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 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 like to 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.
Wild ginger, Asarum canadense, is a North American plant unrelated to ginger. It was widely used by American Indians and early colonists as a medicine and a seasoning. Highly valued as a tonic, wild ginger root was an ally for those with colds, bronchial problems, wounds, and digestive upsets. Mohawk children drank wild ginger tea to bring down their fevers, and Menominee used ginger to relieve pain. Seneca eased coughs with wild ginger, Meskwaki used it to relieve earache, and Ojibwa used it to stimulate the appetite. Cherokee women used wild ginger to relieve lack of menstruation, heavy bleeding, and breast tenderness.
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 our Maine woods, I don't gather it. Asarum is a threatened plant in our area so is best left where it is.
I usually try to grow some Zingiber every summer. I go to my local supermarket in early spring and find a ginger root with plenty of fresh eyes. Breaking off each piece of root that has an eye, I plant it an inch or two deep in rich soil in pots. I keep these very warm and well-watered until the ginger begins to grow. When the weather warms up, I put the pots outside. 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, like Jamaica. The roots get quite large, are thick and firm, and are covered with a light tan skin. We peel this skin off, then tincture the fresh root, cook with it, grate it into a pot of water for tea, or cover it with honey or vinegar. I don't usually bother drying ginger. As it is available fresh year round.
We offer ginger as a simple extract. You'll also find ginger as an ingredient in our Antiinflammatory formula and in our Fire Cider.