Holy smokes! Temperature 80°. Dew Point 80°. Humidity 98%!
As I bit into a piece of my friend’s freshly baked apple pie, I got a shock – a large slice of ginger. Not a bad shock – just an unexpected shock. When I think of apple pie, mostly I think of cinnamon – and there was cinnamon in this pie. The ginger was unexpected – and thrilling. It was novel, and it complemented the apples, and it was a fresh taste.
I’ve always loved ginger. When I was a little kid, it was ginger ale that would settle a troubled tummy. As I grew older, I learned about ginger beer, ginger tea, ginger pickles, ginger candy and ginger in Chinese foods and Indian foods. It’s always been a welcome taste to me.
My Chinese friend also tells me how healthy it is for me. I used to make my tea with powdered ginger; she taught me to sliver or grate fresh ginger for my tea.
Today, inspired by that slice of ginger in my friend’s apple pie, I decided to see what I could find on the health benefits of ginger. Ginger has a healing reputation in so many cultures – you would think there must be something to it.
There is a LOT of information out there. Most of what I read, I would be afraid to print here, afraid it might lead you to believe ginger can do more than it really can. Finally, I ended up at my old reliable friend Wikipedia, where I found more balance. Here is what I found about ginger, it’s uses, and health benefits – and warnings.
In Western cuisine, ginger is traditionally restricted to sweet foods, such as ginger ale, gingerbread, ginger snaps, ginger cake and ginger biscuits. A ginger-flavored liqueur called Canton is produced in Jarnac, France. Green ginger wine is a ginger flavored wine produced in the United Kingdom, traditionally sold in a green glass bottle. Ginger is also used as a spice added to hot coffee and tea.
In Arabic, ginger is called Zanjabil and in some parts of the Middle East ginger powder is used as a spice for coffee.
In India, ginger is called Aadu in Gujarati, “Shunti” in Kannada language[Karnataka], Allam in Telugu, Inji in Tamil and Malayalam, Alay in Marathi, “Aduwa” in Nepali, and Adrak in Hindi and Urdu. Fresh ginger is one of the main spices used for making pulse and lentil curries and other vegetable preparations.
It is used fresh to spice tea especially in winter. Also, ginger powder is used in certain food preparations that are made particularly for expecting women and feeding mothers, the most popular one being Katlu which is a mixture of gum resin, ghee, nuts and sugar.
In south India, ginger is used in the production of a candy called Inji-murappa (“ginger candy” from Tamil). This candy is mostly sold by vendors to bus passengers in bus stops and in small tea shops as a locally produced item. Candied or crystallized ginger (ginger cured with sugar) is also very famous around these parts. Additionally, in Tamil Nadu, especially in the Tanjore belt, a variety of ginger which is less spicy is used when tender to make fresh pickle with the combination of lemon juice or vinegar, salt and tender green chillies. This kind of pickle was generally made before the invention of refrigeration and stored for a maximum of 4-5 days. The pickle gains a mature flavor when the juices cook the ginger over the first 24 hours. Ginger is also added as a flavoring in tea.
In Japan, ginger is pickled to make beni shoga and gari or grated and used raw on tofu or noodles. It is also made into a candy called shoga no satozuke.
In Burma, ginger is used in a salad dish called gyin-tho, which consists of shredded ginger preserved in oil, and a variety of nuts and seeds.
Indonesia has a famous beverage that called Wedang Jahe, which is made from ginger and palm sugar; Indonesians also use ground ginger root, called jahe or djahe, as a frequent ingredient in local recipes.
In traditional Korean kimchi, ginger is finely minced and added to the ingredients of the spicy paste just before the fermenting process.
In South East Asia, the flower of a the Torch ginger (Etlingera eliator) is used in cooking. The unopened flower is known in the Malay language as Bunga Kantan, and is used in salads and also as garnish for sour-savoury soups, like Assam Laksa.
In the Ivory Coast, ginger is ground and mixed with orange, pineapple and lemon to produce a juice called Nyamanku.
In China, sliced or whole ginger root is often paired with savory dishes, such as fish. However, candied ginger is sometimes a component of Chinese candy boxes, and an herbal tea can also be prepared from ginger.
The medical form of ginger historically was called “Jamaica ginger”; it was classified as a stimulant and carminative, and used frequently for dyspepsia and colic. It was also frequently employed to disguise the taste of medicines.
Ginger is on the FDA’s ‘generally recognized as safe’ list, though it does interact with some medications, including warfarin. Ginger is contraindicated in people suffering from gallstones as the herb promotes the release of bile from the gallbladder. Ginger may also decrease joint pain from arthritis, though studies on this have been inconsistent, and may have blood thinning and cholesterol lowering properties that may make it useful for treating heart disease.
The characteristic odor and flavor of ginger root is caused by a mixture of zingerone, shoagoles and gingerols, volatile oils that compose about one to three percent of the weight of fresh ginger. In laboratory animals, the gingerols increase the motility of the gastrointestinal tract and have analgesic, sedative, antipyretic and antibacterial properties.
Ginger compounds are active against a form of diarrhea which is the leading cause of infant death in developing countries. Zingerone is likely to be the active constituent against enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli heat-labile enterotoxin-induced diarrhea.
Ginger has been found effective by multiple studies for treating nausea caused by seasickness, morning sickness and chemotherapy, though ginger was not found superior over a placebo for post-operative nausea.
Folk medicinal uses
There are a variety of uses suggested for ginger. Tea brewed from ginger is a folk remedy for colds. Three to four leaves of Tulsi taken along with a piece of Ginger on an empty stomach is an effective cure for congestion, cough and cold. Ginger ale and ginger beer have been recommended as “stomach settlers” for generations in countries where the beverages are made, and ginger water was commonly used to avoid heat cramps in the US. Ginger has also been historically used to treat inflammation which several scientific studies support, though one arthritis trial showed ginger to be no better than a placebo or ibuprofen. Research on rats suggests that ginger may be useful for treating diabetes.
In the West, powdered dried ginger root is made into capsules and sold in pharmacies for medicinal use.
In the United States, ginger is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration, though it is not approved for the treatment or cure of any disease and is sold as an unregulated dietary supplement
In India, ginger is applied as a paste to the temples to relieve headache and consumed when suffering from a cold,people use ginger for making tea, in food etc.
In Burma, ginger and a local sweetener made from palm tree juice (Htan nyat) are boiled together and taken to prevent the flu
In China, a drink made with sliced ginger cooked in sweetened water or a cola is used as a folk medicine for common cold* In Indonesia, a type of ginger known as Jahe is used as a herbal preparation to reduce fatigue, reducing “winds” in the blood, prevent and cure rheumatism and controlling poor dietary habits
In Democratic Republic of the Congo, ginger is crushed and mixed with mango-tree sap to make Tangawisi juice, which is considered as a universal panacea
In the Philippines a traditional health drink called “salabat” is made for consumption with breakfast by boiling chopped ginger and adding sugar and is considered good for sore throat.
Allergic reactions to ginger generally result in a rash and though generally recognized as safe, ginger can cause heartburn, bloating, gas, belching and nausea, particularly if taken in powdered form. Unchewed fresh ginger may result in intestinal blockage, and individuals who have had ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease or blocked intestines may react badly to large quantities of fresh ginger. Ginger can also adversely affect individuals with gallstones. There are also suggestions that ginger may affect blood pressure, clotting, and heart rhythms.
I am still fighting off the Kuwaiti change-of-seasons cold, the sore throat, the cough, feeling tired. I am about to fix myself a cup of ginger tea – a few thin slices of ginger, hot water, sweetened by a little Yemeni honey (my own idea for getting well). Whether it has genuine benefits for my health or not – it tastes good!