Ginkgo biloba is a “living fossil” as was stated by Charles Darwin (1959).It is the oldest living tree species in the world.The Ginkgo species dates all the way back to the Permian Period some 286 to 248 million years ago.Ginkgos began increasing in number a great deal in the middle of the Jurassic Period through the Cretaceous Period approximately 213million to 66.4 million years ago. During this era of the first flowering plants and the height of the Dinosaurs, fossils revealed several different Ginkgo species.These species were common and outspread in Asia, Europe, and America.This era along with its incredible kingdom of plants and animals ended with complete extinction.Scientists had thought that Ginkgo, along with the rest of the prehistoric plants and animals, had too ceased to exist.It was not until 1691 that Englebert Kaempfer (1651-1692), a German Physician and Botanist, made a most amazing discovery in China.Ginkgo had somehow survived the devastating Ice Age, although it was not quite the same as its ancient ancestors.Due to environmental changes, the ancient Ginkgo had evolved. Today, Ginkgo biloba is the only surviving member of the Ginkgo family.This survival is said to be owed to its remarkable adaptability, resistance to disease, and to Buddhist monks who cultivated and preserved the trees on sacred grounds.In fact one particular story tells of a rather large, ancient Ginkgo tree in Hiroshima.It sat 1.1 km away from the where an atomic bomb landed on August 6th 1945 during the end of World War II destroying a religious temple.The tree continued to bud after the blast with no major deformations.After the war they considered cutting down the tree to rebuild the temple.Instead, the temple was rebuilt and adjusted around the giant Ginkgo tree with the front stairs splitting on either side of it.Engraved on the tree is “No more Hiroshima” and peoples prayers for peace. Interestingly, four atomic bombed Ginkgo trees are still alive today.
In 1778 Ginkgo was brought into North America by William Hamilton for his own personal garden.Credit for its popularity is given to Frank Lloyd Wright, a well known architect of the 20th century.It was a favorite of his and soon made its way into city landscapes across the United States.Modern day streets of New York City are still lined with the beautiful trees and it has become popular in landscapes worldwide.
Landscape is not the only use mankind has found for this primeval plant.The recorded medicinal uses of Ginkgo in China can be tracked back nearly 5000 years, chiefly as a treatment for asthma. The use of Ginkgo nuts has been recorded in Japanese text books since 1492.They were used at weddings and tea ceremonies as sweets and deserts.Medicinal uses of the seeds were not recorded until around 1578 in the ‘Great Herbal’ or Pen tsao kang mu by Li Shin-chen.The leaves were later used for medicinal purposes in Asia but became more of a western medicine practice in the 1950’s.The first extract from the leaves was produced in 1965 by Dr. Willmar Schwabe.Since that time, the eminence of Ginkgo biloba has spread and its medicinal properties are desired through out populations all over the world.Ginkgo is today the most widely used herbal treatment for mind enhancement as well as treatment for other various diseases.
 Kwant, Cor.Hiroshima: A Bombed Ginkgo.The Ginkgo Pages.
 Griggs, Barbara.GREEN PHARMACY: The History and Evolution of Western Herbal Medicine