Ginger, Zingiber Officinale, originally from Asia, is well known throughout the world and has been consumed for thousands of years as a food, culinary spice and medicinal herb. The rhizome, or horizontal and branching root, is the part used. The pale brown skin should appear thin and smooth for maximum flavor and benefits. The flesh should be juicy and may be yellow, off-white or pale red.
Ginger is used in a variety of dishes and varies in flavor depending on whether it is cooked a long while or added at the end of preparation. Vegetable or meat marinades may be prepared with fresh or dried ginger to help tenderize and increase digestibility of whatever is marinated. Ginger is well known to help protect us from many food-borne pathogens, including those found in several food scares in recent years, E. coli, Salmonella and Shigella.
Ginger is believed to possess a wide variety of beneficial constituents to improve overall health. It is considered:
- antibacterial (selectively),
- pain relieving,
- and it supports cardiovascular health.
Ginger tea or capsules are often consumed with meals to improve digestion and help relieve digestive distress. New Chapter makes a powerful ginger in a tiny capsule that can be used for the digestive distress, including overeating associated with the holiday season, pot-luck dinners and party foods. Ginger Force is an easy-to-swallow little capsule. And ginger in nearly any form has been used for centuries for headaches and hangovers, too.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), ginger is called for in hundreds of conditions from stomachache, diarrhea and flatulence to migraines, arthritis pain and upper respiratory infections. More than half of all TCM patent prescription formulas contain ginger. This is likely due to activities it is believed to possess, including protection of the digestive tract, increasing the efficacy and helping mediate any possible ill effects from other herbs or medicinal ingredients.
There is a growing body of research crediting ginger with helping with the symptoms of motion sickness, morning sickness and chemotherapy-induced nausea. Relief was found by the majority of participants in most of these studies, regardless of circumstances. Ginger is one the highest known sources of proteolytic (protein-digesting) enzymes, approximately 180 times higher than papaya.
I have used ginger for decades for issues of chronic pain and inflammation from Rheumatoid arthritis, and when I was hit by a car as a pedestrian in a parking lot a few years ago. I found that taking small amounts of a good organic ginger product several times throughout the day greatly reduced my head, neck and back pain, and I was able to get a better night’s sleep.
Another important time that ginger helped my family was when my youngest daughter was eight years old. She had developed acid reflux, causing her immediate gas and bloating after meals or snacks. These attacks were so severe, they sometimes led to vomiting. She didn’t want to worry us, so she kept this to herself for weeks. When we finally realized what she was going through, we immediately took her to the doctor and discovered she had actually developed an ulcer. After the tests, we stopped by our local co-op to purchase my favorite ginger product, New Chapter’s Ginger Honey Tonic, along with a bottle of Gerolsteiner naturally carbonated mineral water.
As soon as we got home, I mixed up a glass of ‘homemade ginger ale’ by combining the mineral water and a teaspoon of ginger syrup. She was apprehensive at first; after all, virtually everything she’d eaten for weeks had upset her stomach. As she took a sip, a smile appeared. “Could it be helping me already?” she asked. “My stomach already feels better, calmer. And this is delicious,” she declared and then emptied the glass.
For the next six months, my daughter sipped the homemade ginger ale or a warm ginger tea made with a teaspoon of Ginger Honey Tonic five times a day, usually about a half hour before her meals and snacks. She also consumed two dishes of unsweetened whole milk yogurt most days, prepared in a variety of ways. She reported to us frequently about how much better her tummy felt and she didn’t experience any more bouts of indigestion.
There are a number of different ways to make a great cup of ginger tea. You can slice the fresh root and simmer or steep for a few minutes. You may use the powdered dried root (also used in ginger tea bags) or the Ginger Honey Tonic. My favorite way, so as to retain the enzymes and other heat sensitive compounds, is to finely grate fresh organic ginger root and squeeze the juice into warm (not hot) water. Ginger tea can be drunk in the evening to help with nighttime indigestion, circulatory concerns or to increase nighttime comfort by helping to release aches, pains and tenderness during sleep.
Contraindications reported include avoidance of use with all concentrated ginger products with gall bladder disease or complaints; and pregnant women should moderate consumption of powdered dried ginger.
You’ll find a wide variety of organic ginger throughout your local co-op or health food store. Be sure to always choose organic ginger if you’re looking for health and wellness benefits, as non-organic ginger is grown with numerous potentially toxic chemicals. Look for fresh ginger in the produce section, dried or candied in the bulk section, in tea bags, chocolates, ginger snap cookies, or pickled in the grocery aisles. And if you’re looking for a great ginger supplement, you’ll find a wide selection in the Wellness section of the store. Ask the knowledgeable sales staff or write to me if you have any questions.
For more information on ginger’s research, uses and numerous health benefits, pick up a copy of the wonderful book, Ginger: Common Spice & Wonder Drug by Paul Schulick.