Zingiber zerumbet is a plant in the ginger family with leafy stems growing in clumps up to seven feet tall and 6 feet wide. Originally found in Asia it can be found in many tropical countries. Common names include; awapuhi, Hawaiian ginger, bitter ginger, shampoo ginger, lempoyang and pinecone ginger. It is a deciduous plant that lies dormant in the winter. Both the leaves and the pine cone-like flowers that emerge each summer. The cone-like flowers are a deep vibrant red and can be used in eye-catching flower arrangements along with its large leaves. It thrives in zones 9-11, the ideal temperature being between 71 and 77 degrees. In colder climates, it can be grown in pots and brought indoors in the cold or just kept indoors. It can grow in partial shade and should be planted in an area with fairly fertile soil or under some good mulch, (although we have fairly sandy soil here and find the plant itself provides a good mulch in the winter when it dies back). It can be grown indoors as a house plant. Native Hawaiians have used the fragrant juice to moisturize and cleanse their skin and hair for centuries. Containing the 19 amino acids hair needs to look and feel its best, the awapuhi plant provides a natural source of nourishment for dry and damaged hair.
- Hair: Awapuhi can help with dry, damaged, or coarse hair. It can make hair soft and shiny and may help with dandruff. Awapuhi has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help repair hair. Long-term use also improves hair growth and protects it from damage. Squeeze the mature flowers of the awapuhi plant to release the lightly ginger-scented juice. You can apply the juice directly to your hair, leave it in for a few minutes, or use it as a leave-in conditioner.
- Skin: Awapuhi can be used as a compress for sore spots, bruises, and cuts. It may also help with ringworm and other skin diseases. You can also use it as a body wash. As with hair, just squeeze the mature flower to release the soapy sap.
- Culinary: The leaves and stalks of awapuhi can be used to flavor food. Just clean and use as you would normal ginger. Awapuhi has a slightly more bitter taste than the ginger that we tend to use and indeed is also known as bitter ginger. The leaves and stalks of the awapuhi plant can be used in cooking to add a ginger flavor to meat. Traditionally the leaves were used to wrap meat and then cooked in an underground oven. The root can also be used to make a tea. Grind and strain the awapuhi pake root and mix it with water or drink it as tea. It is said to help with indigestion.
- Awapuhi is also said to have many medical uses;
- Treating digestive issues
- Treating diarrhoea
- Treating intestinal worms
- Stomach aches
How to store your rhizomes
- Store in a cool, dry place: Rhizomes can be stored in the soil in a container over winter. They can also be dug, cleaned, and stored in a brown paper bag in a cool, dry place.
- Don’t refrigerate: Rhizomes intended for planting should not be refrigerated.
- Keep some air movement: Some air movement is necessary to prevent mould.
- Don’t store directly on top of plastic: Rhizomes should not be stored directly on top of plastic or other surfaces.
How to plant your rhizomes
- Cut the large ginger rhizome into smaller pieces about 3cm long – ensuring each piece has a growing point or “eye”. Leave the cut pieces exposed to the air for a few days to dry before
- Ours are not treated with a growth retardant, but for those that are; soak the rhizomes in water overnight.
- Plant the rhizomes 6 to 8 inches apart, 2 to 4 inches deep, and with the growth buds/eye pointing upward.
- Cut the large ginger rhizome into smaller pieces about 3cm long.
- Leave the cut pieces exposed to the air for a few days to dry before planting.
- Water well.
- Maintain the soil at 70 degrees and moist to the touch, watering only when the soil dries.
- A sprout should emerge in six to eight weeks.
Please note that despite being used homeopathically as above by many for centuries none of the above has been endorsed by the FDA.