are rich in Omega 3, antioxidants and folic acid important for this organ; the stalks of celery remind bones, not by chance are rich in silicon, a fundamental element for the well-being of our skeleton; the fungus looks like an ear and is rich in vitamin D which helps to keep a good hearing; a slice of carrot looks like the eye, and it is known that beta-carotene is very good at sight. These are just some examples of how nature helps us to identify what to introduce in our diet to stay healthy by taking advantage of the natural remedies we have available.
The unique healing properties and composition of Ginkgo
The phytotherapeutic properties of Ginkgo have been known for millennia, but in the western world they have known a moment of great popularity only in recent years, thanks to the many virtues attributed to standardized extracts. The parts used for this purpose are the leaves, while the seeds have an edible outer part and a heart rich in irritants and toxic substances (such as the alkaloid ginkgotoxin). In Eastern markets, Ginkgo pulp and seeds are sold as anthelmintics or wormers (medicines used to fight parasitic worms that are intestinal).
venous insufficiencies of the lower limbs, capillary permeability disorders, arterial circulation deficits, concentration disturbances. Positive effects on memory and learning; it is particularly rich in antioxidants which inactivate free radicals (‘anti-aging effect’); prevents atherosclerosis and ischemic damage; has anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties; useful in the treatment of vertigo and auricular ringing.
The main constituents of the leaves are the flavonoids (Ginkgo contains flavonoid glycosides such as kampferol, quercetin, isoramnetin, coumaric acid, catechins, proanthocyanidins, etc.), particularly known and appreciated for their antioxidant properties. The leaves are also rich in terpenic derivatives (ginkgolides and bilobalides) and ginkgolic acids.
As anticipated, flavonoids neutralize free radicals, currently considered one of the greatest pitfalls to the state of good health. If produced in excess, due to pollution and improper lifestyle, these small molecules accelerate the aging process and the normal deterioration of the body that accompanies them; they can also favor the appearance of diseases with a significant social weight, such as degenerative diseases and some forms of cancer. Typical components of Ginkgo biloba, but also of many other plants (green tea, centella asiatica, turmeric, milk thistle), flavonoids exert a positive action even at the level of the capillary network, decreasing the permeability and increasing the tone of the vessel wall.
For these activities, the ginkgo leaves and their extracts are used in disorders of the peripheral circulation (varicose veins or varicose veins, cellulitis, problems of water retention, claudication intermittens). They are also universally known as a diet supplement useful for improving mental abilities, thanks to the increase in blood circulation in the brain, which ensures a greater supply of nutrients and a faster elimination of waste. For this purpose, Ginkgo biloba, is recommended to young people to increase capacity and in the elderly as a preventive of Alzhaimer and senile dementia.
Ginkgolide B is considered an effective antagonist of PAF (platelet factor), essential for blood clotting and inflammatory processes, but it is good to keep under control in the presence of atherosclerosis and diseases of the heart and vessels (it can favor the formation and the rupture of atherosclerotic thrombi and plaques, causing the risk of suffering serious cardiovascular accidents, such as heart attack and stroke).
PAF is also a mediator of bronchoconstriction and this explains the traditional use of Ginkgo biloba in the treatment of asthmatic forms.
Properties of ginkgolides, principles extracted from Ginkgo biloba
Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated the positive effect of ginkgo extracts in increasing vasodilatation and peripheral blood flow in capillaries and arteries in various circulatory disorders; in Reynaud’s disease; in the venous insufficiency of the lower limbs; in post-thrombotic syndromes; in peripheral vascular disorders (vertigo, buzzing auricular, vestibular disorders) and central (memory and attention deficit); bronchial asthma on an allergic basis.
Some studies show that ginkgo can stabilize or improve cognitive performance in patients with Alzheimer’s disease or multi-infarct dementia. Ginkgo has an antiallergic and antiasthmatic action due to its direct activity against the platelet aggregating factor and to a desensitizing action of mast cells and basophils (immune response cells), attributable to the flavonoids present in the plant phytocomplex.
In addition, the gingko biloba supplement, thanks to its properties, protects eyes and eyesight. In traditional Chinese medicine ginkgo has always been used in the treatment of asthma and other respiratory diseases, as well as allergic reactions of the skin.
Ginkgo biloba supplement: indications
Ginkgo Biloba is a plant that has survived unscathed through the geological eras and nuclear radiation of Hiroshima to the present day. It is a highlander, the plant of rebirth and therefore what better indications than revigoration, regeneration and revitalization can it have? It is an anti-aging remedy that keeps our brains young! It is rich in antioxidants and terpenes, helps to preserve memory and concentration. Ginkgo biloba is in fact suitable to support students, but also for the elderly to prevent cognitive impairment.
In addition to this indication linked to its analogical meaning, the remedy is recommended for problems affecting both arterial and venous circulation and capillary permeability, thanks to the presence of flavonoids, which collaborate in vessel toning, against varices, cellulitis, edema.
It can contribute to the prevention of atherosclerosis and consequently of possible ischemies. Ginkgo Biloba is very often recommended for some forms of vascular tinnitus, to alleviate perceived buzzing and vertigo syndromes.
Another interesting indication of Ginkgo Biloba is for the claudication intermittens, a disorder that involves the lower limbs and limits walking because of the formation of stagnation of fats such as cholesterol, calcium salts, connective tissue, which compromise the normal blood flow, with dangerous and painful occlusions.
Ginkgo Biloba as a phytotherapeutic remedy does not have any real contraindications, but it is not recommended for those who use anticoagulant drugs. In fact it can enhance the action and become the cause of possible undesirable effects such as bleeding. This is due to the presence of ginkgolide B, an effective antagonist of the activating factor of platelets, the so-called PAF, which favors its aggregation. Instead, as far as the Ginkgo Biloba plant is concerned, if you are lucky enough to have one in your garden for generations, be careful not to swallow the fruit or seeds, because they can be toxic and cause convulsions.
How to use Ginkgo biloba: N winning health usages
In modern herbal medicine, Ginko biloba is used in the form of dry extracts, fluid extract and mother tincture. The normally recommended intake doses are equal to: 100-200 mg per day of dry extract divided into three doses (daily dosage of 2 to 3 mg / kg), 0.5 ml of Ginko fluid extract, 30 drops of Ginko tincture mother 1-3 times a day (1-1.5 drops / kg).
Ginko can produce side effects such as: digestive disorders, headache and possible hypersensitivity reactions to one or more active substances contained in the drug. The use of Ginko is contraindicated in pregnancy, lactation, in patients with liver disease and in those treated with oral anticoagulants, benzodiazepines (BZD), antiplatelet agents and vitamin E. Extreme caution in the use of Ginko together with garlic and willow, because these drugs act synergistically dangerously lowering blood coagulation.
The use of Ginko finds room in phytotherapy for its vasoregulating, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, capillarotropic, anti-fungal and anti-radical properties. Many clinical studies on Ginko biloba extracts have attested to its efficacy and safety in the treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia. The standardized and purified dry extract has supplanted the other herbal preparations (tinctures, decoctions, powders, herbal teas, tablets and capsules) which are not safe because they are not standardized in active ingredients. The standardized and purified dry extract of Ginko must contain 24% flavonoids, 6% terpenic derivatives and must be free of ginkolic acids.
Traditional herbal preparations such as teas, infusions, juices and decoctions, do not allow to establish exactly the quantity of active ingredients administered to the patient, which increases the risk of therapeutic failure. In fact, in an infusion, the quantities of active ingredients extracted can be excessive or more commonly insufficient, in addition to the risk of extracting undesired components.
At herbal medicine store or pharmacy you will find Ginkgo biloba in extract standardized in triterpenes and flavonoids, in drops or dry extract. For these preparations, only the leaves are used to avoid the administration of ginkgolic acids such as those contained in the seeds and fruits, which are toxic. The recommended daily dose is 120 mg divided into 2 or 3 times.
Following are some examples of popular herbal teas that contain Ginko biloba leaves – and not only.
1. Anti-inflammatory infusion
1 tablespoon of ginkgo leaves, 1 cup of water
Pour the leaves into the boiling water and turn off the heat. Cover and leave to infuse for 10 min. Filter the infusion and drink it away from meals to take advantage of the anti-inflammatory action to benefit the circulatory system.
2. Ginkgo mother tincture
Take 30-40 gc of Ginkgo mother tincture in the morning.
3. Ginkgo capsules
Ginkgo capsules containing 800-mg dry extract should be taken in the morning.
As many dieticians claim, nervous hunger can be caused by many factors, including special sensations, emotions, situations of everyday life. Among these triggers are perceptions such as anxiety, sadness, a sense of emptiness, anger, fear or boredom. Faced with these sensations, the body’s instinct is to ‘fill’, to fill a void, a fear, a negative sensation through a reassuring sensation like that of a full stomach.
A physical and emotional balance that finds its explanation in the early stages of life of the child, when the mother offering the baby to the crying milk, even if the hunger is not the real reason for crying, creates in him confusion between the state of hunger and the status of request for affection or otherwise. But do not be afraid, even here excellent properties of Ginkgo biloba can help you out!
Ginkgo biloba promotes circulation and re-energizes both physical and mental positive energies. Anti-stress herbal teas based on this ingredient are particularly important for this purpose. A tonic but relaxed nervous system also prevents the signals of a false emotional appetite from developing in the brain.
The ideal moment to prepare a good herbal tea is just when the first signs of this unhealthy hunger come. Maybe getting used to taking one in the afternoon and one in the evening, before going to bed. So trust your trusted herbalist and, together with him and depending on your type of nervous hunger, put together herbal teas that help to defeat it.
5. Ginkgo infusion against cefalia
- Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) Flowering tops 40 gr
- Escoltzia (Eschscholtzia californica) Flowering tops 30 gr
- Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba L.) leaves 20 gr
- Mint (Mentha piperita L.) leaves 10 gr
Infuse 50 grams of mixture in one liter of boiling water (5% infusion). Leave it in infusion for five to ten minutes, then filter. Recommended amount of a cup three times a day.
6. Ginkgo biloba for the eyes
If the roots are well cured, hydrated, sustained and fluidified, the fronds are healthy too. I continue with this analogy that I find very appropriate to introduce the beneficial effects that Ginkgo Biloba exerts on our Central Nervous System thanks to its contributions to the cerebral blood circulation. Ginkgolide B in fact acts on the PAF, the aggregating platelet factor, as an antagonist, allowing a proper fluidity of the blood, to prevent forms of atherosclerosis, clots and diseases affecting the cardiovascular system.
Our eyes are directly connected to the health of our heart and its pathways: many will have been subjected to visits that scrutinize the so-called ‘bottom of the eye’ to understand if there are problems related to severe hypertension, which can going to damage even the visual skills or to cause annoying tinnitus. In case of initial symptoms of this kind, or completely preventive, Ginkgo biloba is a remedy that, if used under medical supervision, is able to effectively help these situations at risk. Many forms of retinopathy, even the diabetic one, and the maculopathies can be helped with this millennial plant, thanks to the presence of flavonoids and terpenoids that elasticize the vessels and the retinal systems, stretching the spasms.
It is able to protect from the onset of glaucoma and, in addition to improving the visual and auditory conditions, it is a support for memory, cognitive functions in general and is often prescribed in elderly subjects to prevent Alzheimer’s.
7. Ginkgo for ear tinnitus
Ginkgo biloba extract (maidenhair tree) is one of the most frequently used remedies for ear tinnitus (ringing in the ear). According to a review of the scientific literature (by Alexander von Boetticher – Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery, Lueneburg, Germany) the daily dose should be 120-240 mg. The duration of therapy for chronic tinnitus is 12 weeks. According to the study, Gingko biloba extract gives better placebo effects and improves quality of life.
8. Smoothie with Gingko biloba and passion fruit for weight loss
In addition to being able to purify and facilitate the expulsion of toxins, this drink is an ally of the form weight thanks to its considerable content of water and fibers. It gives a good sense of satiety and, according to studies, it can even help speed up the metabolism and promote a better fat synthesis.
For all these reasons, the smoothie is perfect to consume often but, to prepare it for the best, do not forget to select quality food and make use of an efficient and reliable blender, which will become a faithful companion in many preparations.
Ingredients for 4 people ►
- 5 g of Gingko Biloba powder
- 200 g of passion fruit
- 300 g of carrot
- 95 g of agave syrup
wash, peel and cut the carrots into small pieces.
Wash the fruits of the passion, cut them in half taking care to collect the liquid that is inside and with a spoon extract the pulp avoiding taking the outer white part because it is bitter.
Put the pulp of the passion fruit and the chopped carrots in the blender, add the agave syrup and Gingko Biloba powder,
Blend until the mixture is smooth and homogeneous, pour into glasses and serve at the table, decorating as desired.
Ginkgo biloba pills
Ginkgo biloba is found in herbal medicine and in pharmacies in the form of tablets or capsules. It is advisable to take one or two a day, but not in the evening because it could cause excitement and hinder relaxation that prepares for nighttime sleep.
Despite its beneficial and regenerating properties, ginkgo biloba has some contraindications. In case of therapy it should not be associated with anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs, or garlic or willow products because it could increase the risk of gastric lesions. Furthermore, it is not recommended during pregnancy and during lactation and for children. For more safety always consult your doctor.
The products based on Ginkgo, although not giving any therapeutic indication, are presented as useful remedies for:
- combat psycho-physical fatigue;
- reinforce memory and concentration;
- slow down aging.
Obviously these are indications that are difficult to control but have a strong impact on the consumer.
These products also have a fairly characteristic presentation:
- capsules or oral vials;
- primary packaging: glass or plastic bottle;
- outer packing: often absent;
- information sheet: absent
- name of the drug (Ginkgo) possibly associated with the manufacturer;
- label graphics, colors and texts similar to products based on other plants of the same commercial line;
- lack of the nutritional information sheet.
Products presented without the outer packaging and the package insert have a presentation that is actually different from the classic ethical or over-the-counter (OTC) drug. These products are proposed, and presumably considered, exactly for what they are, ie as adjuvants and not as medicines. Consequently, the therapeutic effect is more related to placebo than to a real activity, and the consumer always assumes that the product is harmless.
Given that no product containing ginkgo is currently registered as an ethical or self-medication, the preparations containing them are proposed to doctors and pharmacists (who in some way should advise them), associating them with vague and fairly circumscribed indications, often supported from ambiguous scientific publications:
- cerebral insufficiency, senile dementia, adjuvant treatment in cerebral ischemia;
- adjuvant treatment of the intermittent claudication;
- treatment of tinnitus, peripheral vasculopathy;
- cytoprotective anti-oxidant action.
Evaluation of gingko content is often difficult due to incomplete labels, which specify the mass of the extract but not the title, or vice versa. However, two types of gingko-based products can be distinguished: those with a certain healthy efficacy and those that do not. For example, a product in capsules containing 50 mg of dried gingko leaf powder has a lower composition than recommended: the content in gingkoflavonglicosides (0.5%, ie 0.005 × 50 = 0.25 mg) and gingkolic acids is very lower than it needs to have a pharmacological action (about 10 mg). The same principle applies to products based on less concentrated gingko extracts (5-10% gingkoflavonglycosides), or considerably underweight compared to the reference value for the titrated extract of gingko EGB761.
Ginkgo biloba pharmacological interactions
Ginkgo biloba is used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, of intermittent claudication, to improve cognitive functions in cerebrovascular insufficiency and peripheral blood circulation. Among the numerous substances contained in ginkgo biloba, the most important from the pharmacological point of view are flavonoids and tripertenic lactones (Ginkgolides and bilobalids). Doses of dry extract of ginkgo biloba leaves used in therapy range between 112 and 200 mg per day usually divided into 3 doses.
Due to the effect of ginkgolide B, ginkgo biloba is able to reduce platelet aggregation. Several cases of haemorrhage deriving from the interaction of plant extracts with drugs that inhibit platelet aggregation are described in the literature. In a case report, referring to a 70-year-old patient already treated with aspirin, spontaneous haemorrhage is reported following the concomitant use of a ginkgo biloba extract. In another case, a fatal brain haemorrhage was reported in a 71-year-old patient who received concomitant ginkgo and ibuprofen.
In a further clinical case, ginkgo biloba was the cause of cerebral hemorrhage in a patient on chronic therapy with warfarin for five years. In this case, the interaction appears to have both a pharmacodynamic and a pharmacokinetic basis. In fact, Ginkgo biloba extracts are able to inhibit the microsomal metabolism of warfarin, for action on the cytochrome P450 isoenzymes CPY2C9 and CYP3A4.
Finally, cases of subdural hematoma, subarachnoid haemorrhage and spontaneous haemorrhage of iris have been reported in patients already treated with aspirin or ergotamine undergoing concomitant Ginkgo biloba. Based on these data, the combination of ginkgo and anticoagulant drugs or drugs that inhibit platelet aggregation should be avoided.
The effect of ginkgo biloba extracts on cytochrome P450 enzymes appears to be responsible for further pharmacokinetic interactions described in the literature. In a pharmacokinetic study conducted in healthy volunteers, it has been observed that the concomitant use of nifedipine and ginkgo increases plasma levels of the antagonist calcium through inhibition of the isozyme CYP3A4. In a further study, the ability of ginkgo extracts to increase blood levels of omeprazole with a mechanism involving CYP2C19 was highlighted.
Ginkgo flavonoids appear to be GABA agonists, as they are able to bind to benzodiazepine receptors. Although this bond does not produce significant sedation, a case of coma in a woman with Alzheimer’s disease, treated with trazodone and subjected to administration of a ginkgo biloba extract, is reported in the literature. The resolution of symptoms following the administration of flumazenil allowed to impute the effect to excessive stimulation of the ergic GABA receptors.
In experimental animals, ginkgo biloba showed a serotonergic activity. Based on this effect, ginkgo biloba extracts can interact with SSRIs. In the literature there is a case report of a 42-year-old woman who developed a hypomanic episode following the concomitant use of fluoxetine, buspirone, ginkgo biloba and St. John’s wort. The suspension of herbal remedies has favored the resolution of symptoms.
Ginkgo leaves and seeds contain 4-O-methylpyridoxine, a neurotoxin capable of inducing convulsions. Two clinical cases are reported in the literature, referring to two epileptic patients, well controlled with valproate sodium, who experienced convulsions following the intake of a ginkgo biloba extract. In both cases the effect was attributed to the 4-O-methylpyridoxine present in high quantities in the extract.
Theoretically, ginkgo biloba can alter the clinical efficacy of insulin. At the base of this effect there seems to be an increase in the functionality of the beta cells of the islets of Langerhans, induced by the plant. In diabetic patients treated with insulin, ginkgo use should be associated with frequent blood glucose monitoring.
Finally, a single case report is reported in the literature referring to an elderly woman who has experienced an increase in blood pressure following concomitant use of a thiazide diuretic (unspecified type and dose) and a ginkgo biloba extract. The suspension of the drug and of the herbal product allowed the resolution of the symptoms.
Ginkgo biloba extract in cosmetics
The extract of Ginkgo biloba is used for the preparation of cosmetics that have the purpose of protecting the skin from oxidative stress, in anti-aging products and intended to improve the functionality of the microcirculation (cellulite and capillary fragility). Topical use of Ginkgo biloba extract has no particular contraindications.
Ginkgo biloba in horticulture
If we are fascinated by the history and meaning of Ginkgo Biloba and we want to have one for ourselves in our garden, we must have some clear characteristics of this great plant. It is a tree that lives well in any environment, at any latitude, in any type of terrain. It is practically immune to smog and disease, considering that the radiation of the atomic bomb has not scratched the lifeblood, so maybe even ‘non-green thumbs’ can dare…
We take into account the spaces to be made available to the plant as it grows very quickly in height and after about 20 years will also completely develop its ample foliage. Also among the grafts it is possible to buy even smaller varieties.
For the first years pruning is not recommended, so it is really the ideal plant for those who have large spaces available, little time and little familiarity with botany, but above all want to leave a green heritage of multiple symbolic and phytotherapeutic values to future generations.
Ginkgo tree has a wide crown, pyramidal in young plants and oval in older specimens. The bark is smooth and silver-colored in young plants, becoming brownish-gray to dark brown and weaving cracked in mature specimens. It has deciduous leaves, long petiolate of light green color, which in autumn take on a very decorative yellow color, with a typical fan shape, bilobed. The flowers are dioecious, with male flowers depicted in pendulous catkins with numerous anthers isolated in pedunculate couples on a slender axis; the female ones are in pairs on a long pin-axis. The so-called fruits are drupes with a smelly smell and protect a seed appreciated in the kitchen when it is toasted.
Ginkgo is a gymnosperm and for this reason it does not present flowers as we usually mean them, but it has structures defined as cones or strobile or, as in this case, modified scales. It is a dioecious plant that brings separate male and female fertile structures on different plants. The fruits (of which the embryo is edible after roasting) are covered with a fleshy, pruinose yellow shell, with an unpleasant odor when ripe.
Ginkgo biloba is botanically a conifer but with the appearance of a large, beautiful and majestic deciduous tree. It has rather small leaves with a curious fan shape split in the middle by a cut that forms two lobes; their color is bright green that changes to golden yellow during the autumn. Ginkgo biloba grows quickly and is erect when young, while as an adult it forms over time a rich imposing foliage that can reach 30 meters in height.
It is one of the most resistant to smog plants and is practically immune to disease. It lives well in all types of terrain, is resistant to heat and cold more intense. All virtues that make it an excellent tree for city gardens and public green, but there is a flaw. Ginkgo biloba is a dioecious species, that is, the male and female flowers are found on different plants, the ‘female’ plants begin to fructify after 15/30 years and produce in October a large quantity of round, brown fruits, covered on the outside by a fleshy envelope containing seeds with a woody shell. And this is the problem, because when it is ripe, the fleshy shell rottens, emitting an unpleasant odor.
An owner of a ‘female’ plant does not have many solutions because the tree’s gender is noticed when it is 20/30 years old and in the meantime has become a big and very beautiful tree. Chopping it down to replace it creates many practical and naturally emotional problems!
In 1945, there were Ginkgo biloba trees in the Hiroshima gardens burned by the atomic plant, and some were right at the point of the explosion. Well in the following spring the stumps of these trees were the first and the only ones to emit leaves. For this reason, in the East and in the United States, Ginkgo biloba has become the symbol of rebirth.
Ginkgo reproduces easily from seed but the plants to be placed in the garden should be exclusively grafted because with this technique reproduces both the different varieties and the male clones that do not bear fruit. Unfortunately, in the nurseries we find the majority of Ginkgo from seed and we cannot know if the plant we are planting is male or female, to know we will have to wait a good few years, so it is worthwhile, at the time of purchase to ask the supplier the most ample guarantees.
Ginkgo biloba has given rise to more than thirty varieties, some interesting because they attenuate or eliminate the other defect of this plant, that is the large size that acquires as an adult and that does not allow the insertion in small spaces. In addition to the male clones, more modest shapes were selected.
Ginkgo biloba is in fact a rather ‘flimsy’ plant because its growth is different between plants and in time and it seems that the natural trend is irrelevant, as the quality of the soil or the more less assiduous. It does not like pruning that stops the vegetation for one or two years, so the cuts should be made only in case of absolute necessity and eliminating the minimum necessary.
Large plants react badly to transplants if they have not been well prepared in nurseries, while younger plants do not give problems. For planting it is naturally necessary to prepare a double or triple wide plate, to put little or no chemical fertilizer close to the ground bread, to anchor well leaving the brace for at least 2 or 3 years and to do the normal care you make to the plants as soon as they are transplanted, as irrigations, fertilizations and hoards, until it is clearly known that the plant has overcome the crisis. Subsequently, an adult and well-franked plant will not need any treatment.
Another warning is to give the tree all the space it needs, in fact if we have not chosen a variety from the nursery, we will have a plant that will continue to grow for many years and perhaps only our grandchildren will be able to see it fully developed.
Ginkgo biloba fruits
The fruits of Ginkgo are edible, despite the smell when ripe. Get rid of the shell, fleshy and smelly, until there remains a round hazelnut filled with pulp, but to get a good taste (between the potato and the peanut) the fruits must be cooked. In China they are sold in stores and fruit trees are widely cultivated, especially along the Yellow River.
The most widely used variety is ‘King of Dongting’, a large-brimmed female clone with large and abundant fruit from an early age. Edibility of the fruit has never interested the West, but now something can change: there are very productive varieties, not subject to diseases, which only want a few fertilizations and no treatment, nor pruning. Features that allow a naturally organic cultivation!