This humble rhizome, Zingiber officinale, is a powerhouse when it comes to herbal medications and herbal health support. Used extensively for thousands of years in both Ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine; ginger is helpful in protecting and promoting healthy digestion and is also an important anti-inflammatory herb. It can be used fresh, powdered, candied, dried, or as an infused oil, juice or tea. Ginger is part of the Zingiberaceae family, as are herbs like cardamom and turmeric. When taken internally ginger stimulates circulation, thus the warming effect.
While ginger is becoming better known for its anti-nausea properties*, it really does so much more to support the entire digestive system. By stimulating the circulatory system it helps your body absorb nutrient throughout the GI tract. As an anti-inflammatory, ginger works on the colon to reduce inflammation thus reducing the amount of painful gas build-up and in some recent studies, ginger has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers in the colon in as little as one month.
It is the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger which make it such a versatile herbal medicine. Inflammation is the body's response to injury or insult. Under normal conditions, an injury occurs and the body protects itself from further injury by setting up a localized inflammation: heat, swelling, and pain, to prevent overuse of affected area until healing occurs. When healing is complete, the inflammation subsides.
Unfortunately, most chronic health issues are caused, or exacerbated by, inflammation. Everything from heart disease to colitis and osteoarthritis is an inflammatory disease. Recent studies have shown ginger to be as effective as nonsteroidal antiinflammatories; things like Celebrex, naproxen, ibuprofen aspirin, and Voltaren, without the nasty side effects.
There is also research that suggested ginger is an effective blood thinner, and is a useful treatment to regulate blood pressure and lower blood sugars. As a result, if you are taking medications for any of these conditions, speak with your medical practitioner before starting to take large quantities of ginger. Please note: ginger as a medication should not be used in children under two years of age.
Traditional herbal medications utilize the entire spectrum of compounds found in the plant, there are many ways the compounds interact with each other and with the body to do what they do. Unfortunately, large pharmaceutical companies don't study the full spectrum and their interactions... it just isn't profitable for them.
We use ginger around here to treat nausea, tummy troubles such as gas and diarrhea; mixed with turmeric as a treatment / preventative for migraines and to treat the inflammation in my shoulder from the post-op scar tissue in my shoulder. I credit ginger with keeping me upright and mobile some days.
So here is my recipe for simple ginger tea, it can be enjoyed hot or cold...
Cut a 2 cubic inch piece of ginger, wash and peel. Grate the ginger and place it in your teapot.
Cover with 1- 1 1/2 cups of water and steep for 10 - 12 minutes
Sweeten with honey to taste and enjoy!
Fresh ginger is best, you can also freeze fresh ginger by just washing, wrapping and placing it in your freezer. It should keep for up to a year. Fresh ginger will keep in your pantry if you must put it in the fridge, place a piece of damp paper towel in the container and seal. Otherwise, your ginger will dry out.
* Please note, pregnant women should not consume more than 1 gram of ginger per day, and should not take ginger over extended periods of time, more than 3 days, as ginger can stimulate uterine contractions.