Wildflowers, Plants and Ferns, Pacific Northwest
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 natural occurring toxin that is suspected of causing cancer, human cell mutations and end stage kidney failure
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 bandage. Its a beautiful plant to observe and not common on our coast.