Ginkgo is the great-grandfather of all trees, a living bridge across time, reaching back to the dim prehistoric beginnings of life on earth. Ginkgo belongs to one of the oldest known plant families, whose fossil record goes back some 300 million years. Ginkgoes already colonised the earth before the dinosaurs evolve and many aeons before the first humanoids were born. Back in those primordial days there were many species of Ginkgo, but they were all swept away in the successive waves of mass extinctions that repeatedly wiped the life from the surface of our planet. All, but Ginkgo biloba, which today is the only species in the only genus of the prehistoric order of ginkgo plants. Ginkgoes are neither deciduous nor coniferous, they actually form a distinct order of their own. Throughout their ancient history they have managed to survive by virtue of their adaptability. Yet, had it not been for Buddhist monks in Japan and Southeast Asia, who held these trees sacred and tended them in their temple gardens, Ginkgoes would be extinct today. Although once upon a time they were widespread throughout the temperate climate zone, today they only survive in cultivated stands. They made their comeback to Europe some 200 years ago and after it transpired that this tree is extremely resistant to environmental toxins and even to radiation the world of science is lavishing new attention on this grand-father tree. In Hiroshima, 800 meters from the epicentre of the world's most devastating nuclear explosion a Gingko tree, which was believed to have been destroyed like everything else in its surroundings, began to sprout a fragile sprig of hope just one year after the cataclysmic event. Today that sprig has grown into a tree once more, symbolising hope and the immortal power of nature and life.
In China Ginkgo is well known as a tonic that ensures longevity and vitality. It is an excellent stimulant for the circulation, particularly the peripheral circulation and the flow of blood to the brain, which has proven to be of great service to age related conditions, such as memory loss, loss of nerve function, e.g. ocular degeneration and tinnitus. Numerous pharmaceuticals for age-related conditions today are based on Ginkgo, which are among the most frequently prescribed drugs. Gingko is a powerful anti-oxidant which kills free radicals and can thus help prevent many conditions that are at least partly caused by these scavengers. In China Ginkgo is also considered very helpful for respiratory conditions and is often prescribed for asthma and allergies. The nuts, which are edible, are considered aphrodisiac, although the effect is more tonic than stimulant.
Considering the survival skills of this ancient tree, it is not surprising that it should have come to symbolise longevity, the undying life-force and hope against all odds. The split nature of its leaves imply a symbolism of duality as opposites are united in one form. Ginkgo nuts are considered an elixir of life and are used to build potency, stamina and virility and are also associated with fertility, More than any other tree, Ginkgo has become the beloved tree of philosophers and poets.