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Ginkgo biloba, a plant that is not only beautiful but also of a certain historical and cultural importance, given that it is the only survivor of the family Ginkgoaceae, of the entire order Ginkgoales and the division of Ginkgophyta. It comes from China and is very often called vulgarly ginko or ginco or maidenhair tree.
Its official name is also a "tarot": it probably derives from a transcription error committed by the German botanist Engelbert Kaempfer who stumbled upon the Japanese ginkyō (ぎ ん き ょ う?) Deriving from the Chinese 銀杏 "yin-kuo" (銀, yín «Silver» and 杏, xìng «apricot»; 銀杏 T, yínxìngP, «silver apricot»). A linguistic word of mouth that today leads us to ginkgo biloba, biloba because - from the Latin bis and lobus - we want to remember the division into two leaf lobes, fan-shaped. You cannot fail to have them present, in autumn they are magic in magic, when they fall floating like in yellow ecstasy.
I'm not the only one who loves this plant which is even the symbol of Tokyo city, and with me in addition to millions of Japanese, there is also the Poet J. W. von Goethe (1749-1832). "The leaf of this tree, entrusted from the east to my garden, a secret sense makes you savor as much as the wise like to do.". He describes it with these verses, when he appears to him in one of his travels. I will talk about it more pragmatically. And not in verse.
Ginkgo biloba: tree
Survivor of an extinct family, very ancient tree, born over 250 million years ago in the Permian, the ginkgo biloba it is rightly considered a living fossil. This arboreal plant, which reaches even 30–40 meters, shows a rather large crown, up to 9 m, with a pyramidal shape in the young plants and oval in the older ones. Always as a young man, branches sprout from the trunk here and there but then over the years they become a fixed presence, and with many branches to follow.
The wood of the ginkgo biloba it is yellow in color, the bark is smooth and silver in color, then aging brownish-gray to dark brown. The leaves are the most beautiful: not large, 5-8 cm, with a light green leaf, in autumn they turn into bright yellow flakes and fall decoratively with their rounded and graceful fan.
Being a gymnosperm, this age-old plant has no real flowers, as we understand them. We can be satisfied with those structures that are defined cones or strobili and they are the closest thing to flowers, by homology. But we can focus on the leaves that perform much more, aesthetically speaking.
Ginkgo biloba: cultivation
If I say that the ginkgo biloba is a heliophilic species, you immediately understand that it wants to stay in sunny positions and in a cool climate, in terms of soils it is not pretentious: better in acidic and non-asphyxiated ones but it adapts and tolerates even low temperatures, down to -35 ° C.
So far I have omitted to mention that the seeds of this plant have a very unpleasant smell, so usually we try to choose male specimens to avoid having it in the nose all day. It is not easy because sex is hardly recognizable by sight.
It was a male specimen, however, on which, in the mid-nineteenth century, a female branch was grafted for educational purposes the first Ginkgo biloba imported to Italy. We are in 1750, in the Botanical Garden of Padua, and the tree is UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ginkgo biloba: bonsai
Very common, and equally appreciated for its aesthetics, is also the ginkgo biloba bonsai, to be used when it is small in size in order to be able to easily modify the course of the branches. You can start it to take the shape of a candle or an inverted broom, for example.
The cultivation of ginkgo biloba bonsai is not very difficult. The leaves are quite large and the whole plant tends to develop slowly, so as soon as there are 5 or 6 leaves per branch it is necessary to proceed with the topping. However, among the bonsai it is one of the oldest, it is fine even if kept outdoors, in a sunny place apart from in summer when it is better in dim light. The ginkgo biloba bonsai it reaches considerable dimensions and is often cultivated in pots that are immediately quite wide and deep, even if it is repotted almost every year.
Ginkgo biloba: fruits
Being a plant of the Gymnosperm family, the ginkgo biloba it has seeds that are not protected by the ovary and that look like fruit. There is confusion among non-experts who see these apricot-shaped structures covered with a fleshy casing produced by female specimens and think of fruit. But they are seeds, are 1.5-2 cm long, yellow in color, with that unpleasant smell I have already told you about. The fertilization of the ginkgo biloba takes place on the ground in early autumn, flowering is in spring and, between pollination and fertilization, a few months pass.
photo from Wikimedia Commons by Giaccai
Ginkgo biloba: properties and benefits
As an element to create windbreak curtains or, more simply as an ornamental plant in parks, avenues and gardens, the ginkgo biloba although coming from China it is also very present in Italy and Europe. This is also because it shows a remarkable resistance to pollutants. In addition to our continent, this plant is now grown industrially in Japan, Korea and the United States and then its leaves are used as a medicine. Even the wood, yellowish, can be used: it is made furniture, or it becomes the object of lathe and carving work, but it is of low quality, very fragile.
The seeds, only the woody internal part, in Asia are eaten at the table and sold as "White Nuts", in Japan they are added to many dishes, for example the chawanmushi, and used as a side dish. From a medical and pharmaceutical point of view, it is better to be cautious: there are some hypotheses that do not enjoy unanimous approval by the scientific community.
For example, one hypothesis is related to a cerebrovascular function and memory disorders, such as to indicate the ginkgo biloba an aid against Alzheimer's disease. The leaves contain terpenes, polyphenols, flavonoids (ginketol, isiginketol, bilabetol, ginkolide) and those who take anticoagulants, acetylsalicylic acid, ticlopidine, thiazide diuretics, pentoxifylline, thrombolytics, caffeine, ergotamine are better than just looking at them in the fall when they fall. As I do. It is also recommended not to associate the ginkgo biloba to products based on garlic or derived from willow: the mix could increase the risks of gastrolesivity.
Other alleged effects on health are the regulatory action on circulation and that of opposing free radicals: if that were the case, we would have help against physical and mental stress. THE gingkolides would reduce heart attacks caused by vascular occlusion, the Bilobalideinstead, it would protect against ischemic damage.
Moving on to a softer, naïve field, allow me, we find the ginkgo biloba in cosmetic products, to be used spread on the skin to restore the right lipid balance. It is excellent if the epidermis is dry or shows cracks, in winter for example.
Taking a step back in time, in the first major Chinese herbarium the ginkgo biloba it was described as a beneficial substance for the heart and lungs, also suggested to treat asthma, chilblains and swellings caused by cold. In addition to the ancient Chinese and Japanese, Indian Ayurvedic healers also associated it with longevity, using it as an ingredient in the "soma", the elixir of life.
Ginkgo biloba tablets
If in doubt, whether or not to believe in the ancient wisdom of monks and Ayurvedics, we can try 100% tablets Natural ginkgo biloba: one pack of 15.80 euros, with 120 can be enough to verify who is right.
Ginkgo biloba Green Tea
For those wary of tablets, a softer, and I would say steaming, but not smoky, attempt is this green tea with ginkgo biloba always all natural. With 50 sachets, one a day, we have almost two months of ginkgo therapy, of elixir of life, to listen to the Indians, certainly of a tasty infusion that does not hurt at all, and for only 15 euros.
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