Ginkgo has a long history as a sacred tree in China and Japan. It reached Europe in the 18th century and became a popular ornamental plant. It is considered a living fossil because the trees growing today are almost identical to those in fossil records that pre-date the first living mammals.
The seeds are an important part of traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine. Research has focused primarily on the leaves, and several clinical studies exist on their constituents and properties. The plant contains unique active compounds called ginkgolides (terpenic lactones). Used externally, they are anti-inflammatory, stimulating and acts as an antioxidant.