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A Hand for Ginger

Some of you biology types might know that ginger belongs to the family Zingiberaceae.  But you might not know that turmeric (Curcuma longa) and cardamom (Elettaria cardamom) are in the same family.  Both ginger and turmeric share potent anti-inflammatory properties and all three have influence on the digestion.  The part of ginger used for food and medicine is the rhizome, which is the underground portion of the stem which gives rise to new shoots, as well as roots.  

Ginger is best known for relieving nausea, whether caused by motion sickness, pregnancy or anesthesia.  Simply chewing on a small sliver of fresh ginger can relieve nausea quickly. The essential oils in ginger, called gingerols, are also pain-relieving, relaxing and antibacterial.  One study showed that gingerols inhibited ovarian tumors (in vitro, which means only in the test tube)

Fresh ginger is cooling and refreshing, so the juice can make wonderful medicine and tonic in the heat of summer.  Dried ginger packs more of a punch, is heating and drying to the tissues, so is more appropriate for winter use.  In my opinion, nothing beats fresh ginger and I love it fermented as a ginger beer in the summer.  

For people who suffer with spastic colon, or irritable bowel syndrome, ginger in combination with wild yam, is indispensable. The same combination is a savior for kids, or adults, with belly aches, like the stomach flu.  I have a theory that it shortens the duration of the stomach flu, and may even protect the healthy members of the family from catching the bug. Yay!  It is an essential part of every Mom’s medicine kit.

Ginger can certainly reduce menstrual discomfort.  If used for nausea during pregnancy, be careful not to over dose, as ginger does increase bleeding.  That being said, I have prescribed it frequently in my practice for morning sickness and in over 20 years, never seen an adverse effect.  It is useful to remember that ginger is in the “food medicine” category, meaning that it can be eaten every day, and is quite safe.  

Ginger’s inflammatory properties combine beautifully with it’s sister-herb turmeric.  Arthritis, muscle aches and pains and headaches can benefit noticeably with ginger and turmeric.

Do you use ginger as medicine, or do you have a favorite culinary use for this potent plant? Share your bit of knowledge here, so we can learn from each other!

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