Want to put some snap in your life? Try Ginger. This familiar spice has a number of remarkable properties that recommend it for home use. It is derived from the tuberous rhizome (underground root) of the perennial plant Zingiber officinale. For thousands of years, Ginger has also played an important role in Asian medicine as a folk remedy to promote cleansing of the body through perspiration, to calm nausea, and to stimulate the appetite. Ancient Indians used it to treat digestive problems and as a spiritual and physical cleanser. Circa 3000, BC, the Chinese used it for colds, fever, chills, tetanus, and leprosy. Chinese sailors chewed on Ginger Root to combat seasickness. Chinese women drank ginger tea to alleviate the onset of the menstrual period and other female discomforts. The Chinese also considered Ginger Root to be an antidote to shellfish poisoning. Could this be why we see it in so many seafood dishes? The Greeks, after a large meal, wrapped bread around a piece of ginger, and ate it to ease indigestion. This gave rise to ginger bread. In England, ginger was added to beer, forerunner to ginger ale, as a remedy for diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Ginger is also a circulatory stimulant, relaxes peripheral blood vessels, promotes sweating, eases cold symptoms, stimulates the flow of saliva, soothes a sore throat, and is an expectorant and antiseptic.
Ginger contains gingerol, a Ginger oleoresin (combination of volatile oils and resin) that accounts for the characteristic aroma of Ginger, and explains its therapeutic properties. Ginger is ordinarily taken in the form of capsules, each containing 250 to 500 mg. of powdered herb. It may also be consumed as a tea or in the form of candied Ginger that is readily available in Oriental food markets. There are no reports of severe toxicity in humans from eating Ginger, but recent pharmacological studies indicate that very large overdoses might carry the potential for causing depression of the central nervous system and cardiac arythmias.
Commonly used as a treatment for nausea and motion sickness, one of Gingers unsung qualities are as a natural anti-inflammatory. Dr. Andrew Weil suggests using it to treat arthritis, bursitis, and other musculoskeletal ailments. It can also tone the cardiovascular system and reduces platelet aggregation, as aspirin does. You can make a tea of fresh ginger by using about one half teaspoon of the grated root to eight ounces of boiling water. Cover and steep for 5 to 10 minutes, then strain, and add honey to taste if desired. You can also eat candied ginger or buy honey-based ginger syrups. Health-food stores sell powdered extracts of ginger in capsules as well as alcohol extracts; both forms are convenient to use. One to two grams of powdered ginger a day is an average dose, but some people report successful treatment of inflammatory conditions with higher doses taken over several months. High doses may cause a burning sensation in the stomach; to minimize this, take ginger with food.
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