Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) is a perennial flowering plant in the family Zingiberaceae closely related to turmeric and cardamom. It produces annual narrow stems about one meter tall and yellow flowers resembling Iris. The rhizome (underground part of the stem) is the part used medicinally and as a spice. It has a warm aroma resembling wood and tastes spicy, peppery, slightly sweet yet pungent.
The rhizome is harvested when the stalk whithers. It is scalded right away to prevent sprouting and then left to dry for two days. This way it can be stored for several months.
Ginger warms, relaxes and alleviates pain. It contains gingerole, a substance chemically similar to Aspirin that thins the blood, works as a pain-killer and an anti-inflammatory.
Alternative health practitioners in Asia prescribe ginger tea and ginger bath to treat rheumatoid arthritis, muscle soreness and pain, and colds. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is used to treat cough, asthma and migraines.
Ginger is used medicinally to:
- promote digestion
- regulate appetite
- soothe upset stomach
- regulate appetite
- improve blood circulation
- help pass gas
- reduce nausea
- reduce inflammation
- soothe muscle soreness and pain
Unfortunately, not everybody can enjoy this wonderful root. If you can’t tolerate any spicy foods, you should be careful when drinking ginger tea. Ginger can cause colic in people with gallstones and should be avoided during pregnancy as it can cause early labor contractions.
Ginger tea recipe
Ginger tea is excellent to treat stomach problems and colds.
- Put 4-6 thin slices of peeled ginger into a cup or mug.
- Add hot water and let it steep covered for at least 10 minutes. The longer you let it steep, the more intense the taste. Make sure to cover the cup with a lid to prevent the essential oils from dissipating.
- Remove lid and let the drops that condensed on the lid drip back into the cup. They contain the essential oils!
- Add some honey to sweeten. Honey soothes the throat and the stomach and is, therefore, the best choice of sweetener. Use Maple syrup or brown sugar as an alternative.
The essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the dried rhizome.
- promotes digestion
- relieves gas (carminative)
- pain killer (analgesic)
- looses phlegm (expectorant)
Ginger essential oil is used to treat the following ailments:
- motion sickness
- chronic indigestion
- loss of appetite
- muscle cramps and aches
- chronic bronchitis
- chronic cough
- colds and flu
In gastronomy, ginger is used fresh, ground, candied, pickled, in syrup or in beverages such as Ginger Ale and ginger beer.
Fresh ginger adds a peppery and pungent flavor to vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, chutney, curry, soups and rice dishes.
Ginger has vitamin C, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, sodium and phosphorus.
Just five grams of ginger per day prevents the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel (thrombosis) and the hardening of arteries (arteriosclerosis), which are main causes of stroke.
Bühring, Ursel. Praxis-Lehrbuch Heilpflanzenkunde – 4th edition Haug, 2014. ISBN 978-3-8304-7749-5
Zimmermann, Eliane. Aromatherapie für Pflege-und Heilberufe. Kursbuch für Ausbildung und Praxis – 5th edition Haug, 2011. ISBN 978-3-8304-7414-2