During the recent holiday season the over-indulgence in culinary delights led to numerous “tummy” aches and subsequent requests for a cure. Since I am a nurse and the resident herbal hobbyist, I handed out numerous recipes for indigestion and various other digestive related issues. As most of you probably already know, ginger has a long standing and proven record for helping solve these issues. What most of us don’t realize is ginger has many other health benefits and uses. Understanding how easy ginger is to grow will make this diverse medicinal plant available fresh for you and your family.
Growing Ginger in a Medicinal Garden
My medicinal garden has over 70 plants and among them is ginger. The medicinal and culinary part of ginger is not actually a root, it is part of the stem called a rhizome. This thickened stem is what is used for herbal remedies and cooking. Ginger is usually thought to be a warm climate plant, which is true. It does not tolerate harsh winters, but, with careful planning it can be grown anywhere. Since ginger can be harvested after a few months it can be planted outdoors after the last frost.
The best source of ginger is your local grocery store or farmer’s market. Find a piece of shiny ginger with horns or buds forming. Bring it home and soak in a bowl of water overnight. This soaking will remove any growth inhibitors that may have been sprayed on the ginger. A large container or pot with wheels will make transferring the ginger indoors during the winter or cold spells much easier.
Fill up the pot or container three quarters full with 1 part sand to 3 parts potting soil with a pH of 5.5-6.5 (amend with azalea pH lowering granules) and place the pre-soaked ginger horizontally towards the middle of the pot. Three pieces of ginger may be placed 6-8 inches apart in a 14 inch or larger container, forming a triangle. Cover the ginger with 2-4 inches of soil and maintain a regular watering schedule. Two inches of mulch will help maintain an even level of needed moisture.
Partial shade or dappled light is required for growth, so growing ginger indoors is an option. Re-pot every two years, and provide an all purpose organic fertilizer once per month during the growing season. Mixing some compost into the soil will help provide some nutrients. For organic disease control spray the whole plant with a neem oil solution once per week, or after a heavy rain fall.
Harvesting ginger is easy and can begin four months or more after planting. Trim a small section near the outer edge of the container from one side of the original rhizome planted. If you are growing the ginger outside in colder climates, harvest the whole rhizome when the leaves die back in the fall. Replant a portion of that rhizome when the weather heats up and repeat this process over and over. Fresh ginger will always be at your fingertips. There is nothing better then bringing a fresh, organic, herbal remedy into your home.
Ginger is well known for calming an upset stomach or nausea, easing excessive gas and relaxing intestinal cramps associated with diarrhea. It is also good for motion sickness, pregnancy morning sickness, and to calm nausea from chemotherapy treatment. Ginger is immune stimulating and will help your body fight off bacterial and viral infections. Sinus and lung congestion is relieved with a ginger tea or ginger syrup.
Fresh ginger juice can be applied to skin irritations and as a minor burn remedy. Ginger acts as an antihistamine and aids in the treatment of allergic reactions. It’s anti-inflammatory properties may help with muscular and joint disorders and pain. Ginger can also aid in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and decreases the formation of blood clots.
To use ginger for these ailments, harvest some fresh ginger and wash throughly. A ginger tea is both a remedy and tasty treat. Grate the ginger into a mesh cloth or tea infuser, place in the freshly boiled water, wait 5-10 minutes, remove ginger and flavor with raw honey and lemon. Another method of making ginger tea is to place the ginger directly into freshly boiled water and then remove with a tea strainer after the appropriate time.
Ginger syrup is just a combination of a small amount (1/4 teaspoon) of finely chopped ginger in a spoonful of raw honey. Take this syrup 3-4 times daily as needed. Using fresh ginger in lightly cooked dishes may help maintain a stronger immune system so you fight infections before they take hold. Candied ginger is delicious!
As always, continue to research alternative remedies. Knowing whats in nature’s medicine cabinet may help you survive troubled times.