From curing several ailments and diseases to the preparation of our favourite Khasi dishes, medicinal herbs hold a special place in the lives of the people in Meghalaya. For years, the locals have relied on herbal remedies, recipes and formulations to cure their ailments, passing them down from generation to generation. In most cases, they are used to this day. And out of the many herbs and plants that were used in these traditional practices, there is one root that has a special place in traditional medicine. Indigenous to Meghalaya, it stands out from the rest because of its highly valuable medicinal properties – Ing Makhir or ‘Bengal Ginger Plant, as it is commonly known.
So, you must be asking yourself, “What exactly is Ing Makhir and how can I benefit from it?” Well, we at Zizira are here to tell you that there are benefits from this variety of ginger! But firstly, let’s address the first part to that question and investigate, why Ing Makhir is different from the normal ginger.
A Different Variety of Ginger Plant
Ing Makhir (Botanical name: Zingiber Rubens) is a highly valued variety of ginger plant sold in the local markets for its strong medicinal properties as compared to the common ginger root. Gingerol, a characteristic compound of ginger is significantly present in Ing Makhir has been known to exhibit a variety of biological activities including anticancer, anti-inflammation, and anti-oxidation. Moreover, Ing Makhir contains Zingibrene; an essential oil or ginger extract which contributes to the strong distinct smell of the root. Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts which are used for several applications in medicine and aromatherapy. Other essential oils that are present in Ing Makhir are monoterpenes, camphene, phellandrene and cineole.
Okay, enough of the scientific jargon. Now, let us look at some of the traditional uses of Ing Makhir which have survived the test of time and are still used even today.
Traditional Uses of Ing Makhir
There is an age-old tradition of the Khasis in administering a herbal formulation to treat a disease or ailment found in newborns or infants known as U Niangsohpet (‘Niang’ means germs and ‘sohpet’ means the navel in Khasi dialect). Niangsohpet is a form of infantile diarrhoea or irregular bowels accompanied by the yellowness of the skin during infanthood, also known as neonatal jaundice. The medicine is usually applied to the stomach when the baby is only two weeks old. This traditional formulation of the medicine called Ka Dawai Niangsohpet includes a mix of various plants and herbs found in Meghalaya. One of the crucial ingredients in this formulation includes Ing Makhir and it has been proved to cure infants and new-borns of infantile diarrhoea and neonatal jaundice.
- Ing Makhir has been used by traditional herbal practitioners to treat body aches, arthritis, rheumatism, joint pains etc
Ever wondered why those traditional herbal oils you get from traditional healers have such a strong and distinct smell as compared to the regular massage oils you get in the market? Yes, you guessed it. Ing Makhir is known for its property of relieving body aches, joint pains and similar ailments. It has long been used along with other herbs as a herbal remedy to treat the aforesaid ailments and is the reason why traditional herbal oils have that distinct characteristic smell.
- Ing Makhir has been used as an insect and snake repellent
Take it from a person who has used Ing Makhir to ward off ants from my Mother’s sugar containers and bugs and cockroaches from my clothes and bags. A strong repellent for insects and pests, Ing Makhir’s smell partially comes from the essential oil Zingibrene and placing a few Ing Makhir slices around will surely ward off pests and insects. Additionally, the root has also been known to repel snakes and has been traditionally used to keep snakes and other creepy crawlies from entering the house.
- Ing Makhir is great for curing sore throat, cough and cold.
Along with a combination of other herbs, Ing Makhir root is known to get rid of that sore throat, cough or cold that has been bothering you all week. While administering steam inhalation therapy, crushed rhizome of the Ing Makhir is added to the water to help effectively cure the aforesaid ailments.
Ing Makhir as a Spice
Though Ing Makhir is utilized and valued for its use in medicine, foodies will be glad to know that the root is also used to make one of Meghalaya’s most famous dish – Tungrymbai!
What is tungrymbai you may ask? It is a popular fermented soybean chutney which is indigenous to the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya and is deep-rooted in the food culture of the people. While preparing tungrymbai, Ing Makhir is added to give additional flavour and aroma to the dish.
Ginger Plant Root with Great Potential
The diverse applicability of Ing Makhir makes the root useful and beneficial in so many ways. And though, the people of Meghalaya have been using this root in traditional medicines for the past years, there may be other applications which are yet to be discovered. This will help researchers discover new health remedies and help local farmers earn a better living by increasing its demand in the market.
If you know of any traditional uses or applications of Ing Makhir please let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!