Welcome back to another Korean Herb Of The Month article! Known as a “living fossil”, this tree can be traced back to the time of the Three Kingdoms in Korea. The golden kernels of the Ginkgo Biloba can be found in side dishes in South Korea. However, parts of the herb can also be found in traditional medicine and in rituals. In today’s article, we will explore the mundane and magical properties of Ginkgo Biloba, also known as Eunhaeng(은행)!
The Myths and Legends of Ginkgo Biloba
The Ginko of Munmak
There are at least 12 famous Ginkgo trees in South Korea. However, one of the more famous ones is the Bangye-ri Ginkgo tree in Munmak, Wonju. According to the legend, a Buddhist monk was said to have struck his cane on the ground to drink some water. On the spot where his cane had struck, a Ginkgo tree sprouted out! Locals still believe that a white snake lives in the tree, protecting it. Even breaking the twigs or branches of the tree is an invitation to incur the wrath of the white snake.
Another famous tree is the 800-year-old ginkgo tree in Chilseok Village, Grandma Dangsan. Here, we will talk about Gossaumnori. It is a traditional Korean folk game that is played in the village. The history behind the game is quite interesting.
It begins with a Taoist making his way through the village. He stops and informs the village that they should plant a ginkgo tree to balance out the strong earthly energy the village had. The reason was that the village was shaped like an ox laying down. The villagers planted the ginkgo tree and tied the symbolic reigns of the ox to the ginkgo tree. They also played Gossaumnori to step on and press the ox land down, preventing it from getting up. The folk game was said to have disappeared around the early 1940s during Japanese occupation. But, it was restored in all its glory around the 1970s.
Ginkgo Biloba is an interesting herb, magically speaking.
Firstly, it is one of the only trees on the planet that has survived many trials and tribulations ever since the Paleozoic period. Due to this, it is also known to be called the true “Tree of Life”. Secondly, the ancients saw a correlation between the shape of the leaf and the brain. As a result, the leaf has been used in spells for memory and concentration since ancient times.
Due to its age, Ginkgo Biloba is considered to be an elder and is used in longevity magic. One tradition is to plant a ginkgo tree on the occasion of birth to ensure long life. It is also considered a fertility herb, as it is sometimes used in love and fertility spells. Most of the time, the nuts are used to represent male fertility.
Its leaf and bark can also be used for healing rituals. The bark of the tree would also be used to contact the spirit world. With so many various ways of using it, it is no wonder why it is so fascinating.
Medicinally, it is used to treat memory loss, inflammation, and allergies. It also aids with concentration and improves muscle tone. Currently, it is also being used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Ginkgo nuts are also a source of potassium to balance fluid levels within the body. It contains vitamin C which strengthens the immune system, as well as calcium and phosphorus to build strong bones and teeth.
In Korea, nuts are commonly used in traditional medicine to loosen phlegm in the chest and reduce the severity of asthma. As an asthmatic, my mother-in-law lovingly created a concoction for me using these golden kernels. With an abundance of medicinal benefits, we can see why it is such a widely revered herb.
However, consuming these golden nuts can come at a price. As much as they are used and revered in Korean traditional medicine and delicacies, consuming too many at once can lead to poisoning. The nuts are naturally toxic and overconsumption can lead to extreme cases such as death. This is why it is important to consume this in moderation and with caution.
Final Thoughts on Ginkgo Biloba?
We have gone through the many uses of this herb, both medicinally and magically. The tree is one of the most fascinating specimens on earth. It has outlived the dinosaurs, survived harsh weather, wars, and bombings. Its associations with the spirit, mind, and body are just as fascinating as its lifespan as a species. As wonderful as it is called the “living fossil” or the true “Tree of Life”, it is also scary to think that such a tree is capable of producing toxic seeds, deadly enough to kill if overconsumed.
Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoy this series and shower it with much love as I do. If there are any other Korean herbs that you would like to know about, please leave a comment below! I might write next month’s article about it. Also, if you want to check out last month’s Korean herb of the Month: Cinnamon, Click Here!