Ginkgo trees are thought to be the oldest living trees in the world. Some specie’s existence have been dated back all the way to the Permian Period, around 248 – 286 million years ago! Scientists have discovered fossils that suggest species of Ginkgo were wide spread throughout Europe, Asia and America. However, only one species, Ginkgo biloba exists to this day.
The survival of Ginkgo biloba was found by German scientist to be because of its outstanding adaptability and evolution. Through this, it managed to survive through the ice age where other Ginkgo species fell. This adaption means they are different to their ancient counterparts, but not necessarily for the worse, as they hold a lot of medicinal value. To give you an example of the adaptability and resilience of Ginkgo, consider this: there is a particularly large and ancient Ginkgo tree growing in Hiroshima just 1.1 kilometers from where the atomic bomb was dropped. After the war, the tree was still standing, healthy and to this day has shown no signs of deformity.
The awesome qualities of Ginkgo were first recognized by the Chinese. The Ginkgo nut has been used for over 5000 years to treat such ailments as asthma and polyuria. However, mainstream medical use of the nuts were not recorded until 1578. Even though Ginkgo has been used for millennia, it was not until the 1950’s when Western medicine started looking at its use. This led to the discovery of its potent chemical compounds and the potential application of the leaves of the Ginkgo tree, which have now been entered in to the Chinese materia medica and are used as an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine.
To this day, Ginkgo is the most used herbal supplement in the world for enhancing cognitive function.