Ginger root is the aromatic rhizome of the perennial Ginger plant, of the Zingiberaceae family, alongside turmeric, galangal, and cardamom. It has long, hollow stems with a red base, lance shaped, opposite leaves, and spikes of fragrant flowers ranging in a wide range of colors, but most commonly, white with tinges of pink and yellow. The highest diversity of gingers in is South Asia, where it’s originally from. Ginger grows from rhizomes, and does best in warm climates with evenly moist, well draining soils high in organic matter and mulch. The root is harvested after the leaves begin to wither, about 9 months after planting.
Ginger primarily aids the respiratory and digestive systems. The spicy root, eaten candied, fresh, or taken as a tea, eases nausea, indigestion, vomiting, stomach pain, headaches, sore throat, flatulence, and morning sickness. It is often taken as an infusion or decoction during the winter to warm the circulation or for people with generally poor circulation. It helps promote and regulate menses, especially when combined with chamomile flowers. It is also a good heart tonic and helpful for joint pain. A steam can help treat lung infections and colds. Ginger oil can be added to salves or used in massage oils to soothe sore muscles, sprains, and headaches.
Ginger is considered a sweet, heating herb, and is often called vishwabhesaj: the universal medicine. It is recommended to be combined with raw honey for Kapha, rock candy for Pitta, and rock salt for Vata. Dried ginger is considered more heating than fresh ginger, and works better as a stimulant and expectorant, where as fresh ginger is a warming diaphoretic, more appropriate for colds, fevers, coughs, and vomiting. In India, ginger is applied as a paste to the temples to relieve headache, and consumed when suffering from the common cold. Ginger with lemon and black salt is also used for nausea. In nearby Nepal, ginger is widely grown and used throughout the country as a spice for vegetables, used medically to treat colds and also sometimes used to flavor tea.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Ginger is considered a strong antioxidant with anti-aging properties. It can prevent food poisoning from fish and mushrooms, and eases digestion while protecting the stomach lining. It’s also used to regulate both high and low blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and benefits the liver. It’s useful for relieving nausea, anxiety, and panic in stressful situations. In China, ginger is included in several traditional preparations. A drink made with sliced ginger cooked in water with brown sugar is used as a folk medicine for the common cold. Ginger is added to foods for flavor and as home remedies for coughs. The Chinese also make a dried ginger candy that is fermented in plum juice and sugared, which is also commonly consumed to suppress coughing. Ginger has also been historically used to treat inflammation, which several scientific studies support. Dried ginger is also considered more heating than fresh ginger, and is useful for yang deficiencies, painful joints, and cold extremities. It’s not advisable for people who are overheated, have high fevers, or are coughing up blood.
Folk and Culinary Use
Ginger is used widely in Asian cuisine fresh, sautéed, pickled, candied, or as an ingredient in curries, soups, and stews. Ginger root is also a popular folk remedy world wide, with it’s wide ranges of uses. Frequently used to disguise the taste of other herbs and medicines, ginger is often used to settle stomachs and gastrointestinal complaints. Ginger ale and ginger beer are also drunk as stomach settlers in countries in the Caribbean where the beverages are made. In Peru, ginger is sliced in hot water as an infusion for stomach aches. Tea brewed from ginger is a common folk remedy for colds. In the Philippines, ginger is used as a throat lozenge in traditional medicine and is also brewed into a tea known for colds. In Burma, ginger and a sweetener made from palm juice (htan nyat) are boiled together and taken to prevent the flu. In Indonesia, ginger is used as a herbal preparation to reduce fatigue, reducing “winds” in the blood, prevent and cure rheumatism and control poor dietary habits. In Congo, ginger is crushed and mixed with mango tree sap to make tangawisi juice, which is considered a panacea.
1 teaspoon of the fresh herb per cup of water, infused, drunk when needed. A decoction can be made of the dried root of 1-2 teaspoons per cup of water, simmered for 10-15 minutes, drunk when needed. Both can be adjusted to taste. Ginger tincture comes in two forms, typically, strong and weak. For a weak tincture, take 2-3 ml three times daily, and for the strong tincture, take 0.25-0.5 ml three times daily.
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