Zingiber officinale (Roscoe)
Synonyms: Jamaica ginger, African ginger, black ginger, race ginger
Description: Zingiber is a creeping perennial plant native to tropical south-east Asia and cultivated in the West Indies, Africa and India. The aromatic, knotty rootstock is thick and fibrous, and whitish or buff in colour. It produces a simple, leafy stem covered with the leaf sheaths of the lanceolate-oblong to linear leaves, and reaches a height of 1.25m. The leaves areup to30cm long and the sterile flowers are white with purple streaks and grow in small dense spikes.
Part used: rhizome, preferably fresh; oil.
Collection: the rhizome is collected after the leaves have dried.
Constituents: Volatile oil (including zingiberine, zingiberole, phellandrene, borneol, cineole and citral); phenols (gingeole, zingerone), shagaol, starch, mucilage, resin, and a possible alkaloid.
Actions: Peripheral circulatory stimulant, carminative, antiflatulent, antitussive, antiemetic, rubefacient, diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, adjuvant, sialagogue, expectorant, antiseptic.
Indications: Poor circulation, chilblains and cramp, nausea
Therapeutics and Pharmacology: In feverish conditions Zingiber's diaphoretic action promotes perspiration. As a carminative it promotes gastric secretion and is used in the treatment of dyspepsia, flatulence and colic. It is also a useful remedy in diarrhoea where there is no inflammation. It is stimulant to the gastro-intestinal tract, increasing peristalsis and the tone of the intestinal muscle. As an antiemetic it can be used in cases morning sickness. It is also said to be useful for suppressed menstruation. The fresh rootstock may be chewed to stimulate the flow of saliva or to soothe a sore throat. As a gargle it can also relieve a sore throat. Extracts of ginger stimulate the vasomotor and respiratory centres.
Externally, Zingiber is the basis of many fibrositis and muscle strain treatments. In China the fresh root, sheng jiang, is used to promote sweating and as an expectorant for colds and chills. It is also roasted in hot ashes and used to treat diarrhoea or to stop bleeding. The dried root, gan jiang, is used to warm and stimulate the stomach and lungs, and is an effective yang restorative.
Contraindications: High doses should be avoided if the stomach is already hot and over-stimulated, as in peptic ulceration. It should be used with care in early pregnancy, although it can be safely taken in small doses (1g dried root) for morning sickness.
Combinations: Ginger can be combined with Gentiana and Rheum palmatum for sluggish digestion with constipation. Combine with laxative herbs to make them more palatable or milder in action. Combines well with Juniper or Eucalyptus oil as a massage oil.
Preparation and Dosage:
Regulatory Status: GSL
Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoon of fresh root and infuse for 5 minutes. Drink as required.
Decoction: Put 1-1.5 teaspoons in a cup of water and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Drink as required. for chills and catarrhal colds.
Tincture: 1.5-3ml weak tincture three times a day or 0.25-0.5ml strong tincture three times a day as a warming circulatory stimulant or for flatulence, indigestion and nausea.
Capsules: 1 or 2 x 200mg before a journey against travel sickness. Up to 1g doses for morning sickness.
Oil: take 1-2 drops on a sugar lump or in a teaspoon of honey for flatulence, menstrual cramps, nausea or stomach upsets.
Massage oil: 5-10 drops in 25ml almond oil for rheumatism or lumbago.
Additional Comments: The word ginger comes from the ancient Sanskrit singabera, meaning 'shaped like a horn'. It first appeared in the writings of Confucius in the 5th century BC. and it has been used medicinally in the West for at least 2000 years. It was introduced by the Spaniards to the Americas and is now cultivated extensively in the West Indies. The Portuguese introduced it to West Africa. It was traditionally used to warm the stomach and dispel chills. In the 18th century it was added to remedies to modify their action and to reduce their irritant effects upon the stomach. Ginger is still used in this way in China to reduce the toxicity of some herbs. The Chinese prescribe ginger tea for delayed menstruation. It is rich in vitamin C, and Chinese mariners ate it fresh to ward off scurvy.
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