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Ginkgo (Gingko biloba)

    ginkgo

    Family: Ginkgoaceae

    Grow zone: 4-9

    Ginkgo biloba, commonly known as ginkgo or maidenhair tree, is a popular herbal supplement that has been traditionally used for various purposes, including cognitive enhancement and mood support. While ginkgo is primarily known for its effects on memory and cognition, some individuals also use it as a potential treatment for depression and anxiety. Here’s some information on the use of ginkgo for these conditions:

    1. Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Effects: Ginkgo contains flavonoids and terpenoids, which act as antioxidants and may help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation has been linked to the development and progression of depression and anxiety, and ginkgo’s anti-inflammatory properties may contribute to its potential benefits including cognitive disorders, cardiovascular health, and eye health.
    2. Increased Blood Circulation: Ginkgo is believed to improve blood circulation and enhance the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. It may help support brain function and potentially alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
    3. Neuroprotective Effects: Ginkgo has been shown to have neuroprotective properties, potentially protecting nerve cells from damage and supporting overall brain health. It may help enhance neurotransmitter activity and improve the balance of chemicals in the brain, which can have positive effects on mood and anxiety.
    4. Mood Regulation: Some studies suggest that ginkgo may have a positive impact on mood regulation. It may help improve symptoms of depression by influencing neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which are involved in mood regulation.
    5. Anxiety Reduction: Ginkgo’s potential anxiolytic effects may be related to its influence on neurotransmitter activity, specifically in the GABAergic system. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps regulate anxiety and stress responses. Ginkgo may enhance GABA activity, leading to a calming effect and reduction in anxiety symptoms.
    6. Cognitive Support: Ginkgo is often used to support cognitive function and memory. It is believed to improve blood circulation and enhance oxygen and nutrient delivery to the brain. This can help improve cognitive performance, mental clarity, and memory in some individuals. Ginkgo supplements are commonly used by older adults who may experience age-related cognitive decline.
    7. Peripheral Circulation: Ginkgo has vasodilatory properties, meaning it can help widen blood vessels and improve blood flow, particularly in the peripheral areas of the body, such as the legs and arms. It is sometimes used to alleviate symptoms associated with poor circulation, such as cold hands and feet, leg cramps, and varicose veins.
    8. Tinnitus and Vertigo: Some studies suggest that ginkgo may have a positive effect on tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and vertigo (dizziness). It is believed to improve blood flow to the inner ear and help reduce symptoms associated with these conditions. However, more research is needed to establish its efficacy and determine the appropriate dosage.

    It’s important to note that while some studies suggest potential benefits of ginkgo for depression and anxiety, the evidence is not conclusive, and results may vary between individuals. It’s always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new treatment, including herbal supplements like ginkgo. They can provide personalized advice based on your specific health needs and potential interactions with other medications you may be taking.

    As with any herbal treatment, ginkgo should not replace professional medical advice or prescribed medications. It is best used as part of a holistic approach to mental health, which may include lifestyle modifications, counseling, and other evidence-based therapies for depression and anxiety.

    Medicinal Effects:

    Alterative (Health - increase; Vitality - increase): Restoring proper functioning to the body's metabolism, increasing health and vitality as well
    Anti-inflammatory: Alleviate inflammation throughout the body
    Antihistamine (Allergies - Reduce Symptoms):
    Antioxidant: A substance such as vitamin C or E that removes potentially damaging oxidizing agents in a living organism.
    Antispasmodic (syn. Spasmolytics; Spasms - reduce): prevents and eases spasms and relieves cramps  
    Astringent (Also See Acne):
    Relaxant:
    Vasodilator (Blood Vessels - Dilate):

    How to grow and harvest

    Growing and harvesting ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) requires patience as it is a slow-growing tree. Here’s a general guide on how to grow and harvest ginkgo:

    1. Climate and Location: Ginkgo trees are hardy and can tolerate a wide range of climates. They prefer full sun but can also tolerate partial shade. Ginkgo trees are adaptable to various soil types, but they thrive in well-draining soil.
    2. Propagation: Ginkgo trees can be grown from seeds or propagated through grafting or cuttings. Propagating from seeds is the most common method. Collect mature ginkgo fruits (resembling small apricots) from the ground or directly from the tree in the fall. Remove the outer fleshy pulp, as it can cause skin irritation, and wear gloves during the process. Soak the seeds in water for a few days to soften the outer seed coat. Plant the seeds in well-draining soil, burying them about an inch deep. Keep the soil consistently moist.
    3. Planting and Care: Plant the ginkgo seeds or seedlings in the desired location. Ensure proper spacing between trees, as ginkgos can grow to be quite large. Water the trees regularly, especially during the first few years of growth. Mulching around the base of the tree can help conserve moisture and suppress weed growth. Prune the tree as needed to maintain its shape and remove any dead or damaged branches.
    4. Growth and Harvesting: Ginkgo trees are slow-growing, and it may take several years for them to reach maturity and bear fruit. Ginkgo trees typically start producing fruit after about 20 years of growth. The female trees produce fruit, while male trees are primarily planted for ornamental purposes as they do not produce fruit. Harvest the fruit when they turn yellow and fall from the tree. Remove the fleshy outer layer and extract the inner seed, which is the part used for propagation or medicinal purposes.
    5. Medicinal Use: The inner seed of the ginkgo, also known as ginkgo nuts, is used for its medicinal properties. The nuts can be consumed raw or cooked, but they have a strong, pungent taste that may not be appealing to everyone. Some people prefer to purchase ginkgo supplements or extracts from reputable sources instead of harvesting and preparing the nuts themselves.

    It’s worth noting that ginkgo trees can grow to be quite large, up to 80 feet (24 meters) tall, and may not be suitable for small gardens or spaces. Additionally, female ginkgo trees produce a foul-smelling fruit when they mature, which some people find unpleasant.

    Ginkgo Extract Recipe

    Making ginkgo extract at home requires specialized equipment and expertise. It involves the use of solvents and precise measurements to ensure the extraction of the active compounds from the ginkgo leaves. Due to the complexity and potential risks involved, it is highly recommended to purchase standardized ginkgo extracts from reputable sources. These extracts are typically manufactured under controlled conditions and have consistent quality and potency.

    If you still wish to proceed with making ginkgo extract at home, here is a general recipe to follow. Please note that this recipe is provided for informational purposes only, and caution should be exercised when handling solvents.

    Ingredients:

    • Dried ginkgo leaves
    • High-proof alcohol or ethanol (such as vodka or Everclear)
    • Glass jar with a tight-fitting lid
    • Strainer or cheesecloth
    • Distillation apparatus or water bath for solvent evaporation
    • Airtight container for storage

    Instructions:

    1. Start by thoroughly drying the ginkgo leaves. Dry the leaves by spreading them out in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight until they become crispy.
    2. Place the dried ginkgo leaves in a glass jar and cover them with the chosen solvent (high-proof alcohol or ethanol). Ensure that the leaves are fully submerged in the solvent.
    3. Seal the jar with a tight-fitting lid and store it in a cool, dark place for several weeks. During this time, the solvent will extract the active compounds from the leaves. Shake the jar gently every few days to facilitate the extraction process.
    4. After the extraction period, strain the liquid extract using a fine strainer or cheesecloth to remove the solid plant material. You can repeat this process a few times to ensure a clear extract.
    5. Once the liquid extract is obtained, the next step is to evaporate the solvent to obtain a concentrated ginkgo extract. This can be done using a distillation apparatus or a water bath. Carefully heat the liquid extract under controlled conditions to allow the solvent to evaporate. It is crucial to perform this step in a well-ventilated area and follow proper safety guidelines when working with solvents and heat sources.
    6. Once the solvent has evaporated, you will be left with a concentrated ginkgo extract. Transfer the extract to a clean, airtight container for storage. Store it in a cool, dark place to maintain its potency.