Ginger Zingiber officinale
Falling in love with Ginger! Over the past couple of weeks I have found myself quite drawn to ginger and have used it as a tea, a body scrub, a body oil, an additive into our humidifier, a divine bathing experience, and simply to inhale via direct palm inhalation. (some recipes to follow at end of article) Beautiful, intoxicating, warming, and soothing.
On the days when I can feel the winter chill in my body, I am sure to make a cup or two of fresh ginger tea with lemon and honey. I have also been using a ginger salt scrub every other day along with an organic jojoba oil infused with vanilla beans and then a 2.5% dilution of cardamom and ginger.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a herbaceous perennial of about 1m in height, with large long grass-like leaves developing from a branched rhizome. The flowers occur in a dense, scaly spike on an elongated stock. Each flower has three yellowish orange petals with an additional purplish, lip-like structure. (Van wyk and Wink)
Ginger is considered to be the most ancient spice known to humankind and has been used as food, medicine, and a spice. It enjoys a long history of use in China, India, Japan and throughout Asia. The ancient Greeks and Romans held ginger in high regard for its medicinal and culinary uses.
Ginger is a member of the Zingiberaceae family which includes over 48 genera and 1200 species including cardamom and turmeric. This is a highly aromatic family of plants, with most being prized for their exotic spicy aromas and tastes.
Ginger is thought to have occurred wild throughout the East Asian crescent spanning South China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. The perennial plant was found cultivated in earliest times in Inner Mongolia and South India. A botanical clue to the antiquity of ginger is that ginger is propagated only by splitting the root, never from seed – a sign that it has grown for so long under human control that it has lost one of the essential characteristics of the wild plant from which it derives. (Dalby, A., Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices)
Current world producers of ginger include: China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Africa, Thailand, Philippines, and Nepal. The aroma, appearance and taste of ginger can vary depending on country of origin.
There is so much great writing on ginger that I have kept the above simple and short. If you are interested in further readings, please see the resources at the end of this article.
An Aromatic Experience
If you have a fresh piece of ginger in your fridge, go and get it. Also gather up any essential oils of ginger you have. First, take a few inhalations of the essential oil of ginger. Close you eyes and hold a bottle of ginger essential oil close enough to your nose to be able to smell, waft the bottle to the left and right, inhale, observe, feel.
Notice its aroma, its affects on your mind/body/emotions. Then clear your nasal palate by taking a few inhalations of fresh ground coffee or coffee beans.
Then, take a few moments to cut into the fresh ginger rhizome, close your eyes, and hold the cut ginger up to your nose, wafting it from left to right and take a few inhalations. Take a moment to observe its aroma and aromatic impact on your mind/body/emotions. Take another moment to smell the fresh ginger. Then clear the nasal palate by smelling ground coffee or coffee beans.
Now repeat this process with the essential oil. Close you eyes and hold a bottle of ginger essential oil close enough to your nose to be able to smell, waft the bottle to the left and right, inhale, observe, feel.
What differences do you note? How did smelling the fresh ginger enhance your perceptions of the ginger essential oil?
Ginger rhizome contains 4-10% oleoresin composed of nonvolatile, pungent principles, specifically: gingerol, gingerdiones, and shogoals.
The essential oil is typically obtained via distillation of dried ginger. Dried Ginger has a 1.0 to 3.3% essential oil content comprised mostly of sesquiterpenes supported by monoterpenes. Main sesquiterpene components include: zingiberene, b-sesquiphellandrene, and beta-bisabolene. Other minor components include: b-phellandrene and camphene.
The essential oil of ginger (Zingiber officinale) does not contain the bitter principles, however the CO2 extract does. The CO2 extract of ginger contains 18-23% pungent components, making the Co2 extract more heating and diaphoretic than the essential oil.
Western Therapeutic Applications:
Ginger has traditionally been used for its antispasmodic, carminative, and diaphoretic properties. As both a herb preparation (tincture, infusion, powdered extract) and essential oil it is used to relieve motion sickness and nausea. Ginger is used to stimulate digestion, expectorate mucus/phlegm from the lungs, and is indicated for use with: flatulence, dyspepsia, colds, loss of appetite, menstrual cramps, amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, nausea and as an adjunct for arthritis and pain relief.
It is used as an anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic for dysmenorrhea, uterine fibroids, and chronic pelvic pain. Beneficial as a antianorectic due to appetite loss associated with cancer and HIV chemotherapeutic treatments. (Romm)
Pharmacological data and experimental data indicate two potential uses of ginger: antiemetic and anxiolytic/antidepressant. (Spinella)
Core therapeutic actions include: carminative, peripheral circulatory stimulant, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, digestive stimulant.
In Ayurvedic medicine ginger is the universal medicine and can be of benefit to all. It is specifically indicated for vāta disorders. Ginger destroys toxins, is a digestive, prevents nausea, enkindles the digestive fire, reduces feelings of cold, is rejuvenating, alleviates cough and breathing difficulties, and alleviates pain. Like TCM, Ayurveda distinguishes between dried and fresh ginger. Dried ginger is called Sunthi and fresh is called Ardraka.
- Dry ginger clears āma from plasma and blood. (for information on ama visit http://ayurveda-foryou.com/ayurveda_principles/ama.html or http://www.myyogaonline.com/healthy-living/health-and-wellness/ama-ayurvedic-medicine-and-energy)
- Dry ginger clears phlegm in kapha-vāta coughs and colds.
- Fresh ginger increases peripheral circulation and causes vasodilation and sweating.
- Dry ginger increases agni and the secretion of digestive enzymes.
- Useful for nausea including morning sickness, post-operative nausea, and travel sickness.
- Fresh ginger hot tea can be used to relieve menstrual cramps.
- Dry ginger, which is more heating then fresh ginger, can aggravate pitta.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
Both fresh and dried ginger are officinal drugs of the modern Chinese pharmacopeia. It is one of the most widely used medicinal herbs and is believe to be used in half of all herbal prescriptions in modern China. Traditional Chinese Medicine distinguishes clearly between dried and fresh ginger. Dried ginger (Gan-jiang) is used to treat yang deficiencies. ‘It is more effective in expelling Interior Cold, which is related more to the constitution of the patient while fresh ginger (Sheng-jiang) promotes seating and disperses Exterior Cold which is brought on by external factors’. (Mills and Bones, 2000)
Fresh ginger root is used to dispel pathogens via its ability to induce sweating. It expels cold, relieves nausea and clears toxic matter from the body. It is used from common colds due to pathogenic Wind Cold.
Dried ginger root is used to treat depleted Yang and alleviates Cold conditions characterized by pallor, poor appetite and digestion, vomiting, cold limbs, pale tongue, or thin, watery or white sputum. (Mills and Bones, 2000) Use for Yang exhaustion syndromes with severe chilliness, slow pulse, and aching.
According to Peter Holmes, the essential oil of Ginger warms the interior of dispels cold. It warms the Lung and transforms phlegm, warms and opens the meridians and blood vessels (indicated for scanty menstrual flow, amenorrhea, spasmodic dysmenorrhea) and Warms the Kidney and fortifies Yang (indicated when there is frigidity, impotence, cold extremities, fatigue, or diarrhea).
Dosages of the herb: (Blumenthal and Romm)
- Tea: 1 tbsp. grated fresh root per 1 cup of boiling water, 3 to 4 cups daily.
- Powder: 1 to 2 grams daily
- Tincture: 1.5 to 5ml three times per day
The Aroma of Ginger: Psychological and Spiritual affects
Gingers aroma is warm, spicy, woody with a hint of lemongrass and varying degrees of sweetness.
Ginger’s warm spicy sweet aroma offers the individual strength during times of depletion or loss of motivation. Ginger promotes clarity by ‘detoxing’ negative or toxic thoughts and energy. As a root essential oil, ginger is also grounding and provides strength to move forward. The warmth shared by Ginger also has the ability to soothe and relieve anxiety, providing a solid ground on which to gain clarity.
Ginger provides deep warmth and stimulation on the physiological level while its aroma (fragrance) works deeply into the psyche, bringing energy and strength to some of the deepest sources of our power. Ginger can be an ally in the process of self-empowerment, giving us the strength to meet life’s challenges with an adequate vital response. (Holmes)
The warming nature of ginger sustains and then rebuilds where there has been a loss of energy on the physical and emotional levels. (Zeck)
Ginger essential oil can restore determination and help to boost confidence and morale. It is indicated for those who may have clear plans and good intentions, but who lack the personal drive and optimism to manifest initiative and take real or immediate action. Ginger can be a catalyst of the Will (Zhi), invoking and enhancing ones vital fire. (Mojay)
- The use of ginger is contraindicated in patients with gallstones due to cholagogue effect.
- Daily doses of ginger in excess of 4 grams should be avoided in patients already taking blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin or aspirin or with individuals susceptible to hemorrhage.
- Avoid use of ginger for Yin deficiency with heat signs; reckless movement of hot blood; specifically to be used with caution during pregnancy (http://tinyurl.com/3y6jxzx)
- Use low dosages during pregnancy.
For Digestive and Warming Tea
Thinly slice 3 to 5 pieces of fresh ginger, place into cup and pour boiling water over the ginger. Cover the cup with a plate and let sit for 15-30 minutes. Remove plate and add a bit of honey and freshly squeezed organic lemon.
Aphrodisiac Massage Oil
1oz Organic Jojoba oil with:
5 drops Ginger Zingiber officinale
6 drops Ylang ylang Cananga odorata
3 drops Cinnamon leaf Cinnamomum zeylanicum
6 drops Mandarin Citrus reticulata
4 drops Cardamom Elettaria cardamomum
Arthritis/Pain relieving gel
15 drops Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus
24 drops Ginger Zingiber officinale
2 ounces Organic Aloe vera gelly (Lily of the Desert)
1 tbsp. Arnica herbal oil
1-2 tbsp. Lavender hydrosol
1 tbsp. Roman or German chamomile hydrosol* (if not available, use more Lavender hydrosol)
Blend all ingredients together. Add more hydrosol if the gelly is a bit ‘tacky’ feeling. Rub on localized area as needed.
Warming body oil
1 ounce of organic Jojoba or Sesame
7-8 drops Ginger Zingiber officinale
6-7 drops Black pepper Piper nigrum
7 drops Cardamom Elettaria cardamomum
10 drops Sweet orange Citrus sinensis
Winters Ginger Bath
You can put a 1/8 to 1/4 cup of grated ginger in a muslin bag, tie to the faucet and let the hot water run through it as you fill up the bathtub. OR Add 4-7 drops of ginger essential oil into two to three cups of sea salt and pour in water just before getting into the tub. Mmmmmmm!
Soothe away anxiety inhaler
Mix synergy together in a small bowl then soak inhaler pad in the essential oils. Place pad in the inhaler tube and close inhaler. Use as needed.
6 drops Ginger Zingiber officinale
3 drops Neroli Citrus aurantium (flos.)
2 drops Sweet Marjoram Origanum marjorana
4 drops Mandarin Citrus reticulata
Massage oil for cramps/painful menstruation
1 ounce organic jojoba or sesame
8 drops Ginger Zingiber officinale
6 drops Clary sage Salvia sclarea
4 drops Sweet marjoram Origanum marjorana
5 drops Mandarin Citrus reticulata
1 ounce organic jojoba
7 drops Ginger Zingiber officinale
4 drops Rose Rosa damascena
And for Reflexology sessions: Add a ginger footbath to stimulate circulation and support the movement of Chi.
Place 3-4 drops of Ginger and 1-2 drops of lemongrass in a warm foot bath and soak clients fee for 5 to 10 minutes. You can also add the ginger and lemongrass into salt and offer a foot salt scrub before the foot bath.
Blumenthal, M. Editor (2003). The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. New York, NY: Thieme.
Dalby, A. Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.
Foster, S., Ginger Zingiber officinale – Your food is your medicine. Retrieved on January 3, 2011 at: http://www.stevenfoster.com/education/monograph/ginger.html
Holmes, P. (2001). Clinical Aromatherapy: Using Essential Oils for Healing Body and Soul. Cotati, CA: Tigerlily Press, Inc.
Mills, S., and Bone, K. (2000). Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. London: Churchill Livingstone.
Mojay, Gabriel (1997). Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit. Healing Arts Press; Rochester, VT.
Pole, S. (2006). Ayurvedic Medicine. Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
Romm, ,A. (2010). Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
Spinella, M. (2001). The Psychopharmacology of Herbal Medicine. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Van Wyk, B., and Wink, M. (2004). Medicinal Plants of the World. Oregon: Timber Press.
Zeck, R. (2008). The Blossoming Heart. Australia: Aroma Tours.
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Ginger Botanical image public domain