The Ginkgo Biloba tree has been referred to as a “living fossil.” This is because it is the only living member of the Ginkgoales family. Individual trees may live as long as 3000 years, just another reason to call this plant a “living fossil.” with long lasting spirit. This tree provides a direct link to our prehistory through its unchanging structure. Most of these earlier trees were males.
The Buddhist monks had cultivated the tree since the 1100s. There seems to be no association with religious institutions; it has always been the custom of the Buddhist as well as the Taoist priests to preserve venerable species on temple grounds. Very old trees are often revered and preserved because of age and not kind. In this Edo-period Ginkgo trees were connected to shape-shifters and spirits and not planted in gardens (possible influence of the assassination of Minamoto no Sanetomo under a Ginkgo tree near the temple of Tsurugoaka in 1219). Mention of the ginkgo first appeared in Chinese literature in the 11th century during the Sung dynasty. After that point, it appeared throughout Chinese art and poetry. Its “fruits” (seeds) and leaves were often praised in literature. After the Sung and Yuan dynasties, the Ginkgo became widely cultivated across China. According to the Contemporary Ginkgo Encyclopedia of China the edible nuts were a food source since at least the Han dynasty (206BC-220AD). The seeds were not mentioned in herbals until the Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368) in Li Tung-wan's 'Edible Herbal' (Shih Wu Pen Ts'ao) and the 1350 work, Wu-Jui's 'Herbal for Daily Usage' Jih Jung Pen Ts'ao. It later spread by seed to Japan and Korea. The seeds were compared to walnuts and mentioned as a substitute for lotus seeds. In 1578 it is noted that the seeds were consumed at weddings. Japanese textbooks mention the ginkgo as early as 1492 as a dessert at tea ceremonies. In the 18th century, they became a side dish for sake. The grilled nuts are still eaten today in Japan when drinking sake. The medicinal use of ginkgo has a long history. The leaves and seeds (nuts) have both been used in traditional medicines. The earliest possible mention of the medicinal use of the leaves may have been during the Han dynasty between 206 BC and 220 AD. The first confirmed mention in literature is in 1436, which mentions the use of the leaves as a treatment for head sores and freckles.
Engelbert Kaempfer, a German physician, and botanist found it in 1691. He lived in Japan from 1690 till 1692 and described the Ginkgo tree in his book Amoenitatum exoticarum (1712). It had survived in China in the monasteries and temple gardens. Regarded as guard to entreat fire, it was planted near the pagodas, in the imperial gardens in China, wood crowned of the temples.
Illustration in Pen Tsao Kang Mu of Ginkgo with seeds (1578).
The ginkgo seeds were brought to Europe from Japan in the early 18th century and later that century to America. The oldest European ginkgo would have been sown in 1730 in the Utrecht Botanical Garden. In 1762, Ginkgo was cultivated in Kew Botanical Garden (London). The oldest French ginkgo was sown in Montpellier in 1778. A rich person ship-owner of Montpellier could acquire a foot of Ginkgo, in England, for the extravagant sum of forty ecus. Ginkgo biloba was first brought into the United States by William Hamilton for his garden in Philadelphia in 1784. It was a favorite tree of Architect Frank Lloyd Wright and made its way into city landscapes across North America. Ginkgo, with its spreading rigidly ramified branches and curiously shaped leaves is a tree of great distinction and dignity in appearance. As the paleobotanist, Sir Albert Seward (1938) remarks: "It appeals to the historic soul: we see it as an emblem of changelessness, a heritage from worlds too remote for our human intelligence to grasp, a tree which has in its keeping the secrets of the immeasurable past." Western medicine began to look at the use of Ginkgo in the 1950s.
One of the most famous ginkgo biloba trees was located in Hiroshima. It was growing near a temple that was 1.1 kilometers from the blast center where the atom bomb was dropped on August 6 1945. The tree was still standing after the bomb was dropped, even though the temple and everything surrounding it was destroyed. The tree began to bud again after the blast with no apparent deformities. The temple was later rebuilt around the tree.
Ginkgo has really very long list of Health Benefits
- Antidiabetic and prevents late diabetic complications
- Antidepressant and inhibits anxiety
- Anti-stress agent
- DNA protective effect
- Decreases the symptoms of intermittent claudication
- Effective for premenstrual syndrome
- Helps improve symptoms of psychiatric disorders
- Helps protect the heart
- Improve blood circulation
- Neuroprotective, helps improve cognition
- Treats sexual dysfunction
- Positive effect on mood
- Prevents eye infections helps restore vision
- Prevents fatigue
- Prevent infections
- Protects the skin
- Protects the liver
- Prevent metabolic syndrome
- Protects from hearing disorders
- Prevent respiratory diseases and allergies
- Reduces mucosal damage
- Preventing bed wetting
- Soothe bladder irritation
- Treating gonorrhea
- Treating intestinal worms
- Memory enhancement, dementia, Alzheimer's
- May be used to prevent cancer
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