Edition 20: June 2010
Essential Oil of the month
Warmth for cold and lonely
THE medicinal uses of Ginger essential oil go back throughout ancient history; recorded in the ancient Indian, Greek, Arab and Chinese pharmacopoeia.
Ginger was one of the first spices to be traded from Asia to Europe in the Middle Ages and has since been used in the Western world, principally as a digestive aid.
The essential oil smells of actual ginger; it is warm, spicy and peppery with hints of lemon and earthy tones. The essential oil is distilled from the unpeeled or dried roots of the ginger plant which can yield about two to four per cent oil.
The essential oil can vary in colour from pale yellow to a darker amber colour and the viscosity also ranges from medium to watery.
The peculiar hot and pungent taste of ginger can be attributed to the presence of an acrid compound called Gingerol, responsible for most of its health benefits. An absolute and oleoresin are also produced and used in perfumery.
Traditionally, Ginger has been used for its aphrodisiac properties. African women in the region of Senegal reportedly wove belts from the Ginger root to revive the flagging sexual potency of a man.
Ginger oil settles and tones the digestive system, encouraging the secretion of the gastric juices and is thus one of the best remedies for indigestion, stomach ache, colic, spasms, diarrhoea, flatulence and other stomach and bowel-related problems.
Ginger oil is a common addition in food, especially in India, not only as a flavouring agent, but because it helps digestion and it also is used this way as a natural preservative. This oil acts as an aperitif whereby it stimulates the appetite and in some cases it can act as a mild laxative.
In cases of food poisoning, ginger is antiseptic and carminative and it is also used for treating intestinal infections and bacterial dysentery. Ginger provides a rich source of Vitamin C and it has been used to treat scurvy.
It is also effective against nausea, motion sickness and vomiting. It is a blessing when massaged into the pregnant bellies for morning sickness, or even a drop taken internally with honey or sugar.
Massage/Bath oil blend: Ginger can be used for digestive upsets, arthritis, muscle aches, rheumatism, and also to help with poor circulation and to disperse bruises.
Drop on handkerchief: Apply a drop of oil to a handkerchief for quick inhalation; it can be used for nausea, morning sickness, indigestion, colds and flu and travel sickness.
Hot compress: Ginger can be used for arthritis, rheumatism, muscle aches and digestive upsets.
Here is a superb circulatory stimulant that brings warmth to the extremities; this is a boon for those with varicose veins.
It is strongly believed in China that ginger boosts and strengthens your heart and is used as a preventative for heart diseases such as angina. Research indicates that ginger may help reduce cholesterol levels and prevent blood clotting. This could reduce the risk of stroke in susceptible people. It is said to be helpful after childbirth, breaking down remaining clots.
Ginger works as a good expectorant; cutting through catarrh and congestion and removing mucus from the throats and lungs. It is therefore effective for various respiratory problems such as cold, cough, flu, asthma, bronchitis and breathlessness.
The combination of honey and ginger in treating respiratory problems is well favoured and sore throats and tonsillitis can be soothed. It counteracts illnesses caused by dampness and reduces fevers by promoting sweating and cooling down the body.
Ginger root and ginger oil is understood to be effective against yellow fever and malaria.
Ginger oil is often used to reduce inflammation and pain caused by muscle strain, arthritis, rheumatism, headache, migraine, etc. Ginger oil blends are effective when massaged onto aching muscles that are cold and contracted and it is especially good for the lower back.
Ginger helps in pain relief because it promotes the reduction of prostaglandins, which are the compounds associated with pain.
Recent Chinese research shows that ginger is effective for treating inflammation of the testicles. Irregular and painful menstruation can also be treated with ginger oil massages.
According to the American Cancer Society, preliminary research has shown that ginger may be useful in treating cancer.
Ginger root and its oil are aphrodisiac in nature, and it is known to enhance our sexual potency and help treat premature ejaculation in males.
In cosmetics, ginger is known to have moisture balancing properties for the skin and it is used as a fragrant component in oriental-style perfumes where it brings an interesting earthy note.
Invigorating ginger oil provides energy; it helps relieve depression and sluggishness. Psychologically, ginger is arousing and stimulates where there is nervous exhaustion and loneliness. It is especially helpful in wintery times to chase away the blues and bring warmth and cheerfulness.
It empowers, increasing confidence and the ability to see plans to their fruition. Ginger is traditionally associated with the planet Mars - a symbol of power and virility; indeed it is dynamic, activating will-power and initiative.
When the intention is clear and the plan is in place, but procrastination lurks, ginger restores determination and gives us the drive and optimism to see things through and enjoy achievement.
Ginger helps release grief held in the lungs and the emotional body; uncovering denied or lost feelings from a broken heart or a loss of innocence.
The whole Self is empowered to feel safe and secure when the hurt, lost child is coaxed out into the safe light of love and protection.
Ginger enhances our creative expression and confidence in our personal tastes. It helps us create beautiful aesthetic surroundings.
Latin Name: Zingiber Offinale
Plant Origins: Ginger is a member of the Zingiberaceae plant family; it is a perennial herb growing up to a metre high and it has a spreading rhizome root. Ginger has yellow or white flowers which grow on a spike direct from the root. It is grown in most tropical countries such as Africa, India, West Indies China and Java.
Indications: Analgesic (quells pain), anti-emetic, antiseptic, antiscorbutic (Vitamin C source) bactericidal, aperitif, (stimulates digestion), aphrodisiac, carminative, (calms stomach), expectorant, febrifuge, laxative, rubefacient (warming to skin) stimulant, sudorific (increases sweating) tonic.
Blends well with: citrus and spicy oils such as cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, clove, frankincense, geranium, lemon, lime, orange, rosemary, eucalyptus, spearmint and verbena. Use carefully in perfumery, as ginger oil is strong smelling and can overpower weaker oils
Precautions: Ginger oil is non-toxic and non-irritant (except when used in high concentrations) however it could irritate sensitive skins and cause photosensitivity.
What Herb is That?
Herb to heal your Achilles heel
YARROW’S generic name Achillea derives from the Greek hero Achilles, who allegedly used the herb to treat his wounds during the Trojan War. Its specific name millefolium means ‘a thousand leaves’, referring to its feathery foliage.
The herb was used for divination in spells, especially love spells, and in France and Ireland it is one of the herbs of St John. On St John’s Eve the Irish would hang yarrow in their homes to avert illness. It has been employed as a snuff and, in the 17th Century, was an ingredient in salads. The flowers and peppery leaves are still used to flavour liqueurs.
The Winnebago people used a yarrow infusion to treat earache, and it was used by the early American settlers for diarrhoea, leucorrhoea, and bleeding. One of the plant's constituents, achilleine, was isolated and used as a quinine substitute at the turn of the century.
In ancient China, the I Ching, or Book of Changes, was also known as the Yarrow Stalk Oracle and yarrow is still used medicinally in China today.
Yarrow is a very valuable medicinal herb, with much scientific evidence verifying its use in traditional healing. Yarrow is part of the classic formula to treat colds and flu, with its valuable diaphoretic properties that help manage any fevers holistically. It prevents the body temperature from rising too high but has a minimal suppressant effect on the course of the fever which is part of the natural healing process.
The flowers are rich in chemicals that are helpful to treat allergic catarrhal problems such as hay fever.
It has been documented that extracts of yarrow exhibit antibiotic and antimicrobial activity.
Used externally, yarrow’s astringent and anti-inflamma- tory properties aid in the healing of wounds, where it also has anaesthetic activity and stimulates the formation of granulation tissue. This is also useful to treat haemorrhoids and varicose veins.
Yarrow combines well in a herbal tea with lime flowers or hawthorn berries to lower blood pressure; or elderflowers and peppermint to reduce fevers in colds and flu - add capsicum or ginger for added flavour.
Yarrow lowers high blood pressure by dilating the peripheral vessels; it is considered to be a specific in thrombotic conditions associated with high blood pressure. It also tones the blood vessels and influences the vagus nerve, slowing the heart rate.
Yarrow is indicated for haemorrhage and it also helps clear blood clots. The leaves encourage blood clotting, so can be used fresh for nosebleeds. (Yarrow contains the alkaloid achilleine which is haemostatic, reducing clotting time without toxic side- effects.) Due to the presence of steroidal constituents, yarrow is added to women’s herbal blends to aid in heavy, painful periods and regulates the menses.
Similar to chamomile, yarrow is also used for bloating and flatulence and stomach ulcers. The bitter action of yarrow stimulates the digestion and the flow of bile; the tannins have an astringent effect both internally and externally. The flavonoids in yarrow help reduce spasms particularly of the smooth muscle, which might explain its usefulness in gastrointestinal cramping.
The herb treats skin irritations and yarrow oil has been traditionally used in hair shampoos to soothe scalp problems.
Yarrow contains asparagin, a potent diuretic and may be of assistance for kidney disorders.
Latin Name: Achillea millefolium
Description: Yarrow is a hardy perennial plant that grows up to 50cm high and the composite flowers are white-to-pink, with a characteristic odour. Yarrow is a very hardy and prolific plant which can be found growing naturally in many regions of Europe, North America and Asia. The flowering tops are used and it is also edible as a spice or flavouring with a strong sage flavour.
Actions: antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent Diaphoretic, hypotensive, peripheral vasodilator, astringent, haemostatic, diuretic, urinary antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, aromatic bitter, digestive stimulant, emmenagogue, restorative and regulator for menstrual system.
Contraindications: In rare cases, yarrow can cause severe allergic skin rashes. Prolonged use can increase the skin's photosensitivity. Large doses should be avoided in pregnancy because the herb is a uterine stimulant. Excessive doses may interfere with existing anticoagulant and hypo- or hypertensive therapies.