Most people who love and use spices are unaware that they deliver on so much more than just flavor; they can be powerful healing agents as well.
Ginger (which is technically the underground rhizome of the ginger plant), ranks among one of the most recommended spices that we use with our own clients as it has so many health benefits and is really fun to add to recipes. It’s always so rewarding when we can suggest whole foods as part of a protocol for chronic ailments that can actually deliver real results.
The effects of ginger on the digestive system is probably the number one reason we are so enamored with this spice.
In herbal medicine, ginger is regarded as an excellent carminative (a substance which promotes the elimination of intestinal gas) and intestinal spasmolytic (a substance which relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract). It is used all over the world to treat indigestion, gas and bloating, nausea and irritable bowel syndrome. Ginger actually stimulates digestion by speeding up the movement of food from the stomach into the upper small intestine, and is one of the reasons we often suggest adding this spice for those who suffer from constipation, reflux and gastroparesis (slow stomach emptying). Some studies have even shown ginger to slow the development of colorectal cancer cells.
Ginger also contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, which are believed to be behind the reason that those with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis experience reductions in their pain levels and improvements in their mobility when they consume ginger regularly. Its these gingerols that also give ginger their distinctive taste.
We also often suggest a ginger concoction to our clients who are under the weather with a sore throat or a persistent cough. One great remedy is to add about 1-2 inch knob of fresh ginger, a squeeze of fresh lemon and about 1-2 teaspoons of raw honey to 2 cups of boiling water or chamomile tea and sip throughout the day.
Some great ways to add ginger to your diet:
- Add ginger to your next homemade salad dressing (see recipe HERE)
- Add grated ginger and fresh orange juice to puréed sweet potatoes
- Spice up your healthy sautéed vegetables by adding freshly minced ginger
- Use in desserts! Try our Ginger Cranberry Pear Crisp HERE
- Drop a chunk in your smoothies, such as our Pear Ginger Smoothie and Tahini Mocha Smoothie
What to look for when buying:
Whenever possible, choose fresh ginger over the dried form of the spice since it is not only superior in flavor but contains higher levels of gingerol. Studies have shown positive results using 2 teaspoons fresh ginger. Fresh ginger root is sold in the produce section of all supermarkets. When purchasing fresh ginger root, make sure it is firm and fairly smooth (should not be wrinkly and dried up looking). Ginger is generally available in two forms, either young or mature. Mature ginger, which is what you will see in most supermarkets, has a tough skin that requires peeling while young ginger, usually available in Asian markets or farmers markets (when in season), does not need to be peeled.
When buying ginger powder, look for a good organic brand (Starwest Botanicals, Indus Organic) which will be more likely to have higher gingerol levels than your everyday supermarket brand. Up to 1 tablespoon per day would be considered a therapeutic amount.
A great trick for peeling ginger is to use the back of a spoon (instead of a knife), which takes off the skin while preserving most of the flesh. Only peel the amount you want to use, as this will keep it fresher longer). Ginger has a pretty strong flavor, you only need a small amount (about an inch) for most recipes. Dice the ginger into small pieces to sprinkle in sauces or add to sautes.
Ginger can also be frozen up to 6 months. This is a great time saver for when just needing a small amount for a recipe. To freeze, peel the entire root and cut into pieces (about an inch each). Put in a freezer bag and store in freezer. Take a piece out as needed. This works great for smoothies (see recipes above)- just grab a piece and toss it into the blender along with your other ingredients.
Let us know – do you use ginger? What are your favorite spices and why?