Though originating in Asian and Southeast Asian tropical rainforests, ginger (Zingiber officinale) is enjoyed in the cuisine of many cultures. It has also long been loved for its medicinal properties. Modern science points to compounds such as gingerol (very creative) and other phytochemicals to agree with ancient practices.
The useful and most delicious part of the plant is the rhizome, found underground and commonly called a root though actually the roots grow from this juicy modified subterranean stem structure. It is good fresh, dried, and ground, and some even prefer it as an oil or juice. Adding it to food and beverage is a wonderful way to enjoy more of this aromatic delight, but tea is an excellent medicinal mode for many needs. It also comes in the form of capsules, tinctures, and lozenges, and even good to chew raw.
Ginger with leafies still attached.
BEST USES - THE MAGIC
The most well-researched use of ginger is its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant power. This category extends to many applications, including muscle and joint pain and soreness (yes even from exercise), menstrual pain, cramps, infection, and even osteoarthritis! Of course reducing oxidative stress in the body also reduces the effects of aging.
The most popular and possibly most ancient use of this medicine is for nausea. A cup of tea is brilliant for acute and chronic indigestion, but also for morning sickness, motion sickness, chemo-related nausea, ulcers, and general stomach uneasiness. Next time you're feeling green, give it a try!
As a traditional remedy for colds and the flu, science points to anti-microbial potential combining with the anti-inflammatory benefit to help with infections and communicable diseases of many persuasions.
Newer research also shows potential to reduce blood sugar and heart disease markers, as well as cholesterol and blood triglycerides. The fresh rhizome may also help prevent certain cancers. Some studies even reflect the possibility of helping improve brain function and lower risk of Alzheimer's. Most of these are related to the high anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant power.
Traditional uses also recommend ginger to "heat up" and boost the metabolism, and to raise the temperature of a fever to support the body's natural disease-fighting function.
With so many benefits, and so few interactions, and with such great spice, no wonder this herb has been so popular in dishes and medicine for so long!
Illustration from Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen.
HOW WE LIKE IT
At Bat Crazy Botanicals, we love it in our Weight-Control Blend to help elevate metabolism and improve speedy digestion and reduce inflammation around the organs. It is also a key component in our Pain Relief Tea, and one of the reasons it works so well!
MAKE IT AT HOME!
A popular immune-boosting cough mixture anyone can make at home includes fresh grated ginger, squeezed lemon, and raw honey. Store it in the fridge for many weeks! Scoop out a spoonful and enjoy directly, or add to hot water for a soothing tea.
The trick to getting the most out of your herbs of course is to ensure always they are coming from a good place. Rushed or out-of-region plants may not contain the most medicinal compound, and consuming pesticides and herbicides benefits no one!
GROW IT YOURSELF
Growing this plant is pretty simple: soak the rhizome overnight in warm water, then plant with the "eye" buds upright in shallow rich soil. Keep moist, but otherwise ignore it. It'll spread out and given warm weather, filtered sunlight, and rich moist (not soggy) soil, you'll be ready to harvest after the leaves die down at the end of the growing season. You might wish to wait a year or two to allow it to settle in and spread out. Break off the pieces you desire, and return to the earth the ones you wish to sprout again.
Do you include ginger in your life? What do you use it for? Interested in giving it a try? Share with us your thoughts!