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February, 2008

Ginger

By Christina Pirello


Long known for its medicinal properties, ginger is mentioned in ancient Chinese and Indian writings. The Greeks knew it well, and the Romans imported it over 2,000 years ago.

Ginger Root
Long known for its medicinal properties, ginger is mentioned in ancient Chinese and Indian writings. The Greeks knew it well, and the Romans imported it over 2,000 years ago. Finally, in the 13th century, Ginger began working its way into Europe, where it was first prized as an aphrodisiac.

Today, while some people still believe ginger is an aphrodisiac, this tuberous rhizome (or underground stem) is more commonly known for its highly aromatic and pungent flesh. Native to Southeast Asia, the perennial ginger plant has above-ground stems that can grow to 4-1/2 feet in height; the fleshy rhizomes vary in size and color. They can be tan, yellow, white, or red depending on the variety.

What Can Ginger Do For You?

Many have claimed ginger is a tonic, antiseptic, diuretic, fever reducer, and appetite aid. But most importantly, Chinese healers have used ginger to relieve motion sickness, morning sickness, and general nausea for thousands of years. In recent years, researchers around the world have taken a serious look at ginger. Studies now suggest that ginger may help relieve post-operative nausea due to anesthesia and even the nausea common to chemotherapy patients. Furthermore, ginger can be used to relieve morning sickness in pregnant women because it does not harm the fetus. As an added bonus, as a natural remedy for nausea, ginger has fewer side effects than traditional antinausea drugs.

Enjoying Ginger

Do you recall Mom giving you ginger ale for an upset stomach? Mom knew what she was doing. Ginger ale is an easy way to enjoy the benefits of ginger when you're not feeling well. However, you'll find fresh ginger also is easy to prepare and use--plus, it adds a delightful flavor to any dish or beverage.

  • To Prepare Fresh Ginger...
First choose firm, smooth rhizomes that are free from mold. Peel the root with a potato peeler, cut it into very thin slices, then mince it. When cooking ginger, add it at the end for strong flavor, or at the beginning for a more subdued taste. Store fresh ginger unpeeled in a refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks. Melissa's Crystallized Ginger (made from stem ginger, candied, and coated with cane sugar) and powdered ginger keep indefinitely when stored in airtight containers in a cool, dry place.
  • Simple Ginger Tea
One very simple way to enjoy ginger and soothe your stomach is with a cup of ginger tea. To make this tea, add about a teaspoon of fresh, chopped ginger to a cup of water. Boil for about 3 minutes; sieve and serve.

Sources:
Health Magazine's 50 Super Foods, August 1998. Earl Mindell's Food as Medicine (Simon & Schuster: New York), 1994. Margen, Sheldon, M.D. et al. The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition. (Health Letter Associates: New York), 1992.