Ginger is native to Asia but is now grown widely throughout the tropics. The Caribbean countries, where the plant has been grown for some four hundred years, depended on ginger as an important part of the spice trade. The ginger plant is a perennial herb with a tuberous rhizome, and this is the part of the plant that is used. The ginger flower is white or yellow and very showy. The spice turmeric, familiar to all those who are acquainted with Indian cookery, comes from another rhizome, Curcuma longa, which belongs to the same plant family, Zingiberaceae. An essential oil is also obtained from turmeric but it is an irritant and not safe for home use. (ginger oil)
Ginger has a long history of use both as a spice and as a herbal remedy, in particular for ailments of a digestive nature. Its effects are stimulative and carminative, so relieving flatulence. Crystallized stem ginger is used in the manufacture of sweets and preserves. Ginger-based remedies can be used as a remedy for both travel sickness and the morning sickness of early pregnancy.
Essential oil of ginger is obtained from the root, which has been previously dried and ground, by the process of steam distillation. It is pale yellow to amber in color and has a spicy, sweet and pungent smell.
Ginger oil is used as a fragrance ingredient in some perfumes and is widely utilized in the food and drinks industry as a flavoring.
In aromatherapy, ginger can be used to help a variety of problems. The oil is warming and toning and can boost flagging spirits and strengthen resolve. When used in massage, ginger is particularly beneficial in the treatment of musculo-skeletal aches and pains that are more severe in cold, damp weather. It also helps to stimulate sluggish circulation and will work well on cold extremities. A foot-bath with ginger oil can be very soothing.
Ginger oil can irritate the mucous membranes, however, and for this reason it is not recommended for use in full immersion baths. Ginger oil, like the root of the plant, can be used to benefit the digestive system. It can be used to relieve nausea in the first three months of pregnancy and also travel-sickness. Inhalation from a handkerchief onto which one or two drops of ginger oil have been placed will bring relief. Ginger oil will stimulate a sluggish digestive system and will relieve associated flatulence. Use in massage blends or inhale for this purpose.
Ginger oil can also benefit the respiratory system, particularly if used in steam inhalation. It is an effective expectorant and so helps to clear the throat and nasal passages of excess mucus. It also does much to soothe an irritating cough and is thought to strengthen the body’s immunity to the coughs and colds that winter brings. The oil will also help to reduce fever by encouraging sweating, which allows the body to cool down.
Ginger oil is an aphrodisiac.
Suitable methods of use
- Foot-baths (full immersion baths not recommended because of possible mucous membrane irritation)
Ginger is nontoxic and non-sensitizing. It should be used with care as it can irritate mucous membranes but is suitable for use on the skin in appropriate dilution.