Botanical.com recognizes Ginkgo biloba as "the oldest living tree on the planet that's been used safely for over 3000 years. " The paleontologists and evolutionists are also much interested in the Ginkgo although, as already stated, no wild localities are known where the trees grow, it has been discovered by its fossil remains to have been once widely scattered over the face of the globe.
Buddhist monks cultivated the tree from about 1100 AD for its many good qualities." Plant collectors from the West eventually were sold on Ginkgo biloba trees and brought specimens home.
It is uncertain whether the maidenhair tree still persists in the wild and at present there are no conservation projects in place.
Cultivated trees are found throughout the world, however, and a multi-million dollar industry has cashed in on the leaves' medicinal properties
In Japan the seeds are called ginnan. The Japanese way of using Ginkgo as a medicine originates from the Chinese tradition.
The seeds' medicinal use is mentioned in the 'Great Herbal' Pen Tsao Kang Mu compiled by Li Shih-chen (1578) which in still in use in TCM.
Dr. C.A. Stuart and Dr. F. Porter Smith translated and researched this herbal and used it as a working base for their publication of 'Chinese Medicinal Herbs' (1911). In their work they write: "The seeds are supposed to benefit asthma, coughs, irritability of the bladder, blenorrhoa and uterine fluxes.
Eaten raw they destroy cancer and are counter-vinous. Cooked they are said to be peptic and anthelmintic, and are similarly used by the Japanese to promote digestion. In some cases they appear to cause peculiar symptoms of intoxication."
They also mention the use of the wood for seals used as charms by quacks in the treatment of disease.
Kaempfer mentions the seeds as an aid for digestion and bladder. Thunberg writes in Flora Japonica (1784) that the seeds are eaten raw or roasted in Japan and in 1819 Franz von Jaquin notes in 'Ueber den Ginkgo' the use as a digestive aid.
The earliest record of the use of the leaves as a medicine is said to be mentioned in the Chinese Materia Medica Shen Nung Pen Tsao Ching (which should originate from about 2800 BC or from the Han dynasty [206BC-220AD]) as an aid for blood circulation and the lungs. This record cannot be confirmed however because the original of this work has never been found.
Dian Nan Ben Cao (Lan Mao) (1436) mentions the use of the leaves for skin treatment, head sores and freckles. They are also used for chilblains and as a wound plaster.
The internal use is first mentioned in the Ben Cao Pin Hui Jing Yao (1505) by Liu Wen-Tai as used against diarrhea.