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This is a good time of year to bring out the ginger. As we move into autumn and the days get shorter and the air cooler, ginger is a great way to replace sunshine and summer heat and warm things up a bit. I’ve written about ginger before, but like a few other special classics in the botanical medicine panoply, it is something well worth rediscovering from time to time.

Ginger is used internally as a tonic and stimulant. Warming to the body, it will make you perspire if you ingest it in large amounts. In cold weather or when you feel shivery, or when your muscles and joints are aching, it heats everything up in a most soothing way. It settles the stomach and boosts the immune system. It is known for its efficacy in battling the common cold and nausea. Taken with seafood, ginger’s purification properties help guard against food poisoning. It will stimulate delayed menstruation and act as a vermifuge.

Ginger is potent, and may cause an adverse reaction when taken in large or repeated doses. As with any medicinal substance, use it in moderation. Ginger should not be used by those suffering from stomach ulcers.

Externally, the root of ginger is equally stimulating. It is used in recipes for promoting hair growth, and it is said to help prevent hair loss when used regularly as a rinse. It stimulates local circulation, heals and warms, purifies and cleanses. It is an important ingredient in many cellulite preparations. In the same way as for internal use, be careful. Avoid concentrated application directly onto the skin, and if you have sensitive skin, you may find that even small and diluted quantities will be irritating. If so, listen to your body and avoid it.

There are several simple ways to bring ginger power into your life. First, ginger can be made into a tea which has a number of benefits. Simply slice off a piece or two of fresh ginger root and steep it in boiling water for a few minutes before removing. Imbibed in small sips, the ginger tea will help fortify your body against illness — very useful when you feel weak or tired and thus susceptible to colds — and it will help settle your stomach if you feel nauseous. This tea may be used to prevent and treat motion sickness; only a small amount is needed to bring relief.

Note that there is mixed opinion over ginger’s use to treat morning sickness during pregnancy: Some modern herbalists claim it works wonders, while in traditional Chinese medicine women are warned to avoid ginger during pregnancy. If you wish to try it for this purpose, it is imperative to consult a nutrition expert first.

The most delicious way to use ginger externally is to bathe in it. Grate two large ginger roots, and squeeze in cheesecloth until you have about a cup of ginger juice. Added to your hot bath, the ginger will encourage the elimination of toxins, ease aching muscles and miraculously banish all fatigue and tension from your being. You’ll emerge from your aromatic bath feeling reborn.