Article on Ginger

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Information on Ginger

This knobby, golden beige, smooth-skinned rhizome with a yellow-green interior is found in "hands" or broken knobs.  Thick peeled slices are bruised or crushed with the side of a cleaver to release the flavor, aroma and juices or minced, shredded or grated before using.  The pungency of ginger is caused by a non-volatile resin containing the same type of hydroxyaryl compounds that are also found in other spices of the ginger family.  It has a refreshing, pungent and warm taste. 


Ginger is accepted for its healing and medicinal values more than just a food and spice.  As most mothers and grandmothers will do over the years, giving us kids ginger ale to soothe away the grumblings of a stomach upset.  In fact, there are a few other foods  or spices that have been known thoroughly for their medicinal value as has ginger, the fresh or dried root (rhizome) of Zingiber officinale that is the predominant flavoring of ginger ale.


Ginger has been in existing for so long that no one knows where it originated.  Today, it is cultivated all over tropic and sub-tropic Asia, in Brazil, Jamaica and Nigeria, whose ginger is rather pungent, but lacks the fine aroma of other provenances.  India produces fifty percent of the world's harvest of ginger and the finest quality ginger is grown in Kerala.  Indian ginger is acclaimed worldwide for its characteristic taste, flavor and texture.  Jamaica export the best quality ginger.  In China, fresh ginger and dried ginger have always been considered two different substances.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a fresh root, called sheng-jiang, is used to expel cold and toxins and relieve nausea, whereas the dried root, gan-jiang, is prescribed in cases of depleted yang, "cold" pain of the stomach and abdomen, diarrhea, cough and rheumatism.


In India, fresh ginger or ginger tea has been used to treat nausea, asthma, cough, colic, heart palpitations, swellings, dyspepsia, loss of appetite and rheumatism.  A popular 19th century Indian remedy for cough and asthma consisted of the juice of fresh ginger with a little juice of fresh garlic, mixed with honey.  To allay nausea, fresh gingerroot was mixed with a little honey topped with a pinch of burnt peacock feathers.  The powdered dried root was mixed to a paste with water and applied to the temples to relieve headaches.


Ginger tea, prepared by boiling grated fresh ginger with some water for a few minutes, before adding the tea leaves, is a spicy and healthy drink enjoyed in hot, tropical climates as well as in the cold regions.  Europeans have long valued ginger tea as a remedy for digestive disturbances believing that ginger works by promoting circulation through the "extreme" (that is, peripheral) blood vessels.  A tea made with fresh ginger reduced gastric secretions for a few hours, then increased them for a longer period.  It is also found that dried root "strengthens" the stomach, stimulates both the stomach and intestines, and inhibits vomiting.  A recent study showed that acetone and methanol extracts of ginger strongly inhibit the formation of stomach ulcers and gingerol counters liver toxicity by increasing bile secretion.  Ginger appears to benefit the circulatory system in several ways.  A more potent anticoagulant than garlic or onion, it also lowers levels of cholesterol in by reducing its absorption by the blood and liver.


Studies by Japanese researchers further have shown that ginger lowers blood pressure by restricting peripheral blood flow.  All these effects may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.  Results of experiments testing ginger as a migraine treatment prompted by the long history of its use in Ayurvedic medicine for neurological disorders were inconclusive but promising.


Ginger is also believed to reduce nausea by increasing digestive fluids and absorbing and neutralizing toxins and stomach acid.  Modern studies support several of ginger's traditional uses.  Root extracts, as well as ginger in its fresh and dried forms, have been studied for their effectiveness in combating bacteria, fungi, convulsions, pain, ulcers, gastric secretion, tumors, spasms, and oxidative and allergic reactions.  In some studies, the extracts used have been standardized to gingerol content, one of ginger's pungent principles.  Animal experiments involving rats in both China and the West have shown that fresh ginger relieves pain and inflammation.  In vitro studies have shown that it also inhibits oxidation which has been linked to cancer risk, and the growth of microbes.


Ginger contains approximately one to four percent volatile oils.  Its medically active constituents is also responsible for its distinct taste and odor.  Ginger has many varied effects and medicinal uses in our bodies -

  • Increases blood circulation during cold season

  • Stimulates and aids in digestion

  • Reduces joint, muscle, or nerve pains

  • Tones intestinal muscles

  • Protects the stomach from the side effects of alcohol and certain drugs

  • Helps prevent ulcers

  • Alleviates nausea and reduces vomiting

  • Reduces risk for atherosclerosis

  • Inhibits platelet aggregation

  • Assist in recovery of burns and cuts

  • Improves the function of the liver

  • Lowers cholesterol level in our blood

Ginger is stimulant, carminative, expectorant and is used as a medicinal herb in dyspepsia, gastritis, diarrhea, flatulent colic, respiratory and menstrual disorders, toothaches and other aches and pains.  The essential oil from the rhizomes found in ginger is used in the manufacture of flavoring essence and in perfumery.


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