Zingiber officinale – Rhizoma (Zingiberaceae)
Common name: Ginger (E), Adrakh (H), Sont (H)
Sanskrit: Adrakha (fresh), Sunthi (dry), Vishwabhesaja
Adraka means ‘moist’ and Shunthi means’ dry’. Ginger is described as vishwabhesaja, the universal medicine benefiting everybody and all diseases. Ginger is the herbalist’s best friend. When using Ginger think ‘digestion, lungs and circulation’.
Ginger plants are perennial with characteristic stout, horizontal, tuberous and jointed rootstocks. The roots are very thick, robust and fleshy. Ginger leaves are long and lanceolate with a prominent midrib and are a dark green colour. Ginger flowers are oblong in shape and a yellow-green colour, its fruits are oblong capsules filled with globose seeds. The plant is cultivated in warm and moist areas of India, China, Sri Lanka and many south-east Asian countries. The roots are valued as the medicinal portion of the plant.
How it Works
Ginger is fantastically warming and pungent. Its spicy nature makes it an excellent circulatory stimulant, particularly for the peripheral circulation. It is a warming anti-inflammatory and analgesic, providing relief from inflamed and painful musculoskeletal conditions. Ginger will improve peripheral circulation during a fever, encouraging diaphoresis and an increased level of perspiration. Its high volatile oil content supports the ability of ginger to increase digestive power and stimulate the appetite, effectively treating a plethora of digestive conditions and infections. The volatile oils also possess antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties which have made ginger valuable in the treatment of wide-ranging infections. Perhaps one of this plants most renowned abilities is in its treatment of nausea, particularly during pregnancy or as a result of motion sickness.
Into the Heart of Ginger
- Ginger is characterised by its stimulating and warming characteristics. Constituents such as shogaols and gingerols actively stimulate the circulation, particularly the arterial circulation, making it a primary choice for improving all forms of circulatory inefficiencies and, therefore, releasing stuck congestion throughout the body.
- Although ginger is hot and spicy it has great value as a warming anti-inflammatory that will relieve muscular aches, pains and spasms throughout the body including the female reproductive system. It encourages a healthy inflammation response and a strong and supportive blood supply helping to clear congestion and reduce fluid retention in affected areas. Ginger will actively inhibit inflammatory prostaglandins. When used externally in the form of an oil or ointment, this plant is also an effective anti-inflammatory and pain reliever.
- Gingers ability to clear congestion and act as a stimulant make it a perfect choice for a weak, slow or inefficient digestion. Ginger will activate digestive enzymes and increase the digestive metabolism.
- The increase in peripheral warmth provided by this herb, wards off invasion of cold, damp and congestive conditions. In combination with its anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties, ginger is also very effective in treating congestive infections within the respiratory and digestive tract.
Cold: Ginger clears cold. The fresh plant increases peripheral circulation and causes vasodilation and sweating, clearing ama from the plasma and blood. Fresh Ginger is more peripherally active while dry Ginger is more centrally stimulating and warming to the constitution. Dry ginger may be of benefit in cardiac disorders due to increasing circulation and potential blood-thinning properties when used at a high dose.
Arthritis: DryGinger is used as an ama clearing, sleshaka kapha reducing, toxin digesting, anti-inflammatory in arthritis (amavata) in many traditional Ayurvedic formulas such as Triphala guggul and Yograj guggul. The anti-inflammatory action is a very good example of the prabhav or ‘unique effect’ of this plant. The long-term effect of this plant is anti-inflammatory and nourishing while its initial activity is warm and stimulating. Ginger has the ability to directly block inflammatory prostaglandins and thromboxane.
Lungs: Ginger clears phlegm and congestion in typically kapha and vata type coughs and colds affecting the lungs and respiratory system.
GIT: Ginger will warm the digestive system, increasing agni and the secretion of digestive enzymes. Fresh Ginger especially benefits rasadhatavagni while dry Ginger clears ama and is better for kledakakapha aggravations. It is useful in nausea (morning, post-operative and travel sickness), flatulence and griping and has displayed specific activity against E. coli and Shigella bacillus. Dry, being hot, is better for stimulating agni and clearing kapha, it dries water in the colon (grahi) but still removes constipation as its penetrating quality ‘breaks up’ (vibandhabhedani) impacted faeces. Fresh ginger is better for calming an aggravated vata but is harder to digest and, therefore, better as a laxative. Energetically, however, gingers sweet post-digestive effect is cooling.
Gynaecology: Ginger can help relieve menstrual cramps through its hot and stimulating character, particularly in the form of fresh Ginger tea. Ginger will regulate vata in the apanakshetra (lower abdomen). Ginger is a warming anti-inflammatory to the female reproductive system and nourishes the ‘shukradhatu’, or, reproductive system as a whole.