As autumn rolls in around the North Georgia Mountains, certain aromas fill the homes and cabins, bringing sweet memories and reminding folks about 'old-time cures for nausea, stomach upset and arthritis.' Wild ginger has always had its place in Georgia's recipes for food and folk medicine.
"Canadian wild ginger, or snakeroot (A. canadense), grows about 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) tall in shady woods in eastern North America," according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. This is the variety that grows in shady places here in Georgia.
As a spice, the rhizomes of ginger are used to make gingerbread, ginger ale, ginger tea and are added to many recipes, including some stuffing at Thanksgiving. Most people know that ginger is used to treat motion sickness, the nausea of pregnancy and indigestion. Fewer people know that ginger is also used to treat the inflammation and pain of arthritis.
Studies are being conducted to see if ginger has the properties to treat cancer. It is already being used to treat the nausea that accompanies chemotherapy. Ginger also lowers cholesterol and kills dozens of viruses, including the viruses that cause colds. Ginger tea is often used to treat the symptoms of colds and sore throats.
Ginger is found in many face care products and perfumes. The spice is a strong antioxidant that fights free radicals and works well to decrease the appearance of redness caused by broken capillaries and veins on the face.
To make ginger tea, cut up about two to three inches of the rhizome and add eight ounces of water. Simmer for ten minutes, don't boil, then strain the ginger from the tea. Drink three cups a day to treat or prevent illness caused by viruses, to lower cholesterol, to treat inflammation and pain of arthritis or just to enjoy for the taste.
As with most all natural remedies, it takes time for herbal medicine to build up in the body. They work slower, but don't cause the side effects that prescription medicines do. Pregnant women should always seek advice from their OB/GYN before starting an herbal remedy. Children under age two should not be given ginger for any reason. No tests have been done to determine effectiveness and safety in children younger than two years.
Be careful not to dig up all the rhizomes of wild ginger to use as spice, beverages and medicine. We must be responsible and not cause the extinction of this valuable plant.