In the Cabinet of an ND Student….. Ginger, Ginger, Ginger

While I like to use ginger year-round, I make extra effort to keep it around in the fall-winter when immune systems seem to drop as drastically as temperatures and colds + flus abound. I usually keep both powdered ginger and fresh ginger root – both are inexpensive and in my opinion, a staple! And while I prefer freshly made ginger tea (with fresh root) I also have ginger tea bags in my kitchen in case I want something quick or travel friendly.

Ginger (Latin binomial: Zingiber officinale) is probably best known for its digestive properties. It contains oleoresins and volatile oils that contribute to its digestive stimulant properties. Ginger tea is wonderful for upset stomach, colicky gas pains, cramping and indigestion.

But to be honest, my love of ginger is tied more to its properties according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In TCM the smooth flow and the ability of the body to produce Qi are directly tied to health. Qi is largely responsible for the state of our immunity; in TCM the Wei Qi is the defensive energy that protects the body from pathogenic invasion (basically it protects the body from colds/flus and other organisms that come from the environment). In times of deficiency ( this can be due to poor diet, stress, emotions etc) our Qi production is hit first! So what does this have to do with Ginger?

Ginger is a warming and tonifying herb in the TCM pharmacopeia, it helps to boost the ability of the body to fight pathogens that are cold in nature – the ones we tend to see in the fall/winter months. By supporting the body with a warming herb we encourage it to mobilize Wei Qi and dispel cold. TCM is a very unique healing framework, one that may seem strange to us here in North America at first. The way TCM views the body and how diseases interact with it is very different from a western medical approach. However, the more I study and understand it, the more I see it make connections that western medicine often overlooks……….

An interesting tidbit though, even in the western tradition, ginger has been shown to be an effective diaphoretic (makes you sweat) and circulatory stimulant! So the idea that it gets things flowing and moving is common to both traditions.

How I use my ginger:

1. The Ginger Bath: when I feel the very first sign of a cold or flu (especially if I get the chills or feel super fatigued) I break out the ginger powder. I run a hot bath, as warm as I can tolerate and add in my ginger powder – enough to lightly colour the water. Sit in the bath as long as tolerable, you will SWEAT! When you get out, dry off and make sure to keep your feet warm (wool socks people). Get in bed, allow your body to continue to sweat. SLEEP!

2. Ginger Tea: I prepare my tea this way,  but there are many variations! Cut fresh ginger into chunks and boil, covered for 5-8 min. The more ginger the stronger it will taste. Strain into a cup and allow to cool slightly. I usually add some all natural, local honey – for an antimicrobial punch. I also include ginger tea into my weekly routine, just to help keep that warm Yang energy flowing – but I use pre made teas for this.

3. Immune Boosting Soup: If you’re feeling sick, or if someone in your house is sick try this soup. It is honestly so delicious (but be warned – its spicy due to the horseradish + ginger) and has become a sick-day staple in my house. The combination of ginger, horseradish, onion and garlic is incredible for immune boosting.

Ingredients:

4-6 cups of veggie or chicken broth (low sodium – if you can make your own broth from the chicken bones even better)

1 tsp olive oil

1 large spanish onion, minced

5 cloves of garlic (3 minced, 2 whole but peeled)

1 tbsp grated horseradish root (use fresh root not from the jar)

2 tbsp grated ginger (use fresh root)

4-6 carrots

baby potatoes (small bag)

1 head cauliflower

Pre-cooked chicken (I usually just use a whole cooked chicken – but you can also use baked chicken breast etc).

Sea salt + pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Add olive oil to a large pot, cook onion and minced garlic over low-medium heat for 3-4 mins.

2. Add broth, ginger, horseradish, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes – and any other veggies you want to add. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 mins or until veggies are cooked.

3. Peel the other 2 cloves of garlic and just give them a crush – no need to mince.

4. Add the pre-cooked chicken and your remaining garlic and simmer another 10 minutes.

5. Enjoy!

The sky is really the limit with this soup guys – the more veggies you can add the more your body will thank you. Also, play around with taste – you may be able to tolerate more or less of the ginger + horseradish. A word of caution – grated horseradish will burn your eyes – I found it worse then onion!

Aside from these more symptomatic uses, I love to add ginger to my green smoothies, soups and veggies (it really adds some nice flavour). Hope you enjoyed today’s post!

Reminder: this post is not meant to be construed as medical advice, but only as informational and based on personal experience. For more clarification on this please refer to the disclaimer at the bottom of this page. 

References:

Godfrey, A. & Saunders, P.R. (2010). Principles & practices of naturopathic botanical medicine.Toronto, Canada: CCNM Press Inc.

Photo credit 1: andresmh / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Photo credit 2: the dorsch / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit 3: See this World through Lenses / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit 4: xavivix / Foter.com / CC BY

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