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Ginger is the dried or fresh root of a tropical member of the ginger family native to the Old World tropics.
Ginger is a tropical plant that has green-purple flowers and an aromatic underground stem (called a rhizome). It is commonly used for cooking and medicinal purposes.
Cultivated for millennia in both China and India, ginger reached the West at least 2,000 years ago. It is now cultivated in great quantities in Jamaica and comes into this country dried and preserved. The root from the West Indies is considered the best. Jamaica or White African is a light-brown color with short rhizome and is very pungent. Cochin has a very short rhizome, coated red-grey color. ‘Coated or Uncoated’ is the trade term for peel on or skinned.
The Chinese fresh Ginger is grated into powder. African and Cochin Ginger yield the most resin and volatile oil.
Ginger as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
- Ginger is used in Asian medicine to treat stomach aches, nausea, and diarrhea.
- Many digestive, anti-nausea, and cold and flu dietary supplements sold in the United States contain ginger extract as an ingredient.
- Ginger is used to alleviate post surgery nausea as well as nausea caused by motion, chemotherapy, and pregnancy.
- Ginger has been used for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and joint and muscle pain.
Folk use includes using ginger for colds, fever, indigestion, nausea, menstrual cramps, and poor circulation (Maiscott 2000).
In Southern Appalachia, folk practitioners used ginger for fevers, colds, and menstruation (Cavender 2003). A Dr. Thomson writing at the beginning of the nineteenth century recommended keeping a piece of ginger root in one’s pocket to fend off yellow fever by chewing it like tobacco when exposed to the disease (Meyer 1975).
Most of the thousands of prescriptions in Chinese traditional medicine (TCM) are combinations of many herbs with ginger used in nearly half of them to mediate the effects of other ingredients as well as to stimulate the appetite and calm the stomach.
Ginger is now recognized for helping to treat stomach upset and prevent symptoms of motion sickness. Six clinical studies have looked at ginger’s potential to reduce motion sickness. Four European studies reported positive results, while two American studies gave negative findings.
Studies suggest that the short term use of ginger can safely relieve pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting. Ginger is believed to reduce nausea by increasing digestive fluids and absorbing and neutralizing toxins and stomach acid. It increases bile secretion as well as the action and tone of the bowel.
Ginger also has been shown to reduce the stickiness of blood platelets and may thereby reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Limited studies suggest ginger may reduce morning sickness as well as nausea after surgery. Both uses require a physician’s supervision.
The chemical compound borneol found in ginger is an anti-inflammatory and can relieve pain and has been used for toothaches and headaches (Weiner and Weiner 1994).
Ginger has also been studied for its antibacterial, antifungal, pain-relieving, anti-ulcer, antitumor, and other properties. It is unclear to what extent ginger is effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or joint and muscle pain.
The following is from the book Mother Nature’s Herbal by Judy Griffin, Ph.D.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is known in India as “vishwabhesaj,” a universal medicine. Fresh ginger juice is added to the powdered root to make a thick jam and rolled into pills. It is taken with honey to relieve congestive illness, with rock candy to relieve inflammatory and febrile disease, and with rock salt to relieve flatulence, arthritis, and constipation.
The energy of ginger is warm and dispersing. It is used as a diaphoretic to drive out colds, flu, and nausea. It is also helpful in reducing hypertension. Ginger tea is made by simmering 1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger or 1/4 teaspoon of dried ginger in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes. Strain and add a few drops of honey to relieve nausea at the onset of a cold or virus. It is not recommended for inflammatory diseases. Although ginger has been helpful in healing gastric ulcers, it can also encourage ulcers and inflammatory “non-ulcerous” disease. It can be used cautiously in a diluted form with honey and discontinued if any burning or discomfort occurs.
Ginger for Headaches
In a 2014 study, people were who suffered from migraine headaches were treated with eithre 50mg of sumatriptan, a migraine drug, or 250mg of powdered ginger. Two hours after treatment, 64 percent of people given ginger and 70 percent of those who took the drug experieced a 90 percent reduction in pain. In the sumatriptan group, 20 percent reported side effects, including dizziness, vertigo and heartburn. Only 4 percent of the ginger group reported mild indigestion.
Use fresh or powdered ginger liberally in cooking. Its taste enhances most meals. Or you could munch on crystallized candy. Ginger also makes a nice tea. Pour boiling water over 3 thin slices of fresh ginger, cover, steep ten minutes and add a few drops of honey.
Words of Caution. Do not take ginger if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinning medication, including aspirin. In high doses, ginger may cause mild heartburn, diarrhea and irritation of the mouth.
Culinary Uses of Ginger
The underground stems of the ginger plant are used in cooking, baking, and for health purposes. Common forms of ginger include:
- Fresh ground ginger root.
- Pure ginger extract
- Ginger herbal tea.
- Ginger candy.
As a tea, ginger has been used for encouraging menstruation.
Preserving Diced Ginger
To preserve diced, fresh ginger in your refrigerator, peel and chop the ginger. Put in a jar, top off with vodka and seal tightly. The ginger will last up to one year in your refrigerator.
Cold Fighting Ginger Chicken Noodle Soup
Add 1/2 cup cooked rice noodles, 1/4 cup cooked shredded chicken, 1 to 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sliced scallions, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger and 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds to soup bowl. Cover with 1-1/2 cup hot chicken broth. Stir to combine.
Blend 1 pint vanilla ice cream, 1/4 cup milk, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of salt with 1/3 cup Speculoos Cookie Butter (available on Amazon) or 6 crushed gingersnaps soaked in 1/4 cup milk.
Ginger Root Tip: Keep fresh root refrigerated; wrap loosely in paper towel, then plastic. Will keep several months.
Pour 1 pint boiling water over 1 ounce of root and steep 5 to 20 minutes; drink hot or warm. OR: grate 2 tablespoons fresh root into 4 cups water; add half a lemon, sliced; bring to boil and continue boiling uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes; strain into cups; add honey to taste; add cinnamon stick for added flavor if desired.
Mix 1/2 cup ground ginger and 1/2 cup kosher salt. Place the ingredients in a small lidded glass container and mix well. Cover and store at room temperature for 6 months.
Ginger Cream Sauce
Enjoy this crunchy sauce as an icing or as a dip for fresh vegetables.
- 1 cup sour cream or yogurt
- 2 teaspoons minced
- Candied ginger
Blend sour cream or yogurt with minced candied ginger. Allow the flavor to blend a few hours or overnight before enjoying. Serves 8.
Folklore & Magical Uses
Eat ginger before doing a spell to increase its power. Grow ginger near your home or sprinkle dried ginger in your pocket or wallet to attract money. Ginger root, because of its gnarled shape, can substitute for mandrake.
The German therapeutic monograph on ginger warns patients with gall bladder disease to avoid it and also cautions against exceeding the recommended dosage. Pregnant women contemplating ginger use during morning sickness (short-term only) should avoid it if gall bladder disease is present.
Also, wild ginger should be completely avoided if pregnant.
Read More about: Herbs