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African Ginger – Siphonochilus aethiopicus
The generic name Siphonochilus is derived from the Greek siphono meaning tube, and chilus meaning lip in reference to the shape of the flower. The specific name aethiopicus means from southern Africa.
African ginger is one of the Zulu’s top herbal medicines and widely used throughout its distribution area. This plant is highly prized for its medicinal value.
African ginger is a deciduous plant with large, hairless leaves, developing annually from a small, distinctive cone-shaped rhizome. The spectacular flowers appear at ground level in early summer.
The root or rhizome is the part used, and comes to market in jointed branches called races or hands. The smell of the African ginger is aromatic and penetrating, the taste spicy, pungent, hot and biting.
Wild African ginger has a restricted distribution in Mpumalanga, Northern Province and has become extinct in KwaZulu Natal. The plant also occurs in Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
This plant has a long history in African traditional medicine for a range of conditions including arthritis, asthma, candida, colds & flu, coughs, dysmenorrhoea, headaches, hysteria, influenza, menstrual cramps, mild asthma, mood swings, premenstrual syndrome, sinusitis, throat infections, thrush and to clear nasal passages.
The African ginger has a stimulating effect on the heart and circulation, creating a feeling of warmth and well-being and restoring vitality, especially for those feeling the cold in winter.
Hot ginger tea promotes perspiration, brings down a fevers.Ginger has a stimulating and expectorant action in the lungs, expelling phlegm and relieving catarrhal coughs and chest infections.
African ginger is a wonderful aid to digestion. It invigorates the stomach and intestines, stimulating the appetite and enhancing digestion by encouraging secretion of digestive enzymes.
African ginger is famous for relieving nausea and vomiting, from whatever cause. It settles the stomach, soothes indigestion and calms wind. Its pain-relieving and relaxing effects in the gut relieve colic and spasm, abdominal pain, distension and flatulent indigestion and help to relieve griping caused by diarrhoea.
In the uterus it promotes menstruation, useful for delayed and scanty periods as well as clots. African ginger relaxes spasm and relieves painful ovulation and periods, and is recommended to invigorate the reproductive system. African ginger also inhibits clotting and thins the blood; it lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.
Growing African ginger
The wild ginger is easy to cultivate provided it is given a well-drained, compost rich soil and a warm, but shady position either in a container or in the garden. Watering should be reduced to a minimum during the winter months while the plant is dormant and may be resumed with the onset of spring. During the growing season plants respond very well to high levels of feeding with organic matter