Shampoo ginger

Zingiber zerumbet (Zingimberaceae)

Characteristics

Perennial herb, leafy stem up to 1.2 m tall. From autumn until spring it goes dormant above ground as the leafy stems shrivel and die away, leaving the pale brown rhizomes at ground level. In the spring, the plant springs up anew. 10-12 blade-shaped leaves, 15-20 cm long, alternate. Among the leafy stems, the conical flower heads burst forth on separate and shorter stalks. These appear in the summer, after the stem has been growing for a while. The flower heads are initially green, 3-10 cm, with overlapping scales, enclosing small yellowish-white flowers that poke out a few at a time. As the flower heads mature, they gradually fill with an aromatic, slimy liquid and turn a brighter red color.

Distribution

Native to tropical Asia and Australasia but can be found in many tropical countries. The earliest evidence of its cultivation is from the Austronesian people who carried it with them during the Austronesian expansion (ca. 5000 BP) as canoe plants, reaching as far as Remote Oceania.

Natural Medical Properties

A decoction of the rhizome is used in the treatment of asthma.

A decoction is used as a carminative to treat colic.

It is employed as a ‘hot’ remedy for coughs, asthma, worms, leprosy, and other skin diseases.

The rhizome is applied externally to rheumatic joints.

The essential oil in the rhizome contains zerumbone, which has spasmolytic and bacteriostatic properties.

Did you know?

The rhizomes of Shampoo ginger have been used as food flavoring and appetizers in various cuisines while the rhizome extracts have been used in herbal medicine. Perhaps the most common use of the plant is as a shampoo and conditioner. The clear fragrant juice present in the mature flower heads that resemble red pinecones is used for softening and bringing shininess to the hair. It can be left in the hair or rinsed out and can also be used as a massage lubricant.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species