Wild Ginger Flower

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Wild Ginger, Vancouver Island, BC
Wild Ginger, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

The Wild Ginger Flower is a native North American perennial found growing in moist rich soils in shady woodlands on Vancouver Island. They grow along the shore of the Ralph River. It prefers a rich moist neutral to acid soil in a shady woodland setting.

The large heart or kidney-shaped leaves are hairy, dark green and deeply indented at the stem they grow in opposite pairs to a height of about 20-30cm. Deep bowl-shaped flowers grow at the base, between the leaf stems, it is single short-stemmed and hairy outside and seems to split open into three outwardly folded petals, flowers bloom from March to May. The root is a long rhizome (underground stem), it is light green and tender or crispy, when crushed it has a strong antiseptic smell.

Wild Ginger contains the constituent aristolochic acid which is a naturally occurring toxin that is suspected of causing cancer, human cell mutations, and end-stage kidney failure

The 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.

Antiseptic salve: Use fresh or dried herb crushed, add to lotion or salve base, apply under a bandage. It’s a beautiful plant to observe and not common on our coast.

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