Friday, January 9, 2015

FOOD FOREST MEDICINE Monograph #6: Wild Ginger

Common Name:

Wild Ginger (Snake Root)

Latin Name: Asarum canadense
Brief Description:
On a cold winter day there is no Carolinian plant species that can warm up your insides like wild ginger can.  It is a spicy and aromatic herb, which means that it is great for treating symptoms associated with cold and stagnation (or those associated with Canadian winters!), such as cold extremities, bloating, bad breath, gas and malaise.

The name ‘wild ginger’ itself can be a bit misleading, since wild ginger and common ginger (Zingiber officinalis) are not related plant species.  However, one sniff of wild ginger root will have you convinced that they are of the same family.  Some wild food foragers claim that wild ginger rhizomes can be used as a substitute for Zingiber in cooking.

Wild ginger is also diaphoretic, which means that it can be used to maximize fever.  Adding a couple of table spoons of powdered ginger root to a bath can help speed recovery from the common cold.

Wild ginger is an erect perennial, growing up to 4-12 inches high. Each plant bears a pair of large velvety, heart-shaped leaves. Growing at ground level in the crotch between 2 leafstalks is a single darkish, red-brown to green-brown flower. The flower is usually hidden at ground level in solitary below the leaves.
Parts Used: Root
Edible Uses: Carminative to flavour stir fries, soups etc..  Candied ginger root was traditionally used on long journeys to combat digestive upset from eating spoiled foods.
Medicinal Uses:
Used in the treatment of nausea and digestive upset.  Native Americans and traditional herbalists use wild ginger rhizome to regulate menstruation and irregular heartbeat. (in other words, to treat a “damp-cold uterus”).   Wild ginger is also known to be diaphoretic (inducing, and maximize fevers).
Body System’s Treated: Digestive tract, female reproductive tract, cardiovascular system, immune system.
Harvesting Notes:
Pick without destroying the perennial, and push back any loose soil once done. You can harvest many times a year, but autumn is best.  Dry/crush the root to maximize its flavour.
Leaves may be poisonous and cause dermatitis in some people (skin irritation).
The Complete Natural Guide to the 50 Most Common Medicinal Herbs
Christine Dennis, Registered Herbalist.  2010 Herbal Field Experience. Course notes.
Rosalee de la Foret. Learning Herbs.  Taste of Herbs Course Notes, 2013.
Richard Vuskinic, ND. Clinical Pearls, 2015.

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