16th-century text shows ginkgo seeds can fight skin infections —


— by Melissa Breyer: Inspired by a centuries-old text on traditional Chinese medicine, a young researcher has found that seeds from the gingko tree could prove helpful for acne, psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema.

A few years ago, a microbiologist and an Anglo Saxon scholar decided to test a recipe from an Old English medical compendium called Bald’s Leechbook. Following the direction as closely as they could, they ended up with a potion that kills the MRSA superbug.

Now a student currently at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy has looked similarly back in time to gain wisdom from the past. While a student at Emory University, Xinyi (Xena) Huang was searching for a topic for her senior thesis as a biology major. When a ginkgo tree caught her eye, she remembered that the tree had roots, so to speak, in traditional Chinese medicine so she decided to investigate. Which is what led her to a nearly 200-year-old copy of a 16th-century text on traditional Chinese medicine, the Ben Cao Gang Mu, a comprehensive compendium written by Li Shi-zhen. Which, as luck would have it, belonged to one of the school’s library collections…

Image courtesy of Ben Cao Gang Mu/Emory University Pitts Theology Library (CC BY 4.0)

April 19, 2019

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