Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale sheng jiang 生姜) is a member of the Zingiberaceae family and holds an important place in herbal medicine. There have been many scientific studies on the plant and it has become quite famous for its important role in treating motion sickness and other digestive ailments.
In Chinese medicine it is found in many, many formulas. But, as I noted in a translation from a 1904 materia medica by Zhou Yan on the Sylvan Institute’s FB page, the fresh herb is not used for cough. The author notes, among other things, that the fresh herb frees the lung through the stomach and scatters pathogens. Is used for all exterior invasions with nose congestion, vomiting, chest impediment, and phlegm congealing in and locking up the throat.
Ginger also has am important place in pao zhi, the juice (or tea) being used to process quite a number of herbs. A great example of this is the use of ginger processed hou po (Magnolia officinalis 厚朴) in Ping Wei San (Stomach-Calming Powder), Hou Po Wen Zhong Tang (Magnolia Warm the Middle Decoction), and Ban Xia Huo Po Tang (Pinellia and Magnolia Decoction).
This incredibly valuable herb plays an important part of so many formulas and is, of course, an important part of so many dishes in the kitchen. Let’s tip our hat to this sub-tropical/tropical wonder.
To add to the information above I have a little tid-bit. While doing a little research for my book on the traditional concepts of allergic asthma I ran across a note in the Xu Ming Yi Lei An (续名医类案) (originally a Ming Dynasty book but then has been up-dated several times into the late Qing Dynasty).
Here it mentions a formula that most Chinese herbalists should be aware of for treating asthma called Bai Guo Ding Chuang Tang (Ginkgo Nut Relieve Panting Decoction 白果定喘汤), which has
Ginkgo nut (bai guo 白果）(stir-fired until yellow) 21 nuts
Ephedra (ma huang 麻黄) 3 qian
Perilla seed (su zi 苏子) 2 qian
Colt’s Foot flowers (kuan dong hua 款冬花) 2 qian
Pinellia (fa zhi ban xia 法制半夏) 2 qian
Mulberry root bark (sang bai pi 桑白皮) (honey mix-fried) 2 qian
Apricot kernel (xing ren 杏仁) (without the skin or tip) 1.5 qian
Scutellaria root (huang qin 黄芩) (dry stir-fried “slightly”) 1.5 qian
Licorice (gan cao 甘草) 1 qian
What I found interesting is that this formula is presented with cooking instructions, which are pretty standard, and then the author explicitly says, “do not use ginger.”