What is ginger?
Originally from Southeast Asia, ginger has taken root all over the world as both a zingy spice and a healing medicine. The ancient Greeks wrapped their bread in gingerroot, making the first gingerbread. Grown today in many tropical areas, the ginger plant reaches up to four feet tall—but it's the knobby underground parts that people prize. The reason? The same ingredients that give ginger its snap also settle your stomach, and much more. back to top
What is it used for?
For centuries, people have taken gingerroot to stop feeling nauseated, whether from a stomach bug or motion sickness. Modern studies show that its active ingredients can calm stomach queasiness and relax spasms of the digestive tract. Gingerroot is also used to relieve indigestion and excessive gas, as well as period cramps
. In addition, the spicy herb promotes the flow of digestive fluids and mucus and may act to fight germs. Some people brew up ginger tea when they have a cold to relieve stuffiness, to quiet coughs, and to soothe a scratchy throat. back to top
What's the best form to use?
The beauty of gingerroot is that it is a food as well as a medicine, and you can find this herb—which looks like a bunch of stubby fingers—in the produce section of any supermarket.
How do I use it?
- Ginger tea. You can buy premade ginger teabags at many grocery stores, but they don't pack much of a punch. To make your own batch of ginger tea, simply grate a two-inch piece of gingerroot (more if you like it really strong) and boil it in a covered pot containing a quart (four cups) of water for at least 15 minutes. Then strain out the ginger. Let your tea cool a bit before drinking—liquid that's too hot can hurt your throat. Sweeten with honey if you wish.
- Candied ginger slices. These are chewy pieces of real ginger, coated in sugar, and they taste both spicy-hot and sweet. (Some people use them partly as a breath freshener.) You can buy them in many health food stores.
- Ginger ale. Unfortunately, most commercial brands of ginger ale don't actually contain any ginger. But you can find natural brands of ginger ale in health food stores that use the real thing.
- Capsules. Some people take dried ginger in capsule form, available in health food stores. They can be a convenient way to get the benefits of ginger—but they're more expensive than other forms, and they don't give you that tangy taste. back to top
- To relieve nausea and period cramps: Slowly sip either warm ginger tea or natural ginger ale as often as needed.
- For an upset stomach and gas: Drinking ginger tea before meals may prevent these problems. Drinking ginger tea after a meal may relieve them.
- For motion sickness: About an hour before taking a long car ride or going out on a boat, drink a cup of ginger tea, eat a slice of candied ginger, or take a ginger capsule. Bring a bag of ginger slices with you to nibble on your trip.
- For a cold or flu: Drink warm ginger tea. Some people add a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice per cup for flavor and vitamin C. back to top
Ginger is very safe. The only problem you might encounter is heartburn. If you're not used to eating real ginger, you may want to start slowly and gradually increase the amount you use. Don't take ginger at the same time you take aspirin or Tylenol, as ginger may add to the thinning effect these drugs have on your blood. For the same reason, don't take ginger during the week before or after you have surgery.
The use of herbs is not recommended during pregnancy and breast-feeding except under the guidance of a health professional. back to top