It’s not cabbage! It’s ginger!

Your ginger friend has a silent fortitude. She is determined and motivated. She makes decisions and acts on them. There is no procrastination with ginger. She has a warm side to her personality too, which she uses to encourage, strengthen and support. If you are feeling indecisive or disassociated with life in general, turn to ginger.

My new supply of essential oils arrived this week, delivered to my place of work. In the absence of our managers At lunchtime a ‘show and smell’ session was enjoyed by a couple of my work mates. I couldn’t wait to open ginger oil with its warm and spicy scent. So imagine my utter disdain surprise when one of my work mates declared ‘That smells like cabbage’.

Ginger doesn’t smell like cabbage, but the scent of its essential oil is more concentrated and potent than the aroma of candied ginger or gingerbread with which you may be familiar. The trick to smelling essential oils from the bottle is to keep the bottle at a distance, about level with your chin, and wave it about slightly not shove it up your nostril allowing the aroma to delicately waft through the air.

Rant over Moving on, ginger is an exotic herb that has its origins in Asia and is now widely cultivated in other countries such as India, China and Japan. It’s an ugly-looking herb, admittedly, the root looking like a gnarly old man, although it does sometimes sprout pretty white or yellow flowers on a green spike-like stalk.

Ginger has a variety of uses as a herb and as an essential oil, so this week I’ve included a herbal remedy in my methods of use.

Ginger tea, ahh lovely

Ginger root makes a delicious tea that has many benefits. It eases nausea, indigestion, flatulence and travel or morning sickness (the herb, not oil, being safe to use in the first trimester of pregnancy). It’s good for colds and flu, sore throats, congestion, coughs, chills and so on. It’s a stimulant for debilitative conditions, apathy and fatigue. The brew is warming, strengthening and, for want of a better word, encouraging. To make:

  • chop 1 inch off the fresh root, wash and peel lightly
  • grate into a mug and pour over boiling water
  • add one teaspoon of honey or sugar, and stir
  • cover and leave to brew for five minutes
  • sip slowly and enjoy

If you have a bad cold add a slice or two of lemon to the above remedy. I force-fed kindly made this for my work mates one winter when a flu pandemic swept through the office.

Warming massage oil

Ginger is a very good essential oil for stimulating circulation and easing aches and pains in muscles. It’s great as a muscle rub on chilly days when your joints may be feeling achy and stiff. A 3% dilution is safe to use, but if you have sensitive skin do a patch test first. Blend in a dark-glass bottle:

  • 30ml carrier oil (a vegetable oil, eg sweet almond, olive or sunflower)
  • 18 drops ginger oil

Shake your blend well, then pour a little into your hand and massage over your aching limbs, using circular, outward movements until it’s absorbed by your skin.

Anti-aging skin oil

Ginger oil may not be the most obvious choice for beauty care, but surprisingly this essential oil does have some anti-aging benefits. It’s great if your complexion is looking tired, dull, grey and congested. It’s also thought to have antioxidant properties, so great for mature skins. I like to blend it with rose and frankincense oils to stimulate circulation and to give skin a radiant glow. Blend in a dark-glass bottle:

  • 30ml jojoba oil (my preferred choice of carrier for facial massage)
  • 7 drops frankincense oil
  • 7 drops rose oil
  • 4 drops ginger oil

Massage a teaspoonful on cleansed skin, avoiding the eye area. Do this for four to five minutes, then remove using a warm damp flannel.

This post is dedicated to Oisin, because he hates ginger.

Profile of ginger:

Latin name: Zingiber officinale
Plant family: Zingiberaceae
Plant type: spice
Perfume note: top/middle
Botany and origins: a perennial herb growing to about 1m high with a thick and tuberous root, annually it sprouts a green reed-like stalk with spear-shaped leaves and white or yellow flowers. It is native to southern Asia but cultivated in many countries including the West Indies, India, China and Japan
Extraction: steam distillation
Chemical properties/active components: primarily sesquiterpenes (55%), including sesquiphellandrene, zingiberene and curcumene; sesquiterpenes are, among other actions, anti-inflammatory
Blends with: sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli, frankincense, rosewood, cedarwood, rose, the orange oils and other citrus oils
Key actions: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, bactericidal, digestive, expectorant, rubefaciant (stimulates circulation of capillaries – tiny blood vessels), stimulant, strengthening, warming
Common conditions: poor circulation, cold hands and feet, arthritis, rheumatism, physical/muscular fatigue, muscular aches and pains, sprains and strains; poor digestion, flatulence, travel and morning sickness, indigestion, loss of appetite, nausea; catarrhal conditions, coughs, sinusitis, congestion, chills, colds, flu, debility; nervous exhaustion, apathy, indecision, emotional fatigue
Contraindications: non-toxic and non-irritant, although it may irritate sensitive skins and cause sensitisation in some. Avoid during the first three months of pregnancy (although ginger root tea is helpful and safe to use for morning sickness)
Further reading: This profile is based on my own experience and knowledge of using this essential oil. Other aromatherapy texts will list a wider range of properties and uses. The most comprehensive essential oil profiles that I have read are given by Salvatore Battaglia’s The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Second Edition, published by Perfect Potion, 2003, Australia. ISBN:  0-6464-2896-9

Image © 123RF

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