Ginkgo biloba is a deciduous tree that grows to forty metres with a spread of seven metres. This attractive tree is a native of Southeast China and is grown as an ornamental tree along streets, in parks and some large gardens in temperate regions of the world such as Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the United States. The male tree is the preferred choice for planting because the fallen ripe fruits of female trees have a very unpleasant smell.
The leaves are used in herbal medicine and can be gathered from midsummer until just before they start turning yellow in mid-autumn. Medicinal actions of the leaves include anti-inflammatory, insecticidal, antispasmodic, vasodilator and anti-fungal. The Chinese have used Ginkgo for 4000 years to benefit the brain and treat coughs, asthma, and filaria and modern clinical trials have proved its efficacy in the treatment of many conditions including: intermittent claudication, cerebral insufficiency, blood and plasma viscosity and the perfusion of the brain after a stroke; short term memory improvement, improved long distance visual acuity associated with macular degeneration; tinnitus, and relief of impotence due to deficient penile blood flow.
Ginkgo is used in the treatment of headaches, dementia, transient ischaemic attacks, acute cochlear deafness, Raynaud's syndrome, cerebral vascular insufficiency and associated tinnitus, diabetic peripheral vascular disease, venous insufficiency, vertigo, depression with poor attention, peripheral vascular insufficiency, cerebral oedema, short term memory loss, and is a prophylactic for strokes/ischaemic heart disease.
Possible Side Effects of Ginkgo biloba
Although rare, possible side effects when using standardised doses include: vomiting and diarrhoea, risk of bleeding, gastric disturbance, restlessness and headache. Ginkgo biloba extract could have anti-platelet activity so those taking medications such as Warfarin and Aspirin should avoid taking any Ginkgo preparations unless under close supervision to alter doses appropriately. Ginkgo may potentiate the efficiency of Haloperidol in patients with schizophrenia.
Never take strong herbs without consulting your preferred health professional.