Ginkgo nuts come from the Ginkgo biloba tree, native to China. Ginkgo has a very fascinating history. It is sometimes called a living fossil because it is the oldest and only remaining representative of a perished botanical family (Ginkgoaceae) and its existence dates back to more than 250 million years. It was also the only flora to resprout in the spring following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The ginkgo tree has also earned an unenviable moniker ginkgo stinko, because the fresh fallen fruit smells horribly putrid.
Both the leaves and nut of the Ginkgo are used medicinally. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and circulatory and vasodilator effects, boosting blood flow to the brain and extremities. Ginkgo is widely reported to improve cognitive function, mental alertness, memory and guard against age-related onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The leaves are often steeped as tea, and the nuts, which have a starchy chestnut-like flavour, are added as a garnish to Chinese, Japanese and Korean dishes such as congee, chawanmushi and barley soup. Ginkgo nuts must be cooked as the raw seeds contain toxic compounds called ginkgotoxins (chemically 4-O-methylpyridoxine), a vitamin B6 antagonist, which are greatly degraded by roasting or boiling. Nevertheless it is recommended to eat no more than 5-10 heat-treated ginkgo nuts (6-15 g) a day as some toxins may remain in prepared foods.
Ginkgo is an anticoagulant and should therefore be used cautiously by people with clotting disorders or taking other anticoagulant medications.« Back to Glossary Index