Copyright © 1990-2016 by Robert Dale Rogers. All rights reserved.
No portion of this book, except for a brief review, may be reproduced, or copied and transmitted, without permission of author. This book is for educational purposes only. The suggestions, recipes and historical information are not meant to replace a medical advisor. The author assumes no liability for unwise or unsafe usage by readers of this book.
EASTERN WILD GINGER
(Asarum canadense L.)
(A. acuminatum [Ashe] E.P. Bicknell)
WESTERN WILD GINGER
LONG TAILED WILD GINGER
(A. caudatum Lindl.)
EUROPEAN WILD GINGER
(A. europaeum L.)
PARTS USED - roots
Asarum is from the Greek ASARON, which in turn means Hazelwort. Pliny writes it is one of the plants not permitted in garlands and laudatory crowns. He attributed the name to “the wild foals foot or wild spikenard”.
Ginger traces back to the Old English ZINGIBER, and in turn from the Latin, GINGIBER. This in turn is traced to Sanskrit SRNGAVERA, meaning horn body; referring to the shape, colour, and texture of commercial ginger root.
Caudatum is from the Latin CAUDA, meaning tail, referring to the long tails, or calyx lobes on the sepal tips. Canadense is obvious.
Asarabacca is derived from the Greek ASE, meaning “disgust”, and SARAO, for “dirty”. Bacca is “berry”.
Western Wild Ginger is found in British Columbia, while the Eastern variety can be found into Manitoba and southeast. The leaves can be crushed, and smell like lemon ginger. The eastern species grows up to a foot tall, with large heart-shaped leaves. The Western has long whip-like ends on the three purple sepals, and is lower to the ground.
The European Wild Ginger (A. europaeum) grows well on the prairies, from either seed or root.
The root smells and tastes a lot like commercial ginger, perhaps milder, and yet quite peppery. Both are warm, sweet and pungent, but the wild is more acrid and less mucilaginous. The leaves and flowers have a camphor scent not appreciated by all.
Various native tribes, including the Pomo, used wild ginger root for contraception, after a slow decoction. The Nez Perce made an oral contraceptive from the dried powdered root by cooking it slowly until it formed a thick liquid. This was then taken, in mouthful doses during the first seven days following a new moon. This was said to be spermicidal.
Some Eastern tribes drank infusions to relieve heart pain and arrhythmia, while others like the Rappahannock infused it for typhoid fever. The Meskwaki used the root for sore throats, earaches and stomach cramps; while the Abenaki combined the root with Goldthread (Coptis trifolia) for treating colds.
The Thompson added wild ginger to the bedding of sick or restless babies, believing it helped make them quiet and well. A root decoction was used for colic and indigestion in adults.
They rubbed the dried, powdered gingery smelling leaves on the hands as a deodorant. The leaves are anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, and have been used in poultices and on cuts and sprains. It is known as KI’RIKA’TCES, or “little wide leaves”.
Many used the strong flavoured root to disguise spoiled meat, muddy tasting bottom-feeding fish, and prevent ptomaine poisoning.
Tribes that fished would chew the root and spit on their bait, as an attractant.
Various tribes, including the Ojibwa mixed wild ginger with their food to prevent witchcraft effects. The Iroquois used the Eastern Wild Ginger root for bad dreams, headaches and fevers. More specifically, it was used to “prevent bad dreams caused by the dead”, and “when babies cry until they hold their breath”.
They used it for coughs, measles, urinary disorders, and as a spring tonic for the elderly. The Ojibwa living near Lake Huron call it PEGAMAGABOW.
The Chippewa used the root for digestive disorders, and called it NAME’PIN, meaning Sturgeon Plant, probably because the fish is dark olive above and reddish below, the same colour combination as the plant. The plant is called Sturgeon Potato, suggesting the spicy root was used in flavouring fish dishes.
Gary Raven, a traditional healer from Manitoba, suggests the dried root as a tea to treat cardiac arrhythmia. The root is only boiled for 2-3 minutes. A cold infusion may be even better (author’s note).
The Montagnais of Newfoundland called the plant by a name that translates as “beaver his food”. The Illinois natives used the root to relieve childbirth pain.
They call it AKISKIOUARAOUI, meaning herb of the rattlesnake, using the chewed root on bites.
John Quincy, in the early 1700s said that wild ginger “is very brisk and therefore recommended in constitutions that are moist and cold.” This, of course, is the phlegmatic type body, which is more susceptible to respiratory infections, nasal congestion, and chronic bronchial conditions.
Frederick Pursh in Flora Americana 1814 wrote “The root is highly aromatic, and known by the inhabitants under the name of Wild Ginger. It is said to be made use of by the Indian females to prevent impregnation.”
Dr. Williams considered the root a warm stimulant, similar to Virginia Snakeroot, and useful for low-grade fevers, nervous conditions, and palpitations.
One doctor claimed to have cured tetanus with a root decoction.
A snuff from the powdered root was used for head and eye complaints.
A tea from the root is taken as a stomach tonic, and remedy for indigestion and colic. The roots can be eaten raw, or used as a ginger substitute in various baking recipes. They can be candied, like angelica and calamus root. My good friend Patrick Tackaberry makes a great wild ginger beer!
The plant can be propagated by seeds, which appears about 6 weeks after flowering, and are found close to the ground. They require a moist, cold period before germination.
The roots can be divided in spring or fall for quicker propagation. Wild ginger likes a moist, rich forest soil with plenty of humus, 75% shade, and pH of 4.5-6.
In fall, as the plant withers, you can slice a section of rhizome, without killing it.
The plant is relatively rare in the west, and should not be overly harvested.
When the wild ginger grows in areas favorable to slugs, it produces in its leaves a poisonous chemical. The leaves of plants in these areas can be dried crushed and used as a toxin-free slug pesticide.
When it grows in areas without slugs, these chemicals are not present.
This is interesting because the Yurok removed a large snail from its shell, crushed it and put it inside western wild ginger leaf. This was steamed and placed on the umbilical cord with twine. The cord would fall off and heal.
Work by Angela Muir, at Carleton University, has shown that seed formation by A. canadense has an energy cost that diverts from growth and storage. Asexual reproduction is neither a net gain nor cost, and preferred by the plant.
CONSTITUENTS- A. canadense root- antibiotic substances A&B, resins, volatile oils, beta asarone, asarin, methyl eugenol, ellagic acid, alpha terpineol, aristolone, beta sitosterol, bornyl acetate, myristicin, elemicin, zerumbone, aristolochic acid
aerial- aristolochic acid
A. europaeum root- allantain, asarone, trans-iosasarone, trans-aconitic acid, essential oils, caffeic acid, chlorogenic and isochlorogenic acid, flavonoids.
Wild Ginger is a stimulant, carminative, tonic, diuretic and diaphoretic.
This diaphoretic action is not only from the skin, but will make you secrete from tear ducts, sinus, mouth and stomach.
The root decoction or cold infusion is used to relieve colds, colic, stomach pain, amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea. Delayed menstruation, especially related to cold chills, nervous tension and uterine stagnation are all relieved by increased estrogenic activity. It combines well with cramp bark, prickly ash and valerian root for painful cramping before or during menstruation.
For slow onset and cramped, clotty period, the root tea will stimulate and thin secretions of the uterus. In cases of birthing and labour, the root tea will help ease labour and produce more efficient contractions. In phlegmatic constitutions, it works well with blue cohosh root in promoting the onset of labour.
In the case of a head cold, or in a hot and dry bronchitis, it will encourage sweating, especially if the tincture is taken in hot water. It combine well with wild mint for stuffy nose and rhinitis with a clear nasal discharge, or with elecampane for sinus congestion, and headaches associated with sinus pain.
The root works well for colic in children, with one or two drops in juice or water. The ability of wild ginger as an anti-spasmodic also extends to asthma, and even whooping cough, combining well with sundew. For cough, and profuse watery sputum combine with schisandra berry.
In the case of nasal congestion, or even nasal polyps, snuff the dried powdered root. Use the fresh root juice directly on burns, reducing pain, blistering, infection and speeding healing.
Wild ginger will help resolve and stimulate the eruptions of childhood diseases like measles, chicken pox, etc.
In the case of chills, or when a fever is beginning and you cannot begin to sweat from taking aspirin or other suppressive medications, then wild ginger may help initiate the fever stage.
As a stimulating diaphoretic, it brings warmth to the body tissue and extremities. Taken in small amounts before meals, it will stimulate appetite and digestion, relieving various cold conditions of the gastrointestinal tract. The root tea will promote urination, and help drain fluid in cases of edema. However, the herb should be avoided in cases of organic kidney disease, as it may irritate already damaged tissue, and in hot, dry skin conditions.
Dr. Cook suggests, “its influence is expended largely through the circulation and nerves, both of which it arouses and sustains.
Through these channels it warms and invigorates the surface, and secures a favorable perspiration in languid conditions.”
Dr. Dodd used an infusion, in small and frequent doses, for all uterine hemorrhages of a passive character, including menorrhagia.
Lise Wolff, professional member of the AHG, says the root is well suited to back spasms associated with cold and chronic conditions.
Asian wild ginger possesses anti-allergenic and immune regulating properties that may or may not be present in the North American species. Only more research will tell.
Bergeron et al, have examined the biological activity of wild ginger leaves and roots. Alcoholic extracts of both were effective against E. coli. Int J of Pharmacognosy 1996 34:4. Studies have found A. canadense active against PRV and herpes simplex virus-1.
The leaf tea will stimulate and increase perspiration as well as secretions from the eyes, mouth, stomach, uterus and sinuses.
The roots are fungicidal against Candida albicans, Cladosporium, as well as both gram-negative and positive bacteria such as E. coli, Bacillus subtilis. This substantiates the early findings of Dr. Claus, who reported two antibiotic substances, one of which is “very active against gram positive pus-forming bacteria.”
Leaf extracts of A. canadense exhibit activity against gram-positive bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus. Borchardt et al, J Med Plants Res 2008 2:5.
Calvallito and Bailey isolated two compounds from 95% ethanol extract of the fresh leaf and stem. One compound showed inhibition of Staphylococcus aureus at one-hundredth the strength of penicillin
G. Other testing showed activity against S. aureus at dilution of 1:400,000. For intestinal infections of Salmonella, E. coli and Candida albicans, a fresh root tincture can be taken for 5-7 days.
This tincture will relieve symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome due to analgesic effect.
According to Darcy Williamson, a combination of wild ginger root, yarrow flower and leaf and alder cones has been found useful for malaria, lyme disease and giardia. All plant parts are tinctured fresh and combined in ratio of 2:1:1.
Wild Ginger root combines well with gumweed, lomatium and balsam root for viral infections.
Work by McCutcheon et al, J Ethnopharm 1992 37 and 1994 44 looked at anti-bacterial and anti-fungal activity of western wild ginger. In the former, mild activity against Mycobacter phlei and MRSA was noted.
In study of anti-fungals, activity was found in all nine species tested, with significant inhibition of Microsporum cookerii and M. gypseum, equal to the control nystatin.
Aristolochic acid has been found to possess good anti-inflammatory activity. Rosenthal 1989, and venom inhibition, Tsai et al 1980.
Experiments with aristolochic acid have shown it reduces recurrence of herpes lesions. It competes with toxic chemicals to inhibit lymphocytic surface receptors, thus protecting cells. The acid is anti- fertility, anti-viral and antibiotic in nature.
Tablets of aristolochic acid (KC-2) enhance phagocytosis of leucocytes and macrophages, and are considered immune stimulating. In vitro tests show the compound inhibits tumours.
However, isolated aristolochic acid is a carcinogen and mutagen, and should be used with caution due to a variety of side effects.
Artistolochia is from the Greek meaning “better labour”. Beta asarone is also a potential carcinogen.
Aristolochic acid residue has been found in rats, nine months after a single dose was administered.
In the early 1990s, several deaths and severe kidney toxicity occurred due to a commercial herbal dietary product adulterated with Aristolochia species from China. Although the people injured were taking several other drugs at the same time, and exact cause of death undetermined, the use of aristolochic acid containing plants was banned in Britain, Belgium, Canada and other jurisdictions.
Wild Ginger products should not be used for any long term, and perhaps not used internally at all. Wild Ginger was official in the US Pharmacopoeia from 1820-1873 and NF from 1916-1947.
European Wild Ginger root is an expectorant and bronchial anti- spasmodic.
This is confirmed by the work of Graza et al, Phytomedicine 1981 42:2.
In one double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, 30 patients with acute bronchitis, 30 with chronic bronchitis, and 30 with bronchial asthma were tested.
Those patients with acute bronchitis were cured or improved in 80% of cases; chronic bronchitis showed a 58% improvement, and 68% of bronchial asthma cases were cured or showed improvement in subjective and objective states. The contrast with placebo was significant.
In Europe, the herb is standardized to tablet containing 5 milligrams of trans-isoasarone.
Hazelwort, or European Wild ginger (A. europaeum) is for the patient with hyper-sensitivity of the auditory nerves. The sound of scratching on silk or blackboard is unbearable. There is a feeling of lightness; the patient thinks they are hovering in air.
Hot flushes, and a shivery sensation are also noted.
Stabbing pains after eye surgery respond well to Asarum. It also decreases, like calamus, the desire for alcohol.
The symptom of cold hands and feet, with the sensation of heat in rest of body is one good indication. The patient feels better in fresh air.
Hay fever with violent itching of the nose is combined with the unsuccessful urge to sneeze. With catarrh of the trachea, there is a sensation in the throat as if it were laced up tight, and only short, jerky breaths can be taken.
This may be accompanied by cutting pain in the left lung, while in the right, a hard, pulsating pressure is present.
Asarum is called for in retching with nausea and shuddering, pressing pain in the stomach and intestinal colic. This may be associated with the passing of small quantities of dry, hard stool after cutting abdominal pains.
Mental breakdown from stress, aversion to coition, excessive nervousness and wringing of hands, easily startled
DOSE - Third to sixth potency. The mother tincture is prepared from the fresh rootstock of A. europaeum. Original proving by Hahnemann, on five males in 1817. Additional provings by Mezger, on 18 provers at 1x, 3x, and 6x in 1950. Clinical observations by Hering, Vithoulkas and Mangialavori have been recorded.
Wild Ginger (A. canadense) is indicated in colds, especially when followed by lack of periods or gastro-enteritis. Suppressed colds, where the symptoms linger for a long time also call for Wild Ginger.
Excessive nervousness, self doubt, feeling defeated, humiliation, domination and dreams of being chased.
Twitching and cramping of body, extreme restlessness at night, tossing and turning, unable to rest.
Tightness in eyes and ears.
DOSE - Third to sixth potency. The mother tincture is prepared from the fresh rootstock of A. canadense. Initial provings were from Hale based on folk medicine use. Winterburn did a fragmentary proving on females in 1880 taking tincture in various doses for two months. Jane Cicchetti did a dream and meditation proving on eight females and one male with flowers, rhizome and leaves of plants in 2005.
CONSTITUENTS - alpha pinene, d-linalool, l-borneol, limonene, alpha and gamma terpineol, linalyl acetate (28%), bornyl acetate, geraniol, methyl eugenol (37%), elemicin, asarol, 3,4-dimethoxy-cinnam-aldehyde, 2,3,4,5- tetramethoxy-allyl-benzene, a lactone, an azulene compound, aristolone and zerumbone; as well as fatty acids.
A. canadense root yields about 3.5-4.5% of a gingery and woody- spicy essential oil that has long been used in perfumery. The oil is yellow to yellowish-brown; and blends well with orrisroot, adding a minty-patchouli-gingery effect, or with pine needle and oak moss. Wild ginger root oil is an excellent blender with coriander, hops and other herbaceous odors.
Prior to distillation, the root must be ground into a powder; or soaked in water for 12 hours. The oil has valuable anti-spasmodic qualities that could be put to use in period or digestive pain. It is antibacterial, especially against gram positive and pus forming bacteria, according to Steven Foster.
The specific gravity is 0.947-0.998, with a saponification number of 92-144 (and occasionally as low as 47.5) and acid number of 1.9-7.5. Solubility 1:1.5-2.5 and more in 70% ethanol.
Industrially, the oil is used up to 8 ppm in flavouring to impart a spicy note to condiments, candy, ice cream, beverages and other food products.
It is used in the perfumery industry, often with orris root for special effect, imparting special tones to eau-de-cologne. Methyl eugenol is fast acting anodyne used in dentistry. Geraniol inhibits pancreatic tumour growth in animals. Burke et al, 1997.
The European Wild Ginger (A. europaeum) contains asarones (see Calamus) and should not be used as a substitute for either A. canadense or A. caudatum.
Wild Ginger (A. canadense) hydrosol is faintly sweet and spicy, but with a cooling note, due perhaps to the methyl eugenol component of the oil that has found its way into the water. The pH is 5.4; making one think short shelf life, but Suzanne Catty has one batch still stable after 30 months.
She has found the hydrosol using in calming and balancing those prone to anxiety attacks and the type A personality.
One woman claimed the hydrosol cleared up a respiratory infection in three days.
Otto Brunfels, in the early 16th century, suggested Asarum “ejects the menses and a fetus, and a drink of aqua asarum (distilled) or decocted asarum expels the fetus, whether alive or dead.”
Brunschwig, in his Book of Distillation, wrote, “the root water is for all diseases of the breast, it largeth the breast and comforts it. It also comforts lungs and coughs, as well as hoarseness of the voice.”
Wild Ginger (A. caudatum) flower essence is related to issues of sexuality. It is for healing sexual shame, or negative imprinting from early experiences. It helps one uncover the roots of sexual abuse trauma. It helps to recover the joy of sacred sexual touch, to release fear/frigidity and impotence. It gives courage to heal in connection with the spiritual path. On a physical level, it also helps to heal herpes where the karmic source is sexual shame. HUMMINGBIRD
Wild Ginger restores reverence for life, especially related to sacral chakra. From this creative centre, we can allow life and grace to move outward through us. Can be helpful in cases of sexual abuse. Stimulates flow, warms cool places. When we are stymied, it gives us release. NETTLES AND MORE
Wild Ginger (A. canadense) is a simple, ancient guide inviting you to rekindle your connection with nature, the forest, and all beings, and reminding you that this is your birthright. It brings a sense of being grounded and rooted. WOODLANDS
Wild Ginger (A. canadense) flower essence opens you to understanding the vibrant serenity of the wilderness, especially the forest floor. It helps you release worldly concerns and be quietly content with your own light. RUNNING FOX FARM
Wild Ginger essence reduces apathy, promotes clarity of judgment and perseverance, penetrating action towards clearly defined goals. LIGHT MOUNTAIN
Out East in the corner of the world, a maiden lived all alone. She saw no one, but for some reason she became pregnant. She thought, “ Where is it from that this baby has come?”
Eventually, it was time to begin birthing. She delivered the baby, but when she went to pick it up, it ran away from her. Finally, it tumbled down from the sky, and toward the west, getting so close it seemed about the fall into the water. But close to the beach it stopped near a plant, and when it did, the herb became medicine. Then the mother came to the baby and broke off the medicine. With it she picked him up, and returned to the east. She took the medicine with her and steamed the baby, and he grew fast and healthy. BUHNER
FRESH ROOT TINCTURE - 20-50 drops as needed. Tincture of fresh root is 1:2 ratio; dried root 1:5 at 60% alcohol.
COLD INFUSION - 2-5 grams. Let root sit overnight in water, and briefly warm in morning as for Calamus root. Short decoctions can be used when time is of the essence. Infusion are taken hot for colds, amenorrhea and promoting labour; while a warm infusion is better as a digestive carminative and antispasmodic.
LEAF INFUSION - One to two cups hot as needed.
EUROPEAN WILD GINGER CAPS- standardized to 5 mg trans- isoasarone. Adult dosage is two tablets three times daily for total of 30 mg. Children 2-12 are half dosage.
CAUTION - Avoid during pregnancy, and stomach/intestinal inflammation. Do not use over long time due to its toxic and potentially carcinogenicity. It may be used safely a few days before due date to prepare the uterus for labour. Do not use in cases of organic kidney disease.