Sunday, January 29, 2017

Ginger, ayurveda and it multiple uses.

Origins and History

The origin of ginger is not unknown for certain, and it is not known to grow wild, but it is grown in many tropical climates around the world. Nevertheless, since antiquity, there have been references to its cultivation and medicinal use in ancient China and India, suggesting that it may have originated somewhere between northern India and eastern Asia.

Ginger is the oldest spice to reach Europe. One tale recounts the first gingerbread make by a baker of Rhodes (a Greek island) around 2400 BC. In the fifth century BC, the Persian trade missions sent to India by King Darius, brought back ginger. In China, Confucius mentions the medicinal properties of ginger and the Greek physician and botanist Dioscorides, author of the Materia Medica, similarly extolled its virtues. In the trades from the Arab World to Rome, from Spain to Jamaica and from the Red Sea to Alexandria, ginger was exchanged as the most popular spice after pepper.

Half the world’s ginger is produced on the Indian Malabar Coast, in the cities of Calicut and Cochin, with the latter being considered of superior quality. However, according to expert chefs, the ideal ginger for cooking comes from Jamaica.

Native Region and Climate

Ginger is a lush-looking tropical perennial plant with erect, leafy shoots about ¼ inch in diameter, which grows up to 4 feet in height. Ginger is a knobby rhizome -- the underground stem of the plant, and not the root of the plant, as commonly thought.

Ginger derives its intense flavor from it gingerol, with variations in gingerol content depending on where the plant was grown and when it was harvested. This is why we see a range in the spiciness, sweetness or tanginess of fresh ginger, with temperatures ranging from mild to hot.

Healing Properties

In Ayurveda, ginger is considered pungent, sweet and heating. The part used for preparation of medicine is the rhizome (underground stem). Ginger acts on all tissues of the body, as well as on the 5 elements. The systems that benefit the most from ginger are the digestive and respiratory systems.


Ginger may be one of the most versatile spices in your kitchen, and has plenty of medicinal uses. It the kitchen, it’s tangy freshness, slight spiciness and pungent sweetness complement a range of dishes, from sweet to savory.

As a natural medicine you can use it in infusions, decoctions, powder ( 250 to 500 mg.), fresh juice.

Keep in mind that dry ginger is hotter and drier than fresh ginger. It is better use dry ginger as a stimulant, expectorant or to increase digestive fire. Use fresh ginger as a diaphoretic (to induce sweating), for colds, cough, vomiting and deranged vata.

Medicinal Uses

Ayurveda and Chinese medicine are the most experienced sciences to record the health benefits of ginger. They also mention a variety of preparations where ginger plays a fundamental role in the care of lungs and digestive health.

The action of ginger in the body is stimulant, diaphoretic, expectorant, carminative, antiemetic, aphrodisiac, nervine, sialagogue and analgesic.

With those actions in mind, let’s mention a few benefits that have been scientifically proven in different studies in commercial labs and universities:

      Motion Sickness
      Nausea after surgery
      Morning sickness
      Chemotherapy-induced nausea
      Poor digestion
      Heartburn and stomachache
      Cholesterol problems
      Prevent Heart attacks and stroke
      Reduce menstrual cramps due to cold
      Externally, it makes a good paste for pain and headaches

Ayurvedic medicine recommends ginger in cases of colds, flus, indigestion vomiting, belching, abdominal pains, laryngitis, haemorrhoids, headaches and heart disease.

In Ayurvedic preparations, ginger taken with rock salt reduces vata ( air); with rock candies (crystallized sugar), it reduces Pitta (fire); and taken with honey, reduces Kapha (water).


Ginger is a sattvic ( pure) spice and can be used by children and elderly. The only consideration is when there is excess of heat in the body ( pitta), it should be used in small doses. Ginger should be used with precaution in cases of inflammatory skin diseases, high fever, bleeding and ulcers.

Another consideration is in the processing of the ginger. White ginger, used in Japanese cooking is made by putting the fresh ginger in fennel and smoke it with sulphur. Japanese pink ginger is also colored and preserved in low quality vinegars. These two ways of processing ginger are not recommended for consumption.

Select fresh organic ginger, if that is not available, most health food stores carry organic ginger powder.

How to Buy and Store

Fresh hands of ginger are available from most greengrocers and should be plump, firm and clean. Store fresh ginger in an open container in the cupboard in the same way as you keep your fresh onions and garlic.

Minced or grated ginger can be bought and preserved in vinegar in a glass jar; these must be refrigerated after opening. Ginger preserved in syrup or crystallized needs to be kept in a cool, dry environment.

Ginger is processed in two main ways. One is to make ginger preserves, either in a brine, syrup or crystallized form; the other method is by drying, to produce dried sliced ginger or ginger powder.

Tips to put more ginger in your diet:
      Sprinkle dried  ginger and jaggery (cane sugar) on acorn squash or sweet potatoes before baking;
      Finely grate fresh ginger over tofu or noodles;
      Sprinkle ground ginger in applesauce or your morning granola;
      To nourish plasma, take one cup of grape juice and add a pinch each of cardamom, fresh ginger and saffron.
      To increase digestive fire, make a tea of shatavari root, fresh ginger, holy basil (tulsi) and lemongrass. Drink 3 times a day.

Compatibility With Herbs and Other Spices

Ginger Combines well with:
      All spice
      Cinnamon and cassia
      Coriander leaves and seeds
      Curry leaves
      Fennel seeds
      Star anise
      Sesame seeds
      Mustard seeds

Cooking with ginger.

Ginger and Lime Sauce
This fearless Thai flavoured sauce takes 5 minutes to make and can be use in many dishes, salads and dips. This warming sauce can be prepared ahead and kept in the fridge for 5 to 10 days. You can also serve it cold as a strong dinner complement.
The olive oil can be substituted with coconut milk, almond milk, or sesame oil. I like to make mine with coconut milk if I am using it immediately, or sesame oil to preserve it in the fridge for a longer period of time.
This sauce is an excellent digestive and medicine for Vatta and kapha doshas. Pitta can make this sauce with coconut milk to balance its heating properties.
3 small green limes
2 small garlic heads
1/2 cup ginger
5 tsp palm sugar or jaggery (sugar cane)
2 tsp sea salt
1 cup oil or coconut milk
3 small hot red chili peppers

Cut the limes in half and the ginger into small pieces, Put all of the ingredients into a blender for 3 minutes on high speed, or until a smooth sauce is formed. Bottle in a glass jar and refrigerate. Makes 1 1/2 cups of sauce.

Medicinal Recipes Using Ginger

For indigestion: Mix equal parts ginger juice with lemon juice and rock salt (found in Indian groceries) and take just before meals. This juice cleanses the throat and tongue and increases the appetite.

For biliousness: Excessive bile secretion can cause nausea, abdominal discomfort, headache, and constipation. Take ginger juice with organic cow milk (2:7 radio), boil to half volume and add rock-candy powder and take before bed. Other option is to mix ginger juice (1 part) with mango juice (2 parts), cane sugar (100 grams) and cow ghee (2 tsp), mix and melt to half the quantity and take morning and evenings.

For sore throats or laryngitis: Chew a piece of fresh ginger.

For diarrhea: Rub fresh ginger juice on the navel.

Nausea or vomiting: Make a juice with fresh ginger and ½ onion.

Tea to restore internal fire:
1 tsp of  dry ginger powder
10 to 12 leaves of tulsi,  you can use dry tulsi ( 2 tsp.)
10 mint leaves
2-3 cloves of garlic.
1 tsp of honey (add at the end, once cooled) or jaggery.

Boil of ingredients in one cup of water and reduced it to 1/2 cup.
Drink the tea every 2-3 hours for 2 or 3 days.

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