This introduction is followed by an opening activity designed to introduce a common plant such as ginger, stressing it importance as a source of medicine and food flavoring. The teacher may put a chart on the
board with the following headings as the ginger root is discussed.
WHAT WE KNOW / WHAT WE WANT TO KNOW / WHAT WE LEARNED
- Collection of common herbs: ginger, garlic, aloe, dandelion, also lemon.
- Ginger root
- Ginger snap cookies or ginger bread
- Ginger ale
- Ginger candy from health food store
The materials may be put out on the demonstration table or teacher desk and students invited to observe as well as sample some of the ginger products for taste or smell as well as texture.
Under the heading of "what we know," the students can perhaps bring some folk lore that they have heard about ginger such as using ginger ale for upset stomach when we have the flu and fever or using it for
seasickness. The teacher may also mention other uses for ginger root; these include its use in may Chinese multi-herb formulas because its warming and stimulation energy aids stomach upset, nausea, motion sickness,
poor digestion, gas and excessive mucus accumulation. External application of juice relieves muscle pain. Ginger oil on scalp is used for dandruff and placed in the ear treats earaches. Ginger tea or tincture can be
used as a gargle for sore throats. Some medical research is looking into the use of ginger to treat dyslexia.
Perhaps under the heading of "what we want to know," the students may want to find out where it grows, what it looks like as a whole plant. Do other cultures besides the Asian people use ginger? Is there
some historical importance to this plant?
The last category "What we learned" may be left till the end of the students' project. It may be used as a means of directing the research work that will result when students start the plant survey of their
The other herbs that are displayed could be brought into the discussion at this point allowing the students contribute what they know about the uses for these plants in their own lives.
- Cooking with herbs: Look up recipes in which ginger may be used or select another herb to investigate, then make the dish in class or at home and bring in for sampling
- Collect and or/research other herbal medicines: Information about these could be put on a student-developed HyperCard stack. The chemistry of these herbs can be researched by using Kee Chan Huang's Pharmacology
of Chinese Herbs and this information added to the database.
- Invite an herbalist to speak to the class.
- Watch the PBS video "Healing and the Mind" for a first-hand glimpse of Chinese herbal medicine vs. western medicine in mainland China today.
- Visit a Chinese supermarket or Chinatown and write down the many different types of foods that are sold and perhaps interview the vendors as to the uses for these foods as well as the history.
- Watch Nova video on "Hidden Power of Plants" to extend discussion of herbal medicines to the rain forest.
- Participate in a debate on the merits of western medicines vs. herbal medicines.
- Do further research on ethnobotanicals: a great way for students to exchange regional and cultural information using the Internet.
- Investigate the scientific research that has been done on such herbs as ginseng.
- Websites:"Ethnobotanicals" http://www.accessexcellence.org/RC/Ethnobotany/ethnobotanicals.html and "HerbalRemedies" (http://www.accessexcellence.org/AE/AEC/AEF/1996/powers_medicin es.html)