Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Herbs: G is for Ginger

ginger root by notafish/Flickr
Did you ever wonder where gingerbread, ginger ale, and ginger snaps got their zing?  Ginger of course!

Latin Name: Zingiber officinale Zingiberaceae

Description: Ginger is a herbaceous tropical perennial.   The blooms are 3 inch long flowers that appear on 6-12 inch stocks.  The leaves are grasslike with a plant reaching up to 4 feet tall.

 Habitat: Ginger is a native of the tropics and was brought to Europe and North America centuries ago as a treasured spice.  It was discovered that it grew very well in various climates around the world, even though it might not flower easily in "captivity".   

one of my baby ginger plants
Growing: Ginger can easily be grown in containers.  This is in fact the preferred method as it can become quite invasive if left unchecked.  Simply plant your ginger roots in a pot of well-drained, rich soil - just below the surface.  It needs a warm spot that is not too hot in the summer. Moisture and humidity are very important as this is a tropical plant. It doesn't do well in the cold and can be brought inside in the winter as a houseplant.

Harvesting:  The root is the part used, either fresh or dried.  To harvest, dig up your ginger roots that have been growing for a minimum of 8 months.  You may then either cut the stalk and leaves completely from the root or just cut off the bit of ginger that you would like to use and replant the plant.  I have done this using both methods and have had success with each, but it is easier to just chop the roots up and leave "eyes" like on potatoes so they will sprout. 

Uses:  One of my favorite uses is as a digestive aid.  We try to always have a bag of candied ginger on hand for upset stomachs or queasiness.  It is a fabulous ingredient for baking and cooking.

another of my own ginger plants
It has been in use for thousands of years and found to be good for various ailments such as motion sickness, flatulence, and circulatory issues.  Menstrual cramps and pain are also said to be relieved by taking ginger.

Some of my research found that holistic veterinarians are also using ginger in small animals for fever reduction and as a sedative or analgesic.  It's quite the versatile herb.

When I took the natural perfumery class last year, I discovered the essential oil that is widely used in perfumery all over the world.  It smells fabulous! 

Ginger Tea

Simply pour 1 pint of boiling water over approximately 1 ounce of chopped or sliced
ginger root.  Steep for 5-20 minutes.  Can be enjoyed hot or cold.  Very refreshing!

Disclaimer: The information presented herein is intended for educational, informational, and recreational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent disease. It is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider or your veterinarian before taking any supplements, herbs, or other substances or supplying them to your pets.


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