Superfood 101: Ginger

As far as “superfoods” go – and there is a big crowd of them worth knowing these days – Ginger is one of my favourites.  I sound like a broken record  – I really do recommend it a lot!   I want you to get friendly with this “superfood” too, so here are the “deets” on ginger; a great example of how food can be the best medicine.  And no, unfortunately I am not talking about Ginger-ale or Ginger-snaps – but the knobbly looking root that you see at  the grocery store….and leave out of your basket because you don’t know what to do with it.

Ginger, or Zingiber officianalis, is a plant that was first cultivated in South Asia, and it has a long history of medicinal use in both Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine. In these ancient systems of medicine, ginger root is classified as a warm & pungent herb – very useful for stimulating the immune system, strengthening digestive “fire” or “agni”, and clearing stagnant energy; which manifests as everything from nasal congestion to headaches, cold limbs, fatigue, digestive upset and menstrual cramps.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, ginger is a very important remedy at the first sign of a cold or flu; as it helps to dispel the pathogen but also gently stimulates a mild fever – our best natural immune defense. Ginger is also very helpful, particularly with the stomach flu, as it is an anti-emetic; it decreases nausea and vomiting. Compounds in Ginger have been studied as anti-nauseants, and demonstrated to be highly effective in the treatment of motion sickness, pregnancy-induced nausea, and post-chemotherapy induced illness.

The medicinal compounds in Ginger, aptly named gingerols, are thought to act in the digestive tract by binding to serotonin receptors. Low serotonin levels in the digestive tract (interestingly enough about 90% of the serotonin in our entire body, brain included, is formed in the gut) has been linked to the development of conditions like IBS, fibromyalgia, and other mood disorders. In any case, it is this function that makes ginger such a valued digestive remedy. I recommend it in both food and supplemental form for many digestive ailments – both acute and chronic.

Gingerols are also being researched for their anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, and studies show that these effects are due to the reduction of inflammatory prostaglandins and free radicals such as nitric oxide – both of which are increased in a wide range of conditions; arthritis, auto-immune disease, endometriosis, menstrual cramps and pre-cancerous growth in the colon and ovaries. Although much of the research is still preliminary, I have no doubt that consuming ginger regularly as part of a healthy diet, is a factor in the prevention of such health concerns.

Some of my top tips for getting fresh ginger-root into your daily routine:

  • Add some freshly sliced ginger to your water bottle, drink it cold or warm as preferred.  The basics of making ginger tea: Combine 1-2 inches of sliced ginger-root, or 1-2 spoons of grated ginger in 2-3 cups of water.  Let simmer for about 10 minutes, strain, then enjoy hot or cold.
  • Some grated ginger in your next green smoothie or homemade juice – it adds a subtle spice that is both unexpected and delicious!
  • Try minced ginger or a pinch of dried powdered ginger in your marinades, salad dressings and homemade broths for extra flavour and loads of health benefits.
  • Fresh ginger root can be stored in the fridge whole, or try freezing your sliced/minced ginger so that you always have some on-hand.
  • Got a tension headache?  Make strong ginger tea (as above), let it cool to skin tolerance, soak a washcloth or compress in the tea. Wring it out and apply compress to forehead, temples, or the back of your neck.  Cover with another cloth or towel to keep the heat in, refresh compress by soaking in the tea as needed.
  • A great “elixir” for sore throats, coughs and colds: In a mason jar or resealable glass container, combine 1 sliced lemon, about 2 tbsps grated ginger-root, a pinch of cayenne, and cover with organic honey. Seal and store in the fridge. To make a nice immune-boosting tea, dilute 1-2 tsps of the elixir with hot water. Stores in the fridge for 3-4 weeks.

lemon ginger honey

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