Food as Medicine: Ginger

Ginger is becoming popular these days, and the store aisles are brimming with ginger teas marketed to help digestion, bloating, and even the common cold. I am happy to say that the hype about this root is true!  Ginger has been used for centuries as a medicinal plant that has many positive effects on the body. If incorporating this herb into your diet is new for you, you are in for a healthy treat that will be a wonderful addition to your self-care toolkit.

Here are a few ways you can begin to incorporate ginger into your daily life.

  • Drinking ginger tea before a meal can help with digestion.  Take one inch of fresh ginger root, and peel off the outer paper-like coating.  Dice the root into small matchstick sized pieces and steep for 5 minutes in fresh, stove boiled water (no microwaves please!). Sip the tea prior to meals to increase digestive enzyme production and rejuvenate healthy agni (digestive fire), to promote efficient digestion and assimilation of your meal.
  • Chew the root to help soothe a sore throat.
  • Breathe the aroma of ginger essential oils when you feel a headache coming on.
  • Apply the juice of the fresh root as a rouge, as it stimulates circulation. (avoid contact with eyes)
  • Grate fresh ginger root into stews, sauces, oatmeal, and teas to help with the digestive process. When added to the cooking process of legumes, mung beans, or lentils,  ginger will help prevent flatulence that can come from inefficient digestion of these foods (add turmeric and black pepper as well as grated ginger to help with bloating that may come from these foods).
  • Bake with ground ginger root to bring a toasty glow to the body . Great for cold weather comfort to help the body feel warm.
  • Ginger is great for nausea, so bring some with you when you travel if you are one who gets motion sickness easily.  Also a wonderful aid for mamas-to-be and those undergoing treatment for cancer.
  • Ginger helps with spasms or cramps. Women who experience painful cramps during the menstrual cycle may benefit from consuming ginger  1-2 times a day, in the weeks leading up to your period.
  • Eating a coin size piece of raw ginger before a meal can help if your digestion is slow. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice and add a dash of salt to the ginger and chew mindfully. Once you swallow you will feel your stomach start to warm up.   This is your digestive fire burning at a higher level so that it can metabolize what you are about to feed it.
  • Ginger essential oil will help relieve and clear out a head cold. Breathe in the aroma of a combination of 3 drops of each: basil, eucalyptus and ginger essential oils. For extra humidification on dry winter days, add these oils to a pot of steaming hot water and the steam that is produced will diffuse into the room to aid in clearing the respiratory system. (Take care not to directly inhale hot steam, as this could cause burns).

IMPORTANT: Ginger is heating and for some, may cause stomach distress. If you experience diarrhea or stomach pain after using ginger for a few days, reduce or discontinue use.  Not all herbs work for every-body, so it is important to make note of your body’s feedback and use your best judgement. 

Written by: Staraya McKinstry, MPH  Edited by: Ann C Collins, MD[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]