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Ginger Root

Ginger Root is known as the universal medicine in Ayurveda. It aids digestion and, and is one of the best herbs for nausea. It relieves spasms and menstrual cramps, and promotes menstruation. Ginger helps to regulate blood sugar both by stimulating pancreas cells and by lowering lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides) in the blood. Historically, it was one of the most respected herbs for joint health, especially for aging joints. It has relatively high calcium and iron content. Ginger increases peripheral circulation, so is used clinically for cold hands and feet. Being diaphoretic, it treats some symptoms by promoting sweating.

Tangy ginger is just the thing to add a little zip to your palate – and to your health. Ginger root (Zingiber officinale), is the tuberous root of a tropical plant. The fresh ginger root is tan and knobby, with a thick skin. Good quality pieces are firm and plump, with an unwrinkled, smooth skin. No one quite knows how old ginger is. It's been cultivated so long that it has never actually been found growing in the wild. It is presumed to have originated in tropical India, but it is also an ancient ingredient of Chinese food and medicine.

It became popular in Europe when it was one of the more important spices to open the spice trade routes to Asia. In fact, one of ginger's most popular uses started in Europe, when in 19th century English pubs a jar of ginger was kept on the counter so the clientele could add it to their drinks. Ginger ale was born.

Ginger is a first aid kit on a plate. First, it is a time-tested remedy for stomach upset. It is used by nearly every culture in the world as a treatment for mild indigestion, fullness and gas. Many prepare a tasty tea and drink it after a large meal to assist digestion and ease stomach discomfort. Ginger's effect on motion sickness and nausea have been thoroughly proven, so itIs not surprising that European practitioners use ginger in tea for indigestion, which European regulatory authorities support.

The reason it works so well for digestion is because it reduces spasm, absorbs and neutralizes toxins in the gastrointestinal tract and increases the secretion of digestive juices, including bile and saliva. Ginger has properties that soothe the gut and aid digestion by increasing peristalsis (moving food through the intestinal tract). A new study from India demonstrated that ginger speeds up the time it takes the stomach to empty relieving abdominal discomfort and bloating.

Ginger is also some pretty serious medicine. In fact, Ayurveda calls this herb "the universal medicine."

Among its many uses, ginger helps in the treatment of diabetes by lowering blood sugar, and treats closely related cardiovascular conditions. Ginger lowers blood fats, including triglycerides, reduces oxidation of LDL and prevents arterial plaque. Research published in 2002 found that a higher dose of ginger (500 mg/kg, about an ounce for an average adult), produced a significant lowering of blood cholesterol.

In Asian herbalism, ginger is extensively used for arthritis, especially osteoarthritis. Ginger is especially appropriate for cold, non-lubricated joints. There is some preliminary scientific information on ginger for this purpose. Traditional herbalists use it for promoting menstruation and relieving menstrual cramps. Ginger increases peripheral circulation, so it is used clinically for cold hands and feet. Being diaphoretic, it treats cold and flu.

In clinical trials of modern practitioners, ginger works well for carpal tunnel wrist pain. It can be taken internally in therapeutic doses, or applied externally to the troubled spot. Practitioners found that when thin lengthwise slices of the fresh root were applied as flat strips to the wrist and then covered with a bandage and left overnight, there was significant relief. Norma Pasekoff Weinberg, in Natural and Herbal Remedies for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Storey Books, Pownal Vermont, 2000), recommends a compress be made from fresh ginger that has been cooked and grated. You can also find other variations for external use, such as ointments.

Although, there is as yet little science behind it, Asian medicine uses ginger for migraines. Clinical herbalists say that ginger is absolutely the best medicine for treating a migraine at the time that it develops and itIs one of the few things that will work. They recommend stirring two tablespoons of ginger powder into water and drinking it at the onset of visual disturbances in the "aura" before the pain starts. Usually, that will knock it out cold. The migraine may try to restart in about four hours, in which case you must have another drink.

A study recently reported in Obstetrics and Gynecology looked at seventy pregnant women with morning sickness. After using just 1 gram of dry ginger per day, for only four days, 87.5% of the ginger-takers reported improvement, compared with 28% who took a placebo. A 2002 study found that women taking a ginger syrup found great relief from nausea. Of the women in the ginger group, 67% who had been vomiting daily stopped vomiting within 6 days, compared to only 20% who took a placebo.

European authorities at one time suggested that ginger be avoided during pregnancy on theoretical grounds, but ginger toxicity has yet been reported in humans. Even though many modern herb books mention this theoretical concern, the science behind it is dated and not very definitive. American herbal safety authorities have repeatedly concluded that this not an issue, for practical purposes. Considering that it has been used for millennia by pregnant women, itIs probably acceptable in normal doses.

Ginger is one of the most popular spices throughout the world. Ginger is a multipurpose spice, equally scrumptious in both sweet and savory dishes. This spice has a somewhat biting and hot note, with a rich, sweet, warm, and woody aroma. Use ginger fresh, as dried powder or "crystallized" with sugar. Use it in gingerbread, ginger ale, gingersnaps, and Indian or Chinese dishes. Try ginger chunks in a stir fry, or mixed in honey or with a little molasses as a glaze, perhaps for carrots. Even add fresh juice to a fresh juice mix, perhaps apple, to add some snap. In my home, my family likes to dice peeled fresh ginger root, saute it until crunchy, and use the crispy bits as a condiment. Prepared this way, ginger will last about a week in the refrigerator.