What is ginger?
Ginger is a rhizome, commonly just called a root, that has been grown for thousands of years in China and India.
Prescription for Herbal Healing calls it the most widely available and widely used herbal remedy on the planet.
There are many different species of ginger, but Z. officinale is the common culinary ginger that is most often used for medicine.
With the many ways to use ginger in the kitchen or in an herbal remedy, we can all benefit from its amazing health properties and even grow it for ourselves.
What are the benefits of using ginger?
Most people have at least heard of using ginger for an upset stomach, but I wanted to dig a little deeper so I pulled out my giant pile of herbal reference books & did some reading during nap time. I was quite pleased to find so much confirmation of the many benefits of using ginger to treat indigestion, nausea inflammation, and pain. I also found some helpful information on dosing for your family, as well as recipes for using ginger in your herbal preparations.
Stephen Buhner, in his book Herbal Antibiotics, says that the “Ginger is a synergist, increasing the actions of other herbs and boosting their effectiveness by relaxing blood vessels and increasing circulation . . . It is an effective circulatory stimulant, calms nausea, reduces diarrhea and stomach cramping, reduces inflammation in bronchial passages.”
Nausea and motion sickness can be treated or even prevented with Ginger root. Obviously it’s not as convenient to carry tea with you in the car, but you can treat the nausea with ginger capsules or a tincture. Studies have shown that ginger is even more effective at calming motion sickness than Dramamine, an over-the-counter conventional remedy. (Prescription for Herbal Healing)
The Holistic Pediatrician says that ginger has been shown to be helpful in treating nausea, morning sickness from pregnancy, and motion sickness.
Herbal First Aid and Health Care also notes that indigestion -burning in the back of the throat, bloating, gas, etcetera- can be treated with carmative herbs (herbs that promote the elimination of intestinal gas) including ginger taken as a tea or tincture.
Ginger is also helpful for treating pain from inflammation. It blocks your body from producing cytokines, which are chemicals in the immune system that creates a tendency toward inflammation. In a three year long study of almost 60 people with arthritis, just about 75% of participants found relief from pain and swelling using powdered ginger. (PHH) According to the Holistic Pediatrician, “Certain compounds in ginger appear to work the same way as aspirin does, blocking inflammation and pain.” It is actually a traditional treatment for headaches in East Africa and Ayurvedic medicine.
The Holistic Pediatrician gives the following suggestions for total doses of powdered ginger root that should be divided up into 4 individual doses throughout the day:
- For someone under 3, give 100 mg per day.
- For a 3-6 year old give 250 mg per day.
- For a 6-12 year old give 500 mg per day.
- Finally, for anyone over 12 years old give 1 gram or 1,000 mg per day.
While using teas or following the directions for dosing on the bottle of a tincture will work fine, I feel much more confident using herbs when I can follow dosing suggestions given by an expert in a book. There’s just something about getting information from a real, solid, physical source of information that can’t be matched!
The Book, Herbal First Aid and Health care suggest that stomach cramps can be treated with Ginger tea. The goal in soothing stomach cramps is to relax the area and increase circulation. They suggest 2 cups of ginger tea per day as needed. The recipe for ginger tea is at the bottom of the post
Ginger can be grown outside in tropical or subtropical areas in USDA zone 9b or above. Down to zone 7 you can grow it outside, but it will die back in the winter. If you live below zone 7 you can still grow ginger indoors in pots, which is what I am doing! I bought a root from a plant supplier to grow indoors in a pot a few months ago. It is true that they start very slowly, but once they sprout they quickly grow into beautiful houseplants! My ginger plant is about 2.5 feet tall at the moment and the plant is starting to get less spindly. When I dug into the pot a bit I found that though the roots were growing, they were still very thin. I hope to share more information on growing ginger as a houseplant later, but honestly I’m still learning! I don’t want to share any faulty information, so I will keep researching and in the meantime leave you all with a few links to some articles I found helpful below:
Buying and Preparing Ginger:
You can buy fresh organic ginger roots at the supermarket to use for your remedies and use to grow your own ginger plant from. To grow your own plant you can also purchase them from a plant supplier such as Jung’s like I did.
The Healing Power of Whole Foods says that ginger should be firm when purchased then stored in the fridge inside a plastic bag to keep it fresh and moist. You don’t need to peel the skin off ginger before using it to make your herbal preparations or season your food, though obviously I would wash it to make sure it is clean. Though it’s not necessary, some herbalists I read did actually suggest peeling the ginger before making it into a tea so the most surface area of the root is exposed.
Ginger Recipes: Tea & Syrup
Simple homemade ginger tea from the Holistic Pediatrician:
Use 1 cup of water to 2 slices of fresh ginger. Boil the ginger in the water for 10 to 20 minutes, let it steep a bit longer, and strain out the pieces of ginger. Multiple references have said that you really can’t overdo how long you steep it, just make it as strong as you like it. Check out my post here for more info on making tea
Ginger-Echinacea Syrup from Herbs for Children’s Health by Rosemary Gladstar
This syrup is “very effective for treating “wet” hacking coughs and colds that have moved into the lungs.” Use 1 part dried Echinacea root to 1 part fresh ginger root and sweeten with honey. Check out more benefits of Echinacea here
To make the syrup, simply simmer about 2-3 ounces of each herb in a quart of water until it has cooked down to about a pint. Strain the liquid through a mesh strainer and add sweetener. Rosemary suggests 1-2 cups of honey or maple syrup per pint of liquid. Obviously don’t use honey with babies under the age of 1) Bottle the syrup and store it in the fridge, where it will keep up to a couple months.