Ginger

Zingiber officinale, Zingiberaceae. The roots are the part used.

Functions of ginger

Ginger has pungent and warming qualities that make it useful in medicine. It contains 24 distinct anti-inflammatory compounds.

  • It has a stimulating effect on the heart and circulation which creates a feeling of warmth and wellbeing. It is recommended for those with bad circulation, chilblains and cramps. It is also used for the treatment of angina.
  • It restores vitality, particularly for those feeling the cold in winter.
  • As a gargle it may be effective in the relief of a sore throat.
  • Hot ginger tea promotes perspiration which assists in bringing down a fever and helps to clear catarrh.
  • It has a stimulating and expectorant effect on the lungs. This assists to expel phlegm and relieve coughs and chest infections.
  • It is a warming aid to the digestive system as it invigorates the stomach and intestines. It encourages the secretion of digestive enzymes. It moves stagnating food and thus assists in the release of accumulated toxins. This action increases general health and enhances immunity.
  • It relieves nausea and vomiting, settles the stomach, sooths digestion and calms wind.
  • The pain relieving and relaxing effects in the digestive tract relieve colic and spasm.
  • In the uterus it promotes menstruation and relieves painful ovulation and periods.
  • It also inhibits clotting and thins the blood, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Externally it is the base of many fibrositis and muscle sprain treatments.

Notes on ginger

  • It is not recommended for those who do not tolerate heat well or for people with gastritis or peptic ulcers. Small amounts used in cooking are generally safe.
  • Do not use in large doses if you have gallstones, as ginger's effects may stimulate the gall bladder, worsening symptoms and causing unnecessary pain.
  • Ginger's components may interfere with normal blood clotting. As a precaution, suspend the use of this herb at least one week before surgery. Do not use with other plants or herbal products that may interfere with normal blood clotting, such as garlic, ginseng or ginkgo. Do not use with drugs that interfere with blood clotting, such as aspirin, heparin or warfarin (coumadin).
  • Try not to take too often or in too strong a dose while pregnant.
  • Very high doses may cause a reduction of blood sugar levels.

Dosage

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the fresh root and let it infuse for 5 minutes. Drink whenever needed.

Decoction: if you are using the dried root in powdered from make a decoction by putting 1 - 2 teaspoonsful to a cup of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 - 10 minutes. This can be drunk whenever it is needed.

For the gardener

Although ginger is a tropical plant it can be grown in more temperate climates and in cooler regions in a green house or inside as long as it gets plenty of sunshine, moisture and warmth and is protected from winds.

New plants are grown from the rhizomes cut into pieces with at least one bud on each. In spring these can be placed directly into the soil or in cooler climates, put one piece into a large pot with a good humus rich potting mix. Keep well watered and cover the whole pot with a plastic bag until the first strong shoots appear. At that stage remove the plastic bag but continue to water well. Ginger needs a rich soil so additional fertilizer is recommended.

Harvest the rhizomes between 6-9 months.

References

Duke, J. A. 2000, Anti-aging Prescriptions. Rodale.

Hoffmann, D. 2000, The New Holistic Herbal. Element Pub.

Hoffmann, F. and Manning M. 2002, Herbal Medicine and Botanical Medical Fads. The Haworth Press.

McIntyre, A. 1995, The Complete Women's Herbal. Henry Holt Reference Books.

Mills, S. Y. 1989, The A-Z of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. Thorson.

Sullivan, K. 2002, Vitamins and Minerals: A Practical Approach to a Health Diet and Safe Supplementation. Harper Collins.

Woodward, P. 2003, Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies. Hyland House.

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