Medicinal Plants, Pacific Northwest
The Wild Ginger Plant is a native perennial found growing in moist rich soils, in shady woodlands in the Pacific Northwest.
The large heart or kidney shaped leaves are hairy, dark green on a stem that reaches a height of about 20 to 30 cm. Deep bowl shaped flowers grow at the base, between the leaf stems, it is a short stemmed and hairy outside flower that splits open into three outwardly folded petals. They bloom from March to May. The root is a long rhizome that is light green and tender, when crushed it has a strong antiseptic smell.
Wild Ginger contains the constituent aristolochic acid which is a natural occurring toxin that is suspected of causing cancer, human cell mutations and end stage kidney failure. Take caution with this plant. I would suggest not using this plant internally.
Dried root is burned as incense and is said to repel insects. The root and rhizome were slowly boiled in a small quantity of water for a long time and the resulting liquid taken as a contraceptive by the women of many first peoples nations. A spray made from the decoction is a good deodorant and is handy in the first aid kit as an antiseptic. It is also used as an insecticide. A very strong decoction is used as a herbicide. Gather roots in spring to late fall. Dry for later herb use. Use fresh or dried herb crushed and added to a lotion or salve base, apply under a bandage.