Ginger is the chameleon of the food and herb world. In Chinese medicine it’s considered both an herb and a food. It’s used in candy, baked goods, curries, and stir fries because it flat out tastes good. In Chinese medicine, ginger is a common ingredient in many healing herbal formulas. Here are some things that you should know about ginger and ways you can use it at home:
1) Ginger is the rhizome (underground stem) of the ginger plant, which grows in tropical climates.
2) It can be ingested fresh, dried, powdered, chopped, grated, or as an oil or juice.
3) Ginger can easily be made into a tea or added to broth. Just grate some fresh ginger into boiling water or broth, and voila!
4) Whether taken as an herb or eaten in food, ginger is very warming to your body. If you’re feeling cold to the core, grab some ginger tea or broth to warm up.
5) If you’re coming down with a cold or the flu, ginger can help. Combine grated ginger root with scallions in a broth. Boil the broth until it’s hot and drink it down, bundle up and go to bed. The combination of ginger and scallions is hot and should make you sweat a little, just enough to head off the cold before it settles in.
6) Ginger is also what you need if you’re feeling nauseous. It’s known to help with everything from morning sickness and sea sickness, to nausea from chemotherapy. Just grate some ginger into water, heat it and drink.
7) No time to grate and heat ginger? Powdered ginger can be found in capsules at a health food store or Chinese herbal pharmacy.
8) The warming nature of ginger makes it a good digestive aid. You can drink grated ginger in hot water, eat candied ginger, ginger cookies, or pickled ginger after your meal.
9) Ever wonder why you get pickled ginger with your sushi? It’s there because ginger can offset the toxicity of a bad piece of fish. Furthermore, ginger is often used in some Chinese herbal formulas to balance out the effects of other mildly toxic herbs.
10) Ginger can relieve the symptoms of dysentery. It’s true, ginger increases the secretion of gastric juices, so your food is digested more quickly. This creates an unfriendly environment for any bacteria that might otherwise hang around and make you sick.
11) The skin of this fabulous root is useful, too. In Chinese medicine ginger peel acts as a diuretic, and promotes urination as a way of reducing edema (water swelling).
12) Ginger is as close as your nearest grocery store. Raw ginger root is found in the produce section. For ginger powder, look in the spice section of the same store, and look for pickled ginger in jars in the Asian foods aisle.
Ginger is a must-have in my kitchen. Fresh ginger root will last a long time in your refrigerator, and it freezes well, too. I use it chopped in stir fries, and grated in marinades and salad dressings. I keep a chunk stored in my freezer in a zip lock bag, and when I need some in a recipe, I take it out, run one end under some water to soften it, and grate or chop away. Not only does it taste great, it’s good for you, too!