Ginger, (scientific name: Zingiber officinale) is the root of a plant native to Asia but cultivated in the West Indies, Jamaica, and Africa. It is one of the most widely used herbs in the world. Used for thousands of years previously, it was introduced to Spain by Francisco de Mendosa in the early 1500's and from there to the new world.
Ginger is a perennial tuber that creeps and grows underground. The stalk grows two feet or more with narrow leaves. The stalk dies in the fall and the tuber is harvested, dried, and ground into the herb powder. Coated or black ginger means the root was not peeled but immediately scalded after harvesting. Uncoated or white ginger was washed and scraped to prevent sprouting. Since some think ‘the whiter the better, ’ white ginger is at times bleached or limed but this causes it to lose some nutritional value.
Chemicals in ginger that give it value include volatile oil (up to 3%), acrid soft resin, lignin, gum, starch, vegeto matter, asmazone, acetic acid, potassium acetate, and sulphur.
Ginger has been used in traditional Asian medicine to treat nausea. Pregnant women report relief from morning sickness after consuming small amounts of ginger root, ginger tea, and ginger ale. When given in large doses, ginger also relieves chemotherapy related nausea. Many find ginger more effective in relieving motion sickness than Dramamine. It will also stimulate appetite, fight body odor, and promote perspiration.
Ginger also helps treat joint pain by stimulating blood circulation, so it is used to treat illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis and Raynaud's syndrome. Externally ginger causes redness of the skin.
Ginger is often used for treatment of flatulence, indigestion, diarrhea, and menstrual cramps. It does this by mimicking some digestive enzymes used to process protein in the body. It also relieves gastrointestinal distress.
Ginger is beneficial to the heart as well. As little as 5 grams of dried ginger a day slows the production of triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol in the liver. Ginger also prevents platelets from sticking together, a condition that would increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Ginger is sometimes recommended for relief of cold symptoms for it is said to loosen phlegm and fight chills by spreading a warm feeling throughout the body. Many simply like to use it in cooking as a seasoning or a tea. One recipe for gingersnap cookies calls for a teaspoon of the powder.
Ginger is available in capsules, pickles, extracts, and prepared teas that can be made into compresses. The ginger root may also be consumed raw, but avoid small, wrinkled, or soft tubers.
Steep ginger in hot water to make a tea, or just add it to a variety of dishes. The usual dosage is 1/3 of an ounce of fresh ginger root per day. Preserved Ginger is made by steeping the root in hot syrup. Store ginger root dry in your refrigerator for short periods. You can also freeze ginger root for up to three months.
Pregnant women should be careful not to overdose on ginger because it may stimulate uterine contractions. People taking blood thinners, barbiturates, beta-blockers, insulin or diabetes medications should consult a physician before use since ginger may conflict with these medications. Ginger may also interfere with the absorption of dietary iron and fat-soluble vitamins, and cause stomach upset in higher doses. Also, because ginger helps thin the blood, it should not be taken two weeks prior to surgery.
But there are several more benefits of ginger to be discovered. Visit More Than Alive, an online store for bulk herbs and a trusted resource where you can get cut ginger root and learn about many other herbs.