Ginkgo – An Herbal Alternative

I sit in my apartment at the university in China where I teach English, a cup of strange and rather unpleasant tea before me. The tea is an infusion made of ginkgo leaves. I add a bag of jasmine flavored tea to my cup to improve the taste and ensure my tongue does not impede the brew from spreading its goodness, all the way from my brain and heart to the tiniest capillaries in my body. Ginkgo leaves contain some substances that thin the blood and help in a variety of other ways.

Ginkgo Biloba, as they are commonly known, are among the oldest trees in the world. For this reason, they are often called 'living fossils'. The Chinese discovered the benefits of ginkgo at least 1500 years ago while the Europeans discovered it only about 300 years ago. I discovered the benefits of ginkgo a few weeks ago when I chanced upon a pack of gingko leaves at a store and decided to try it after having read of its benefits online. The Chinese, Japanese and Koreans venerate this old tree and they can be found at many temple sites of the orient. Similarly, Buddhist monks, having understood the numerous benefits the tree endowed ensured they were in their mid. Ginkgo symbolized changlelessness (makes sense as the tree is known to have survived almost unchanged for hundreds of thousands of years), miraculous power (to survive as long as the tree has survived, indeed tells of some miraculous power), hope and love and then of longevity, too! (source: 'The Ginkgo Pages').

Not only did the orientals venerate this old tree, they even followed fashions inspired by the Ginkgo trees. Japanese women wore their hair in a bun shaped like ginkgo leaves and more intriguingly, the Sumo wrestlers too wore their hair to resembble ginkgo. They continue to do so even today. However, only the best wrestlers are allowed this 'honor'.

TCM or Chinese Traditional Medicine uses ginkgo for many diseases such as bronchitis, wheezing, asthma, cough, diarrhea, gonorrhea, urinary problems and various other ailments. In addition, cooked ginkgo seeds are also used as an aphrodisiac for increasing sexual energy and sperm production.

Raw ginkgo seeds are said to be toxic and are, therefore, not usually eaten though some studies suggest they can fight cancer. Ginkgo can have some side-effects and patients using certain kinds of medicines such as cyclosporine. cephalosporin, penicillin etc. are advised not to use ginkgo. However, there are other other sources that suggest ginkgo has few or no side-effects. In matters of health, however, the policy of 'better safe than sorry' is a lot better than to 'jump in where angels fear to tread'.

However, those who are convinced about Ginkgo should give it a try. Some reports suggest that the best way to gain from Ginkgo is to go for ginkgo extracts in the form of a pill. I am going to give it a try and if I find it beneficial I will tell you more.

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