One of the things that inspires me most about being an herbalist are the miraculous healing remedies that can be born from the most common of ingredients. We may not think of it, but most of these ingredients became common because of their healing properties! Many people already know about ginger; they have tasted it, seen the roots at the store and even cooked with it. For many of us it is a common household ingredient or item in our pantry. Sometimes in the Art of Home Herbalism or the Art of Home Herbalism Online students arrive thinking they are going to be bombarded by things they have never heard of, eye of newt and toe of frog perhaps…but it is almost never like that. Your kitchen pantry is likely already teeming with healing ingredients that can be used to create a rich array of home remedies to support everyday ailments. One of the most rewarding things about teaching is seeing, time and time again, that learning about common household remedies is just as exciting for students as learning about exotic things they have never heard of! Discovering mystery in the everyday brings magic to life.
Ginger, Zingiber officinale, is a rhizome native to southeast Asia. It is pungent and aromatic, with a warming, stimulating energetic effect on the body. Let’s look at some of the ways it can be prepared and applied in home remedies.
Ginger’s warming energetics stimulate digestive fire and metabolism. An excellent appetite stimulant, ginger is a great tea for almost everyone to have first thing in the morning to break the night’s fast and prepare the digestive metabolism for food. If you have a slow metabolism or suffer from gas, bloating or other discomforts following eating, try ginger tea before or after meals. Ginger tea is also good for nausea and morning sickness. For those prone to mucus production in the upper or lower respiratory system, ginger tea is a great way to warm up digestion and prevent mucus production. Those with heartburn or acid reflux may find that ginger aggravates symptoms.
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
1 1/2 cups filtered or well water
Pour boiling water over herbs, cover with a lid and let steep 10 – 15 minutes. Or, simmer ginger and water for 10 – 15 minutes. Drink hot. I don’t usually strain the ginger out, I prefer keep it in and chew the pieces of ginger as I sip my tea, but you can strain it if you want!
Warming and stimulating, ginger promotes circulation to peripheral limbs. This is good for folks with slow circulation, cold hands and feet, low energy, depression and high cholesterol. Ginger is also excellent for cold, stiff joints and arthritic conditions where pain is alleviated by heat. Add ginger to food and sip the tea all day long! In addition to incorporating ginger into your diet you can also apply ginger topically in a bath, foot bath or poultice, to promote circulation and warm the extremities.
Ginger Bath or Foot Bath
Make 4 – 8 cups of ginger tea and add it to a hot bath. Soak for 15 – 25 minutes. Dry thoroughly afterwards and stay warm/dress warm to help the body hold onto the heat.
Likewise, add 1 – 2 cups of ginger tea to a warm foot bath and soak the feet for 15 minutes. The feet contain nerve endings and pressure points that correspond with systems throughout the body.
It might sounds strange to support a condition so hot, like a fever, with more heat, but a ginger foot bath is an excellent home remedy for a fever. The ginger helps open up the pores and promote a sweat, which helps relieve heat from the body. It also helps pull heat down from the head and distribute it throughout the body – relieving delirium and confusion sometimes associated with fever.
Menstrual cramps characterized by a dull, radiating ache are often caused by circulatory congestion in the pelvis and lower abdominal area. Sipping hot ginger tea 1 – 2 days before, as well as during menstruation will help prevent and alleviate cramps. A hot ginger bath or a ginger poultice on the lower abdomen is also helpful to help relieve symptoms.
2 – 3 tablespoons, powdered ginger*
hot water to moisten
Combine powdered ginger in a bowl with enough hot water to form a moist paste. Spread over the lower abdomen, put a hot wash cloth over the poultice and a hot water bottle over the wash cloth. Let sit for 10 – 20 minutes, or until it cools.
*You may notice that this is one of the few preparations that I recommend using dried ginger. Dry ginger is much hotter energetically than fresh ginger, which is warming and less stimulating. I prefer fresh ginger internally for most people, dry ginger can be used externally.
A recent study found that fresh ginger juice combined with raw, unrefined honey was effective at killing every bacteria and virus that it was exposed to! Ginger honey or ginger tea with honey (remember the honey must be raw and unrefined) is an effective remedy for cold and flu and can even be used topically to kill bacteria and promote wound healing.
1/4 cup fresh grated ginger root
1/2 cup raw, unrefined honey
Combine honey and ginger in a glass jar and mix until well combined. Cover with a lid and set aside to infuse for 2 weeks. Keep the ginger in the honey and add the mixture to tea, salad dressings, toast and most importantly, eat by the spoonful! This can be applied topically as well to cuts, scrapes, etc. Store in the refrigerator after steeping.
Interested in learning more about herbal home remedies? Check out the Art of Home Herbalism Online!