Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is an amazing spice with a plethora of therapeutic benefits mostly due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger plants can grow up to three feet high and produce 2-5 sections of ginger. One of the oldest medicinal foods, ginger originated in Southeast Asia. It has been part of Chinese and Indian healing practices for a very, very long time.
According to Ayurvedic texts, ginger is the “universal great medicine”. Ancient Chinese medicine makes the claim that ginger “restores devastated yang” and “expels cold”. An Indian proverb notes that “everything good is found in ginger”. Even Modern Western science has confirmed the value of ginger in remedying numerous conditions.
There is no doubt that ginger has great culinary and medicinal value. Here are just a few of the ways that ginger may be a useful tool to keep in your natural healing toolkit:
If you hit the gym too hard you may want to turn to ginger for relief. Research shows ginger to be effective against exercise-induced muscle pain. Due to its potent anti-inflammatory properties, ginger has an immediate and long-lasting impact on muscle pain.
Perhaps one of the most common attributes of ginger is its ability to ward off nausea, especially morning sickness. It has a long history of being used as a remedy for sea sickness and has been proven to help tremendously with pregnancy-related nausea.
Ginger reduces inflammation that leads to joint pain and stiffness especially with conditions such as osteoarthritis. In one study, people with osteoarthritis of the knee who took ginger extract had reduced pain and required a lower dose of pain medicine.
Research supports that ginger has powerful anti-diabetic properties. In one study, participants with type 2 diabetes lowered fasting blood sugar by 12% with 2 grams of ginger powder per day.
Elevated levels of bad, or LDL cholesterol are linked to an increased risk of heart disease. In one study, ginger powder reduced cholesterol markers in just 45 days.
Fresh ginger contains gingerol, a bioactive substance that can reduce the risk of infections. Ginger can inhibit the growth of numerous bacteria and is effective against oral bacteria linked to inflammatory gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis.
I don’t know about you, but fresh ginger is always on my list when I go to the grocery store. This makes the idea of growing it at home all the more attractive. Although ginger comes from tropical regions, you can easily grow it at home under the correct conditions.
If you live in USDA zone 7 or higher you can grow ginger root right in the ground. However, in all but zone 10, the leaves will die off in the winter. If you live in zone 6 or lower, you can plant ginger root in a pot and bring it indoors during the cold season.
There are many reputable places online to get an organic ginger root for growing, however, you can also just get a root from the grocery store. Any rhizome from the grocery store will sprout as it has not been treated with the same anti-sprout chemicals as potatoes. Look for a rhizome that is plump and well hydrated. It if is wrinkled, do not use it. The rhizome should have nodes that will sprout.
Place the root on your kitchen countertop until the “nodes or eyes” start to grow. It generally takes a couple of weeks for this to happen. The rhizome will begin to shrivel – no need to worry, you don’t need to give it water. Once your rhizome is sprouting, cut your root into pieces with an “eye.” This is very much the same way that you get pieces of potato ready to plant – each piece needs to have at least one “eye” that will sprout. Let each piece heal for a few hours before planting.
Again, if you live in USDA zone 7 plus, you can grow ginger in the ground. Ginger likes full to part shade and very rich and loose soil. Add plenty of compost or aged manure to the garden bed before planting. Plant ginger root in early spring after all chances of frost are passed. Dig a shallow trench and plant ginger pieces no deeper than 1 inch. Plant one piece of ginger per square foot. Water thoroughly and in about two weeks you should see leaves of the plant emerge. After you see the leaves, water deeply but sparingly. Leaves of the ginger plant get tall and can be easily damaged by winds. Fertilize using compost tea or aged manure once a month until your plant is well established.
Ginger plants take ten months to mature. Your ginger will be ready the following spring or you can leave it into the summer for a larger harvest. Gently lift the plant from the soil, break off the foliage and wash the root. You can also take part of the root and replant the rest.
Note: The leaves of the ginger plant are also edible. You can use them as a flavorful garnish like you would chives or onions.
If you live in a cooler climate you will need to grow ginger in pots. Here are a few things to keep in mind. Ginger is a low maintenance herb that is happy indoors as long as it has partial sunlight and enough moisture.
Here are some of my favorite ways to use ginger.
If I feel a cold coming on, one of the first things I do is make a cup of this ginger cough and cold remedy. It is soothing and eases a sore throat, stops a cough in its tracks, reduces inflammation and clears sinuses.
How To Make It
Note: Use one teaspoon for children and one tablespoon for adults every 4-6 hours.
I call this my destress tea because it seems to relax my entire body and bring about a sense of calm and wellbeing.
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