Modern herbal medicine is a quite effective method of healing with the help of herbs. Moreover, frequently, this kind of medicine is the only method to treat various diseases in children and adults. Nowadays, many people find the source of good health in herbal medicine as the main recipes of practical herbal medicine have many advantages. In the world, there are many plants that have medicinal properties. In recent years, ginkgo biloba has become widely known due to the popularity of natural medicines, which include ginkgo. Having a long history, ginkgo biloba is legally and successfully used in the modern medicine to prolong the active life of millions of people.
Ginkgo is often called a living fossil. This mysterious plant is a contemporary of the dinosaurs that existed about 300 million years ago. In the Mesozoic era, a class of this plant already numbered numerous species throughout the world. Therefore, nowadays, it is impossible to find a plant that is similar to ginkgo biloba. For the first time, the healing properties of this wonderful plant were discovered in ancient China. At that time, mainly seeds of this herb were used for the treatment of respiratory diseases as well as diseases of the liver and bladder. Nowadays, ginkgo is also used to relieve symptoms of asthma and sometimes as a secondary drug for bronchitis.
In traditional medicine, people began to study ginkgo biloba only in the 60s. Scientists researched the plant in parallel gathering all information of ancient healers about this herb. The tree has an amber-colored fruits with a silvery sheen that resemble apricots. They are harvested in late fall after the first frost. The kernel is separated from the pulp, washed, dried and used for medicinal purposes and cooking. The pulp is also edible. However, it is rough and has unpleasant rancid odor.
The Chemical Composition and Biological Effects
Modern technologies have allowed studying the chemical composition and biological effects of ginkgo biloba components. It turned out that the tree is a healer. Its composition is unique. It contains more than 40 biologically active substances, and some of them are found only in this plant. Leaves of the plant have incredible medicinal properties. “The dried green leaves of the ginkgo tree provide the crude drug, from which ginkgo extracts are obtained” (Schulz, 2004, p 45). The uniqueness of ginkgo is not only in the presence of a large number of biologically active substances, but also in the fact that they operate in a complex. All components supplement each other.
Ginkgo biloba is a plant, which prolongs youth. No wonder, it is called a tree of youth. After all, it has unusually powerful healing properties that help stop the aging process. According to scientific researches, it is the best means of stimulating the blood circulation and mental activity. It is especially important for people over 40 years since at this age, vessels begin to lose their elasticity. Nowadays, preparations with ginkgo biloba are an important part of traditional medicine with sales more than half a billion dollars a year. The effectiveness of preparations with ginkgo is associated with the presence of unique ginkgolides, bioflavonoids, and proanthocyanidins. They have a complex effect on the circulatory system, heart, brain, liver, eyes, and all the other organs. These elements are in the leaves of the plant.
Ginkgo biloba contains:
- Flavonol glycosides.
- Terpenes – ginkgolides, bilobalide.
- Organic and ginkgolic acids.
- Amino acids.
- Waxes, steroids, essential oils, and alkaloids.
- Micro and macro elements (selenium, manganese, titanium, copper, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron).
Nowadays, ginkgo biloba is already firmly on the top of the popularity ranking of medicinal herbs earning considerable authority among the adherents of herbal medicine and alternative therapies. “Ginkgo biloba is renowned for its property of lowering the toxicity from abiotic substances” (Hori, 1997, 19). The plant also influences the cardiovascular system, reduces the pain of migraine, and improves memory. However, really, this plant is the best-known for the treatment of diseases of the brain. Ginkgo biloba has no equal in the struggle with vertigo. It helps relieve cerebral insufficiency, including such symptoms as dizziness and headaches. According to the studies, after taking the drug, the blood flow to the brain significantly increases. The blood pressure also improves.
In the treatment of migraine, ginkgo biloba also proved its utility. It stimulates the improvement of the state and even eliminates symptoms in 80% of patients. Some scientists believe that this plant has a magnificent effect in the treatment of memory disorders in Alzheimer’s disease; in addition, it improves memory of healthy people. However, judging by the results of the studies recently completed by American medical scientists, this plant neither prevents the decline of intellectual abilities of the person nor slows the development of Alzheimer’s disease. One of the longest and most rigorous studies ever conducted with ginkgo biloba did not find evidence that it can prevent the disease among the elderly who have problems with memory. Dementia occurs in every third person after 65 years. At present, it appears that in the fight against dementia, there is no medicine but regular physical activity, healthy eating, and healthy lifestyle (Pizzorno & Murray, 2012).
This plant has several contraindications:
- Individual intolerance.
- Pregnancy and breast-feeding.
- Age up to 12 years.
- Tendency to bleed.
- Disorders of cerebral circulation and myocardium in the acute period.
- Simultaneous treatment with anticoagulants and drugs that reduce blood viscosity.
- The period of preparation for surgery.
Patients, who take aspirin and anticoagulants, are not recommended to use the drugs with the extract of ginkgo biloba leaves. However, the combination of ginkgo biloba with other herbal preparations, for example, an extract of aloe or ginseng root, gives a great effect.
Healing qualities of the ginkgo tree repeatedly described by Chinese doctors were proved by the modern science. The demand for it has increased dramatically. The largest pharmaceutical companies in Germany, France, America, and Japan grow this plant on environmentally friendly plantations. They receive the raw material for future therapeutic and cosmetic preparations. Hundreds of drugs produced in the form of tablets, capsules, solutions, and gels are patented and certified.
The ginkgo tree is a very hardy plant. It is almost impregnable to insects, pests, viruses, pathogenic fungi, and bacteria. It is immune to diseases, unpretentious to soils, relatively cold-resistant and even capable of absorbing toxic smog. Therefore, in Japan, it is considered a symbol of longevity and durability. In Japan, China, and Korea, this tree is sacred. Ginkgo is of great value not only medically, but also from a cultural standpoint. It was glorified by many poets and writers.
Scientists began to study unique healing properties of ginkgo biloba only in the 60s of the XX century. It contains three groups of the complex compounds of ginkgolides, bioflavonoids, and proanthocyanidins. It is believed that they increase the blood flow and improve circulation of blood. Other advantages of ginkgo biloba include antioxidant properties that reduce the level of harmful free radicals as well as increase the level of oxygen and nutrients in the central nervous system. Ginkgo biloba is the most important medicinal plant that was sold in Europe and the USA during the last decade.
- Hori, T. (1997). Ginkgo biloba - A global treasure: From biology to medicine. Berlin: Springer.
- Pizzorno, J. E., & Murray, M. T. (2012). Textbook of natural medicine. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
- Schulz, V. (2003). Rational phytotherapy: A reference guide for physicians and pharmacists. Berlin: Springer.