Zingiber officinale


Ginger root is an aromatic, pungent, biting, spicy herb, used as a flavorful seasoning around the world. Originally from Asia, it has a history of medicinal use dating back more than two thousand years. Ginger is one of my favorite herbal allies.

Warming, carminative and tonic to the entire digestive system, ginger helps ease gastric woes, stimulates digestive juices and tones the digestive system. Antispasmodic ginger quells nausea, relieves motion sickness and helps prevent morning sickness in pregnant women.  It is an excellent ally for relieving painful menstrual cramps and promoting menstruation. I've found that drinking a nice hot cup or two of fresh or dried ginger root infusion eases any of these woes. A tablespoon of ginger syrup works well too.

Ginger is a circulatory tonic, which energizes the heart. It gets blood moving and brings warmth to a cold body. We drink hot ginger tea when we come in after working outside during winter. Ginger possesses expectorant properties and is a valuable ally for those with colds, flu or bronchial congestion. One of my favorite ways to counter wintertime illness is a hot cup of ginger infusion with a healthy dose of raw honey.

We make a potent ginger syrup by peeling and pounding fresh ginger root with a mortar and pestle, squeezing the juice from the pulp and mixing this with honey. A tablespoon added to any tea or medicinal infusion enhances it benefits and energizes the rest of the formula.

In China, fresh ginger root, called sheng jiang, is used to promote sweating, as an expectorant and for relieving colds and flu. Recent studies in Japan show that ginger contains a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called gingerol. Gingerol inhibits formation of inflammation-generating interleukin-1, effectively easing chronic rheumatoid arthritis. Ginger is a great tasting and effective anti-inflammatory, useful to ease hot swollen joints and combines especially well with its cousin, turmeric, for this purpose.

Wild ginger, Asarum canadense, is a North American plant unrelated to ginger. It has been widely used by First Nations people and early colonists as a medicine and a seasoning. Highly valued as a tonic, wild ginger root is an ally for those with colds, bronchial problems, wounds and digestive upsets. Mohawk children drink wild ginger tea to bring down their fevers, and Menominee use wild ginger to relieve pain. Seneca ease coughs with wild ginger, Meskwaki use it to relieve earache and Ojibwa use it to stimulate the appetite.

Flower Essence Ginger flower essence helps to clear out stagnant energy and move us forward free of situations that drag us down.

Magical Lore Add a bit of dried ginger to your magic bag to inspire action and to boost the energy of prayers and spells.

Culture Wild ginger grows in rich woods and woods’ edges, can get a foot tall and has large heart-shaped leaves with hairy stems. In spring, a reddish-brown cup-shaped flower blooms from the crotch between two leaf stalks. Although wild ginger grows in Maine, I don't gather it. Asarum is a threatened plant in our area so is best left where it is. I do try to grow some Zingiber every summer. I plant each piece with an eye on it an inch deep in rich soil in the greenhouse, keep them warm and moist until the ginger begins to grow and then put the pots outside when the weather warms.

The jointed, grass-like stem of the ginger plant soaks up the summer heat and grows tall. The new root grows between this grassy stem and the old root. Ginger grows best in hot humid places with a long growing season. The roots get quite large, thick and firm and are covered with a light tan skin. We tincture the fresh root, cook with it, grate it into water for tea or cover it with honey or vinegar. I dry ginger to use as a tea or spice ingredient and it’s an indispensable addition to fire cider.

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