“O Miss Ginger, what ales thee, I have found you to be so helpful to so many, what has happened” asked her good friend. “I am sadly becoming aware, … sniffle, sniffle, … that some folks are forgetting, sniffle, just how useful I am.” replied Miss Ginger. “Strange, very strange indeed” puzzled her friend,”I will see what I can do about this” her friend added.
Out of the many truly delicious herbs one can add to their diet, Ginger is one of my personal favourites, I even add it to my coffees, … shock, and ‘oh the horror’. So what do you add it to, and if not, why haven’t you tried? I have had literally hundreds of ginger teas as well, so versatile is this herb, especially in drinks and beverages, but don’t let me stop you there!
Ginger – Zingiber officinale, is one of those ancient herbs that has been used as much medicinally as culinarily for a very long time.
Shen Nung 神農, the legendary emperor, is believed to have been the author of the Chinese pharmacopoeia, “Shen-nung pen ts’ao ching or (Divine Husbandman’s Materia Medica). Revered for being the Father of Chinese Medicine and was believed to have ushered in the technique of acupuncture. He advised ginger for colds, fever, chills, leprosy and tetanus, plus, eliminating body odour.
Later on, the women of China also used it for menstrual discomfort, and when they suffered morning sickness, the Chinese sailors added it by chewing on it to prevent seasickness. Since then, Chinese Physicians used it for conditions such as, ulcers, kidney complaints and arthritis.
It is believed that one of the reasons why ginger was used in Chinese cooking, is because it is said to be the anti-dote to shellfish poisoning, as it does assist in killing Anisakis larvae and other parasites. It is also said that Confucius (551 to 479 B.C.) ate ginger with his meals to assist with digestion and as a carminative.
In 1500 B.C., which was the beginning of the Vedic age of India, the Sanskrit texts were beginning to be written, and within these texts ginger is mentioned, called ‘Maha- aushadhi’ which means – the Great Medicine.
Ancient traders from Greece discovered the use of ginger and brought it over to their country and they also used it as a digestive aid to ward off nausea after big meals. At first they would wrap a piece of bread around it, then adapted it into a sweet bread and ultimately became what we now call ‘ginger bread’.
Shortly after the Greeks had ginger, the Romans soon got in on the act, but by this stage, ginger was beginning to get rare. Thankfully, over period of time, trade pick up again, and this time, ginger began to travel throughout Europe. It is also interesting to note that the surgeon to both the emperors Claudius and Nero used ginger for the stomach.
Later on during the 1200s and 1300s ginger and pepper were one of the most traded of spices and the Arabian people sailed across to places such as, Zanzibar and East Africa to plant it in their coastal settlements.
The Europeans not to be out-done, took ginger bread into one of its most delectable forms, the gingerbread man, gaining further notoriety through the book written by the Brothers Grimm, Hansel and Gretel. It was also eaten by Queen Elizabeth the 1st, at royal dinners shaped like dignitaries, and it is mentioned in William Shakespeare’s comedy, Love’s Labour’s Lost , “An I had but one penny in the world, thou shouldst have it to buy ginger-bread,” Costard the Clown jests.
The English are believed to have turned ginger into that wonderful drink called ginger beer, which was also carried over to the early American colonies. Ginger beer was the predecessor to ginger ale, (not the modern soft drink version) which can be used for nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
The first peoples of America, the American Indians, used a native variety called Wild ginger or Canadian ginger – Asarum canadense, to treat digestive issues, to preserve food and flavour. The American early settlers used it as a spice and a candy, and the liquids were boiled down into a syrup, and medicinally it was use as a poultice amongst other things.
John Gerard in his book ‘The History of Plants‘, said “Ginger groweth in Spaine, Barbary, in the Canarie Islands and the Azores. Our men who sacked Domingo in the Indies, digged it up there in sundry places wilde” … “Ginger, Dioscorides reporteth, is right good with meat and sauces, or otherwise in conditures; for it is of an heating and digesting qualitie, and is profitable for the stomacke, and effectually opposeth it selfe against all darkness of the sight; answering the qualities and effects of Pepper.“
How To Use Ginger
Believed to have originated in the Indian subcontinent and from there it gained the truism that, “Every good quality is contained in ginger”, and this is just correct today, as it is just so versatile.
So versatile that you can use it in sweet and savoury meals, such as, meat dishes, sweet and sours, and soups, dozens of desserts such as cheese cakes, ice cream, puddings, cakes, fruit pies, drinks and beverages, like ginger beer and ginger ales, kombucha, condiments such as sauces, pickles and chutneys, and the beauty of this is that you are getting its health benefits whilst enjoying its deliciousness.
Not to mention, that it has a range of medicinal benefits with so many of the issues we humans face on regular basis, it can help so easily by added it to a meal or drink.
Ginger has a range such interesting flowers and if the stalks are kept fresh, it can be used wonderfully in the garden as an ornamental.
The thing about ginger tea, is that it is very easy to make, and at the same time you are getting many of its medicinal benefits just by drinking it. Then you can jazz things up a bit and add further herbs or fruits to the mix and increase flavour, aromas and health benefits all at the same time.
Simple Ginger Tea
The easiest way to make a ginger tea is to obtain a fresh knob or rhizome of ginger from the market, cut off about a tablespoon’s worth of thinly sliced ginger, place them into a cup, pour in boiling hot water and wait about five minutes, and enjoy.
You can if you want add a little sweetener like raw honey, stevia, agave nectar or erythritol.
Customised Ginger Teas
Ginger can go with so many other herbs, teas and fruits, and this allows you to customise your very own flavours and combinations, and not only that, they can be drunk hot or iced. They can even used in second ferments in making Kombucha, or just put in a few slices of ginger to the second ferment of kombucha or water kefir. To see how I make kombucha click here.
A quick list of possible herbs could be: chamomile, turmeric, lemon grass, lemon verbena, many of the mints, such as chocolate or apple mint, liquorice, sarsaparilla, and cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, or any of your normal teas such as black, green and white teas. Fruits and their juices could be lemon and lime, peach, pear, mango, grapefruit and orange.
Many of its culinary use are: curries of which it is a very important part, plus, various meat dishes and stews, soups, e.g. pumpkin soup, and grated in salads and vegetable meals and sides, such as, carrots, peas and beans or try in mashed sweet potatoes, dried crystallised sweets such as, crystallised ginger or try making your own and replace the sugar, and then there is the endless powdered uses for making ginger beer and ginger ale, for cakes, cup cakes, breads, buns and pastries, plus, biscuits, cookies and of course gingerbread men. But don’t forget putting it in your breakfast oatmeal or muesli or your morning smoothie or beverage such as a bullet proof coffee, but what about hot chocolate or carob?
Then there is the obvious Asian, African and Caribbean fantastically gorgeous meals to be had of which there are literally hundreds to choose from.
So, have I made you hungry yet? I hope so, so what are you waiting for, go and make one.
Beetroot, Carrot and Ginger Salad
Mix up in a bowl, one grated small (peeled) beetroot, one grated small (peeled) carrot, plus, 1/2cm to 1cm / 1/4″ to 3/8″ of peeled and grated ginger rhizome, one teaspoon of chopped basil, four sprigs of finely chopped parsley, the juice of 1/2 of a lemon and some salt to taste, and serve cool and fresh.
Making Ginger Beer
Making ginger beer is relatively simple to do and you can make rather large batches in readiness for hot summer days and parties. Since this method uses fermentation, it will have some health benefits just from that alone, as with all fermented foods and drinks, but I personally don’t go as far as making things alcoholic.
- Put 1 teaspoon of powdered ginger into a cup
- Add 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1/2 a teaspoon of dried yeast
- Stir in 1/2 a cup of lukewarm water
- Cover with a cloth and leave aside for about 1/2 an hour or until frothy
- In a large clean plastic container dissolve 2 to 3 cups of sugar into 5 cups of boiling water
- Add 1/2 the juice of a lemon (more if you want to)
- Plus 1 teaspoon of ginger powder
- When the first cup of frothiness is about double its size, add it to the bucket and mix
- Allow it to stand for about 2 to 3 hours
- Then bottle and seal for 3 days to brew, you will need about 12 large bottles
- After 3 days put the bottles into the fridge
- As they become cold drink and enjoy
If you don’t put them into the fridge, they will continue to ferment and may blow up, what a waste?! Some adventurous folks add other things to add flavour etc,. but these can make them blow up as well. You have been warned!
Health Uses of Ginger
The first consideration for ginger is the key term ‘diffusive stimulant’ when considering how ginger may be of a help to the body, meaning, its a substance that is intermingling and temporarily stimulates a physiological activity. Therefore, this herb can also help in the absorption of other herbs through the stomach.
Its most popular health benefits, are found in how it affects the digestive system, which are nausea and vomiting, with travel and morning sickness, flatulent colic, irritable bowel, and diarrhoea, plus, loss of appetite and low acid by stimulating digestive juices and even hiccups.
Most people actually mistaken their acid reflux or gastro-oesophageal reflux disorder (GORD) for high acid, but this is often wrong. Its your “low acid”, poor digestion, causing your stomach’s Lower oesophageal sphincter and Pyloric sphincter to malfunction causing acidic gases etc., to come up the oesophagus. How can you test this, easy, when you feel the acid rising, just take a small sip of apple cider vinegar, (watch out, as it does have a “KICK”), wow, it just went away didn’t it, how did adding acid, reduce the acid in your stomach if high acid was supposed to be your problem????
It should be noted that as far as some of the claims of ginger go, such as, helping and preventing travel sickness, plus, nausea and vomiting, that it doesn’t always work with everybody.
Its fresh fruit juice can be placed directly onto burns to reduce its pain. Plus, for those who are taking chemotherapy or have just had surgery, it is said to help with post-operative nausea. It can be incorporated into a liniments for external use.
It has been well used for reproductive issues such as poor menstruation during cold menstrual cramps and is said to improve your libido.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ginger
- Ginger expels Cold and warms the Spleen
- It expels Interior Cold and restores collapse of Yang
- Warms the Lungs and helps in the expectoration of Cold Phlegm
- Stops chronic bleeding caused by Cold
Oil of Ginger
One of the principle uses of ginger essential oil is its use in aromatherapy, which can affect us in so many ways, such as, possibly reducing post-operative nausea, but it does have many other practical and medicinal uses. From a medicinal point of view, ginger oil seem to demonstrate some anti-inflammatory properties, on the skin and with arthritis.
Essential oils are concentrated and therefore can be irritating to the skin etc., so always do a small test to see if there is any possible chance of a reaction. If it is only slightly reactive, try a carrier oil to dilute its strength, such as, jojoba, avocado, rosehip seed, argan, tamanu and evening primrose oils, all are fantastic for the skin.
Gardening Uses of Ginger
There are over 400 varieties of ginger, which can give reasonable versatility in the garden. Some are used for their most excellent blossoms, which are truly fascinating in their own right, and others are grown for the wonderful fragrances. But the plant stalks and leaves themselves can play a role in the garden with their shape and style as an ornamental, and because it prefers shade and moist ground, it can be placed in wet and shaded areas.
Other uses for ginger in the garden is a screen due to its height to keep nosey neighbours out, a wind break, a back drop for other flowering plants or to hide an ugly view. Let alone the obvious uses for making your own spice, culinary dishes, desserts, besides drinks and beverages.
How to Grow Ginger
Ginger is a deciduous perennial that is clump forming, it grows to 1.5 m / 5′ tall with long (20cm / 10″) lanceolate mid-green leaves. The more common flower is yellow/green that then gets a deep purple and cream lip during summer, that produces a fleshy red fruit, which has 3 chambers with small black seeds inside.
It also prefers broken or dappled sun light, as it is a plant native to tropical jungle forests, but can handle some full sunlight. The soil should be rich in organic matter, such as compost and/or some rotted manure, loose, well-draining and friable and just on the alkaline side, you may need some lime before planting.
On average, from planting to harvest it usually takes five to nine months, and typically it requires 150cm / 5′ of watering per year in either rainfall or irrigation, with average temperatures of around 30C / 86F.
If you are intending to grow it in pots, you won’t get a large abundance of rhizome, so unless you have a very large container to put it in, then only grow it for more ornamental purposes, and if you do get the amount of rhizome you wanted, then thanks just great.
I believe that the commercial ginger plant is sterile, but you can still grow ginger from seed. Just follow the seed companies directions. But simply, it is somewhat rare to grow from seed, as it easier and quicker to grow from the rhizome.
Root cuttings of the rhizome are the most quickest and easiest to use to propagate ginger, because you can simply purchase your ‘root stock’ from your local fruit and veggie supplier. Just make sure that the rhizome is fresh and light coloured, not dark and wrinkly, and that it has some of the growth buds on it.
Try to obtain about an 8cm / 3″ segments with the growth buds, and allow them to dry out for a few days. Then plant them in well prepared soil about 8cm to 10cm / 3″ to 4″ below the soil. If you are in tropical regions, then plant in autumn, otherwise plant in mid-spring. Well water it in, and make sure that you have mulched it with compost or rotted manure or good hay such as lucerne. Keep your rhizomes well apart and don’t cram them in as they are a spreading plant.
Growing from division is similar to using cuttings, but in this case you are splitting off a piece of the whole plant. Simply dig up a section of the clump of ginger with either a garden fork or shovel, prise off a smaller section/s of the clump, stalk and rhizome and plant that piece back into the ground or large pot and make sure it is well watered in and composted.
Prune your ginger plant low to the ground in autumn, as this make way and room for fresh new growth.
Pest and Diseases
Generally ginger has very few pest and disease problems, but I do know that it can get red spider mite, which can normally be controlled either by a strong hosing, or an horticultural soap or neem oil/water mix. Also, encourage natural predators such as, lace wings, lady beetles, birds, hoverflies, small wasps and ‘predacious’ thrips and mites.
Water and Fertiliser
Water in very well at the time of planting, and water once each week in tropical regions, but if you are in more temperate areas then just keep the soil moist. Either way, as temperatures rise water more, and less, if the temperatures drop. After flowering, you can reduce watering somewhat, and it doesn’t mind being a little dry over winter.
Ginger is a heavy feeder, so make sure that you have it well prepared at the time of planting and fertilise regularly, that is, at least once a month with a good organic fertiliser from spring to mid summer, and replace any mulch as the ground becomes bare.
Climate and Region
Ginger really is a tropical plant that originates from wet and lush jungles, but sometimes it will grow in different climates, except for cool to cold regions, such as areas that frost. Or unless you have it in a pot, which you can move indoors or create a suitable microclimate, such as a sunroom or hot house/heated green house or similar.
If you have an established plant that is at least a year old, then you can harvest at any time, depending at what stage you want the rhizome, but if you have just recently planted a new plant, say in early spring, then typically late Autumn is the time to harvest, unless very young. Younger rhizomes are generally lighter in colour, with less heat, pungency and fibre. Older rhizomes will be larger and more heat, fibre and pungency. Keep a few rhizomes with their growth buds for next planting.
- Clean the ginger root in cold water and peel it with a spoon, yep, a spoon
- Slice your root into thin slices about the same thickness, about 3mm / 1/8″
- Place the ginger on a drying rack in a sunny dry spot away from ants and other creatures, keeping a gap between the pieces for 3 to 4 days
- Once the ginger becomes brittle, that is, totally dry, then they are ready for storage
- They should last 5 to 6 months this way
Fresh rhizomes will easily store in the fridge for a few weeks, (I have stored some for a few months, and still made it into tea) but if you want longer, you can do several different things. You can grate ginger for storage in the freezer or dry freeze them, or you can pickle or crystallise your ginger for much longer storage. Throughly dry ginger powder can keep up to one to two years if stored well.
So long as the ginger is thoroughly dry and brittle, you can make your own ginger powder. Simply place the dry ginger into a spice or coffee grinder (some machines are better than others of course) and grind away until it is simply powder. It may help to sieve out the fines and put the larger particles back in for further grinding. Sometimes the powder can get a little warm, so allow it to cool down just for a bit. And once cool, put it in air-tight glass containers and keep it out of sunlight, or you can store it in the freezer.
The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.
Sweet Ginger, Green Ginger, Ginger Root, Shunthi, Adrak, Jamaican, African, and Cochin Ginger
Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 0.9 – 3.0 grams
Antiemetic, antibiotic, carminative, antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, peripheral circulatory stimulant, anti-inflammatory, anti-platelet, diaphoretic, carminative, analgesic, pungent, aromatic digestive, demulcent, aromatic, antispasmodic, expectorant, vasodilator, anticholesterol, circulatory and metabolic stimulant, anthelmintic, antihistamine, and tonic
Nausea, vomiting, morning sickness, travel/motion sickness, digestive weakness, dyspepsia, intestinal colic, abdominal bloating, flatulent colic/wind, acute infections, bowel infections, fever, common cold, acute bronchitis, bronchiectasis, chronic bronchitis, asthma, bronchial asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatism, fever, arthritis, spasmodic dysmenorrhoea, endometriosis, impaired peripheral circulation, Raynaud’s syndrome, effects from chemotherapy and surgery, rheumatic and muscular disorders. Plus, Irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies and sensitivities, cold hands and feet, hypothermia, appetite loss, hiccups, achlorhydria, coronary artery disease, low libido, jet lag general weakness, suppressed menstruation due to cold, increases gastric juices, toothache, and migraine
Phenolic compounds – gingerols, shogaols, galanolactones, fixed oils, essential oil, asparagine, oleoresin containing sesquiterpenes – zingiberene, gum, acetic acid, linoleic and oleic acid, palmitic stearic and lauric acids, starch, sugar, and mucilage
Caution with peptic ulcers, gall stones, avoid high doses in pregnancy, kidney disease and warfarin and anti-platelet drugs, quit 1 week before surgery and pro-thrombin time and international normalised ratio values may increase
Can be adulterated by: Turmeric, ferric oxide, cayenne, usually in powders
Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.
Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda
“No spice in your life, I guess you have no colour either”Herbal Panda