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Ginger

  • Zingiber officinale L.
  • Zingiberaceae
  • Ginger family



Common Names

herbsAfrican ginger
herbsArdraka, fresh (Sanskrit name)
herbsBlack ginger
herbsChiang
herbsGan-jiang, dry (Chinese name)
herbsNagara, dry (Sanskrit name)
herbsRace ginger
herbsShen-jiang, fresh (Chinese name)
herbsSunthi (Sanskrit name)


Parts Usually Used

Roots and rhizomes


Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Ginger is a perennial plant; the aromatic, knotty rootstock is thick, fibrous, and whitish or buff-colored. It produces a simple, leafy stem covered with the leaf sheaths of the lanceolate-oblong to linear leaves. The plant reaches a height of 3-4 feet, the leaves growing 6-12 inches long. The sterile flowers are white with purple streaks and grow in spikes.


Where Found

Indigenous to tropical Asia and cultivated in other tropical areas, especially Jamaica.


Medicinal Properties

Antispasmodic, antiemetic, analgesic, antiseptic, appetizer, aromatic, carminative, condiment, diaphoretic, expectorant, febrifuge, pungent, sialagogue, stimulant

Topically: increases blood flow to an area


Biochemical Information

Bisabolene, borneal, borneol, camphene, choline, cineole, citral, ginerol, inositol, volatile oils, PABA, phellandrene, phenols, alkaloids, mucilage, acrid resin, sequiterpene, vitamins B3, B5, zingerone, and zingiberene.


Legends, Myths and Stories

Ginger is an ancient herb native to Asia. It is produced commercially in Jamaica, Africa, Japan, China, India, and the Dutch East Indies; the best is reputed to be that of Jamaica. The Chinese have been using ginger for more than 2,000 years. The Japanese serve ginger slices between sushi courses to clear the palate and aid digestion.

In China, the poorer classes test food by tossing a slice of fresh ginger into their cooking pot. They claim that if the root turns a dark color the food is bad.

Marco Polo mentions ginger in his unbelievable narrative of the 13th century. The Spaniards brought the first ginger plants to the New World in the early part of the 16th century. The finest roots today come from Jamaica.

If ginger is grown in greenhouses, it may bloom and produce an exotic and interesting flower that looks somewhat like a miniature pineapple.

Ginger root adds an agreeable zest to many beverages. The root is used in wines, liqueurs and soft drinks.

Dry ginger is a better stimulant and expectorant; fresh ginger is a better diaphoretic, better for colds, cough, and vomiting.

The following is a quote from the book "Old Ways Rediscovered" by Clarence Meyer."Recipe for ginger beer from The Illustrated London Cookery book (1852): Pour 2 gallons of boiling water on 1/4 lb. of cream of tartar, 1 oz. of sliced ginger, 2 lbs. of sugar; let it stand 6 hours, then add 2 tbsp. of yeast, let it stand 6 hours more, strain through fine strainer, put it into stone bottles, tie down the corks, and it will be fit for use in 24 hours."

Another old-time favorite was the ginger tissane: made by steeping 1/2 tsp. root in 1 cup boiling water, keep saucer over the cup while steeping. Strain when only warm and sip as needed. If desired, sweeten with honey.

Natives of the West Indies add a dash of nutmeg or 1-2 cloves to the tissane.


Uses

A spicy herb used for colitis, diverticulosis, nausea, gas, indigestion, paralysis of the tongue, morning sickness, travel sickness or motion sickness, vomiting, hot flashes and menstrual cramps. Cleanses the colon, gas and fermentation, cholera, gout, nausea, arthritis, stimulates circulation, and reduces spasms and cramps.

Ginger tea or tincture, taken hot, promotes cleansing of the system through perspiration and is also said to be useful for suppressed menstruation. Take it to clear up flatulent colic or combine it with laxative herbs to make them more palatable or milder in action. Try it at the onset of a cold, flu, headaches, chronic bronchitis, to ease the effects of the usual symptoms. Finally, to stimulate the flow of saliva and to soothe a sore throat, chew the rootstock as it is. Promotes sweat when taken hot. Ginger ale is a long time remedy for upset stomach and nausea. An old-fashioned remedy for dandruff is to combine ginger with olive oil. (Applied to the scalp after shampoo) A few drops in the ears, of this oil, will soothe earaches. Ginger root is used in the treatment of minor burns and skin inflammations.

Grated ginger can be topically applied externally, as a poultice or hot fomentation to relieve painful aches, sprains, and spasms.

Some researchers think that ginger may help prevent strokes, heart disease, and hardening of the arteries. Also, a hematology researcher says it is believed that gingerol, a substance in ginger, inhibits an enzyme that causes cells to clot. The same enzyme is blocked by aspirin, effective in preventing recurrence of "little strokes". These attacks are triggered by microscopic artery clots, flowing through the blood stream until they block arteries in the brain, causing the stroke or cerebrovascular accident, known as CVA.

The Chinese Materia Medica lists the uses of ginger for dyspepsia, diarrhea, piles, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and alcoholic gastritis. If the root is chewed and the juice swallowed, it causes saliva to flow and digestive juices to be stimulated. This will also relieve nausea and vomiting. A tea made of the root improves digestion, relieves gas and bloating, and stimulates appetite.

Relief from these conditions: use 1/2 oz. of powdered ginger root stirred into 1 pint of boiling water. 2 to 3 tbsp. of the tea should be taken 3 times a day. Capsules of ginger will relieve motion sickness. Prompt relief from the morning-after "hangover" is obtained by sipping 1 or 2 cups of hot ginger tea for breakfast.


Formulas or Dosages

Infusion: mix 1/2 tsp. powdered rootstock with 1 tsp. (or more) honey. Add 1 cup boiling water. If desired, add an ounce of brandy or other liquor.

Tincture: take 15 or more drops at a time, warm.


Nutrient Content

Vitamins B3, B5


How Sold

As a spice in the grocery, fresh root or powdered spice

Capsules: take 1 for up to 3 times daily to relieve symptoms. Motion sickness (SEE MOTION SICKNESS) is usually helped with 1 capsule.

Extract: mix 15 drops in warm water, taken for up to 3 times daily.

Externally: mix 15 drops of extract in 1 cup of warm vegetable oil.

Mash fresh ginger-root, soak in cotton ball, and apply juice directly to inflamed area.


Warning

Avoid ginger in excessive amounts with a peptic ulcer, bleeding ulcers, very high fever, inflammatory skin diseases.

Ginger is a safe remedy for morning sickness in small doses. Do not exceed doses recommended. Other commercial anti-nauseants should not be taken during pregnancy without consulting a doctor, because of the possibility that they may cross the placenta and adversely affect the fetus.

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