If you thought ginger was just used as a flavoring in Chinese cooking and ginger ale, think again. The recorded history of Ginger goes back 5000 years where Indians and ancient Chinese considered it a tonic root for all ailments.
In the Middle Ages trade in spices like ginger could be associated with one’s wealth and power. The historical reverence for and use of ginger is simply staggering, with Chinese pharmacopeias claiming long term use of fresh ginger and writings of the Koran describing ginger as a beverage of the holiest heavenly spirits.
Ginger was also valued as an aphrodisiac, undoubtedly due to its widespread use as a systemic tonic, hormone balancer, energy enhancer, and agent for improving the digestion and circulation. Virtually every culture has recorded the virtues of ginger as a digestive aid. Confucius wrote as far back as 500 B.C. of never being without ginger when he ate. The Japanese soothed spinal and joint pain with it. The Chinese found it helpful with tooth aches, symptoms of a cold, flu and hangover. . .
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a warming spice that comes from the same family as cardamom and turmeric.
Modern scientific studies have revealed ginger’s numerous therapeutic qualities, which include analgesic, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antifungal, expectorant, anti-clotting and hypotensive.
The following are some general health benefits attributed to the use of Ginger:
Reducing pain – Ginger is an extremely potent analgesic, acting as an all-natural painkiller without the harmful side effects. It is also effective in alleviating tired, sore muscles and joints. A warm ginger tea soak can lessen swelling and puffiness, or rubbing ginger oil or liniment on an affected area can help reduce pain. Ginger ingested twice daily has been shown to improve the pain and swelling of the joints in arthritic patients and improves their range of motion.
Inflammation – Inflammation is the body’s natural healing response to illness or injury. Inflammation subsides as the body heals. However, in some conditions, including arthritis, diverticulosis, gallbladder inflammation, and heart disease, the inflammation does not go away. It becomes chronic and leads to many other problems. Ginger is particularly useful in treating chronic inflammation because it partially inhibits two important enzymes that play a role in inflammation gone awry — cyclooxygenase (COX) and 5-lipoxygenase (LOX).
A strong ginger tea is a great remedy for aches and pains, as one of its active compounds, gingerol, possesses great anti-inflammatory and anti-histaminic properties. Ginger tea can ease inflammation of the joints, which is commonly referred to as rheumatoid arthritis
Cancer – The anti-carcinogenic effects of ginger have been shown to be so potent, that in the case of ovarian cancer cells, it is capable of causing cancerous cell death due to the combination of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, in effect having anti-tumor properties in the process.
Nausea – Gingers healing properties come from it’s volatile oils (gingerols and shogaols). These oils cause more digestive enzymes to be produced, which helps with the whole digestive process and neutralizes the acids that can cause nausea, cramps and even diarrhea. It also decreases bacterial infections in the stomach. As a stomach-calming agent, ginger can also reduce gas, bloating, and indigestion. It is also a valuable deterrent to intestinal worms, particularly roundworms.
Improved cardiovascular health – Ginger contains chromium, magnesium and zinc which help to improve blood flow. Ginger also prevents platelets from clumping together in the bloodstream. This serves to thin the blood and reduce your risk of atherosclerosis and blood clots.
Reduced risk of stroke – Consuming a little bit ginger a day can help reduce potential risk of a stroke by inhibiting fatty deposits in the arteries.
Colds & Respiratory Problems – Ginger can ease the effects of a cold by acting as a decongestant to release phlegm. The volatile oils and vitamins in ginger provide antiviral properties that help in the prevention and fast recovery from colds, sore throat, sinusitis and flu. Ginger is also effective in helping to relieve asthma symptoms. Packed with antioxidants, ginger can help improve the immune system.
Ginger may even improve some cases of constant severe dizziness and vertigo. It may also be useful for some migraine headaches.
Some therapeutic ways to use Ginger:
Tea – Ginger tea is easy to make. I often use the tatty ends after grating ginger and any dried up bits of ‘fresh ginger’, to make into a tea. Ginger tea boosts the digestive system, helps with peripheral circulation, helps to lower BP, is anti-inflammatory, lowers pain of arthritis and sore muscles, and helps battle a bad cough and throat irritation.
Put 3 – 6 thin slices of fresh ginger root in a tea pot and fill with boiling water. Slowly sip at it throughout the day. Or alternately put dried, powdered ginger into a teapot (1/4 teaspoon per cup of boiling water) and fill with boiling water. Sweeten with honey if desired. Or serve with a slice of lemon.
The dose for children is ¼ cup every two to three hours. Adults can sip away all day drinking 3 cups during the course of the day.
Infused Oil – Slice thinly or grate fresh ginger into a jar, cover it with good quality olive, coconut, sesame or almond oil. Or put about a teaspoon or two of dried, powdered ginger in about a cup of oil. Shake well and allow to infuse for about six weeks in a cool, dark place. Shake every couple days or as often as you remember. Then strain the oil through a cheese cloth and store in a sterilized jar with a tight lid. This will keep at least a year if stored properly and good quality oil is used.
Ginger root oil can be rubbed onto achy joints to help relieve some of the pains associated with arthritic conditions and general muscular discomfort. Another use is placing 2 to 3 drops on a piece of cotton or cotton ball and placing in an aching ear for several hours.
If you find using the oil a bit messy, you can turn it into a slave by adding wax to it. Combine together 2 tablespoons of the oil and a teaspoon of beeswax in a heat proof small jar. Put the jar in a pan with a few inches of water in the bottom – to act vaguely as a double boiler. Slowly heat the water until the beeswax melts. Stir and pour into a small jar or tin. Allow to set then cap and store in a cool, dark cabinet. Apply as needed.
A compress or poultice, is helpful for painful joints, muscle sprains, chest or lung congestion or stomach aches. Make a tea, soak a piece of flannel or washcloth for about 5 minutes, wring out and immediately place on the painful area. Cover with brown paper or plastic sheeting, then a towel, then a heating pad or hot water bottle, then another towel. Leave on for 20 minutes. Repeat if needed.
A ginger liniment is warming and can increase blood circulation and help when you’re feeling stiff and achy. To make a liniment follow the same procedure as with the infused oil except instead of oil use Apple Cider Vinegar. ACV has it’s own healing properties to add to the liniment. Re-bottle the liniment in a dark colored bottle. Make sure to clearly label that this is for external use only and keep out of reach of children. Rub this on strained muscles and areas of arthritic pain. Add a few drops of an essential oil like Eucalyptus or Lavender for added therapeutic benefit and fragrance.