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9Apr
2012

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

ginger tea ball herb of the month

Ginger root is tasty.  Especially when preserved in cane sugar and consumed in the form of crystallized ginger. Tastes like candy.

I used to live in sugar snob land where any form of sugar was EVIL!  As a sugar snob, crystallized ginger would have been absolutely off limits.  Pfff.  Eat it raw or drink it in tea, but don’t contaminate it with naughty sugar!  Boy, did I think I was something…

When I discovered crystallized ginger, I was a recent immigrant to the new land:  sugar-in-very-small-quantities-might-be-ok-especially-if-it-is-medicinal.  As a new immigrant, I went nuts on crystallized ginger, out of fear that I would be deported back to the sugar-is-evil land.

This was not a good idea.   I must have forgotten that ginger is a heating herb.  My entire digestive tract was on fire.  For days.  This is what can happen to you, too, if you OD on ginger like I did.

Ginger Can Sizzle A Stomach Ulcer

Ginger can frizzle a stomach ulcer and make it worse!  Please, do not use ginger if you have a stomach ulcer or esophagitis.  You might have more than fire in your belly if you do that… I’m talking H – E – double hockey sticks kind of fire.

Car Sickness Panacea

My husband keeps ginger chews by The Ginger People in his backpack for that afternoon-riding-a-bus-while-facing-sideways-and-coding-websites-on-a-laptop nausea.  Yeah, that’s motion sickness.  (I think I’m going to toss my a-f cookies just writing about it.)  Same thing for that back seat car sickness.  The individually wrapped ginger chews by The Ginger People work wonders for car sickness, and because they are individually wrapped, they are portable!  You can tuck them in your commuter bag for that nauseating afternoon bus ride.  You can keep them in your purse for the car sick kids in the back seat. (I promise, no endorsements from the G.P. for these plugs!)

Excellent for Nausea

Ginger is a top notch choice for nausea, but its effectiveness for pregnancy associated morning sickness may vary.  Pregnancy nausea is finicky.  However, the ginger chews mentioned above almost immediately took away the nausea I experienced during natural childbirth, and only half a chew did the trick.

There’s actually a research study that showed ginger to be better than a placebo in terms of treating chemotherapy-induced nausea.1  In patients receiving chemotherapy for advanced breast cancer, ginger enhanced the effectiveness of anti-nausea pharmaceuticals.2

Supports Digestion

Ginger stimulates the secretion of stomach acid and also helps with constipation.  It can also help relieve gas.  This is why it’s such a great idea to cook with ginger and get it in your food.  Here are some of my recipes to get started!

Dysmenorrhea

This is the medical term for painful periods.  Ginger, GINGER people (no, not the company above, I’m talking to you!), worked just as good as ibuprofen for pain relief during menstruation.3

Cardiovascular Support

As a cardiovascular stimulant, ginger can increase the heart rate, and thus improve circulation.  This is a physiological reason why ginger is warming.  Ginger can also fight against atherosclerosis, due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Cautions

  • High doses of ginger should be avoided during pregnancy, since it can stimulate menstruation.
  • Ginger may interfere with anticoagulant drugs due to its anti-platelet properties.
  • Ginger can irritate esophagitis and stomach ulcers.

Medicine

For smaller doses of ginger, it is best consumed as a food.  It makes an excellent hot tea, especially if you have a chilly constitution.  Fresh ginger can be added to your green smoothies or chopped up and cooked in food.  Due to its volatile oil content, it is most potent in the raw state.  For higher doses of ginger, capsules may be a better choice.

If you would like to start taking ginger, please consult your naturopathic doctor.  A licensed healthcare practitioner can tailor the dose according to your needs.

References:
1. Pace JC:  Oral ingestion of encapsulated ginger and reported self-care actions for the relief of chemotherapy associated nausea and vomiting.  Dissertations Abstracts International.  1987.  47:3297-B
2. Panahy Y, Saadat A, Sahebkar A, et al:  Effect of ginger on acute and delayed chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomitting:  a pilot, randomized, open-label clinical trial.  Integrative Cancer Therapies.  Feb 7 2012.
3.  Ozgoli G, Goli M, Moattar F:  Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea.  Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.  2009.  15(2):129-32.
4.  Yarnell, Eric.  Botanical Medicine V.  Bastyr University.  Spring 2011. 

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