Herb Review: Ginger

ginger

I originally started this blog with the intention of writing about different herbs and providing information about my experiences with them.  Almost a year later, here is my first herb posting and it’s on one of my most favorite herbs (hard “h” sound in “herbs” for non-Americans).  Ginger root.  The Latin name is Zingiber officinale.  

I first remember eating pickled ginger when I was 18 years old.  It was the first time I went out for sushi.  I was told that ginger “cleanses the palate.”  I ate it and somewhat enjoyed it.  I liked the pickled aspect of it but I wasn’t so sure about the spiciness or hotness of it.  I didn’t complain much then, so I ate it with a smile.  I must’ve eaten ginger before that time but I don’t remember it.  I lived in Japan for 3 years when I was an adolescent and I can’t remember ever tasting ginger.  Now I’m an addict in the best sense possible.  I slowly acquired a taste for spicy, hot foods and when I learned about the medicinal properties of the herb, I was hooked.

I enrolled at the Natural Healing Institute in Encinitas, CA in January of 2009.  I was working towards my Holistic Health Practitioner certification and along with that I would be certified as a Clinical Master Herbalist.  I’m not so sure about the “Master” portion of that title but it looks pretty on paper.  The fact is that I enjoy studying herbs, playing with them, making infusions and decoctions, and sharing my experiences with anyone interested in listening.  That’s it.

I drink ginger tea when I have an upset or bloated tummy.  The ginger warms my stomach and intestines and is a fabulous aromatic carminative (it helps to expel gas).  I drink it when I feel nauseous or cold.  It can make you sweat slightly, which is a great way to detoxify (via the skin).  I eat pickled ginger or ginger candy before I engage in an activity that will most likely give me some motion sickness:  long car rides in the back seat, airplanes, small boats, big boats, cruise ships, the Tea Cups ride at Disneyland, and even surfing!

I love combining peppermint and ginger together for soothing the belly.  Plus, it smells really nice!

For those of you who enjoy reading about ginger and would like even more detail, I’ve put together a list of most of the herb’s functions, the dosage and delivery, safety (always, always read!), and some miscellaneous, fun notes about the herb.  Enjoy!

Ginger, Zingiber officinale

Functions:

  • Absorbs and neutralizes toxins in the G.I. tract
  • Analgesic
  • Antibiotic activity against salmonella, cholera, thrichomonas
  • Anti-inflammatory (because it inhibits prostaglandin and leukotrine synthesis which are part of the inflammatory process, and does not effect levels of beneficial prostaglandins)
  • Antioxidant
  • Antispasmodic
  • Aromatic carminative (for flatulence, gas, abdominal cramps)
  • Assists in treatment of ovarian cysts
  • Assists lymph and blood systems in getting rid of fibroid tissue
  • Blocks effects of neurotransmitter, substance P, which transmits pain impulses in nerve endings
  • Brings more circulation to the area it comes in contact with
  • Can combine with cayenne for respiratory infections, colds, and flus (works quickly, but may be too irritating for some people)
  • Cardio-tonic (use fresh ginger which accelerates calcium uptake by the heart muscle)
  • Contains natural anti-histamines
  • Decreases platelet lipid peroxide formation
  • Diaphoretic (when taken hot.  Historically used as a diaphoretic)
  • Digestive aid (promotes secretion of digestive fluids)
  • Diuretic (when taken cool)
  • Energetics are dry, hot
  • Gastrointestinal tonic
  • Helps expel worms
  • Helps intestines detoxify meat
  • Helps lower blood pressure (normalizes blood pressure, low or high.  Based on research studies, may regulate blood pressure)
  • Helps prevent frostbite
  • Helps prevent internal blood clots
  • Helps reduce cholesterol (promotes the excretion and impairs the absorption of cholesterol, may decrease cholesterol based on research studies)
  • Helps relieve deep muscle tension and helps remove lactic acid when used in a massage oil
  • Helps with liver disease (research shows that it may protect liver from toxins)
  • Helps with nausea associated with chemotherapy
  • Improves peristalsis while exerting an antispasmodic effect
  • Improves the body’s ability to assimilate other herbs (the liver deactivates medicinal compounds in herbs; ginger protects herbs from being destroyed so that they can pass through the liver unchanged and remain circulating in the blood for a longer period of time)
  • Increases ability to fight infections (colds, flu)
  • Increases bile secretion (and also stimulates production of bile)
  • Increases thermogenesis (increases metabolism)
  • Indicated for  dyspepsia (upset stomach, G.I. distress), nausea, digestion of protein and fat, ulcers (helps prevent formation), intestinal parasites, vomiting, earaches, pain, inflammation, stiff joints (use for inflammatory conditions; decreases pain, increases joint mobility, decreases swelling and morning stiffness), arthritis (both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis), diabetic neuropathy, headaches (relaxes blood vessels in the head and diminishes swelling in the brain), migraines, morning sickness, menstrual cramps (decreases prostaglandin levels), fibroids, bronchial congestion, dandruff
  • Inhibits diarrhea
  • Inhibits platelet activating factor
  • Inhibits platelet aggregation (but does not affect ability of blood to coagulate.  This helps keep blood flowing smoothly and helps prevent development of atherosclerosis)
  • May tone the heart muscle (based on research studies)
  • Menstruation promoter
  • Oil is counterirritant
  • Secondary brain herb
  • Soothes uterus
  • Use with an herbal laxative to prevent intestinal cramps
  • Used for motion sickness (2.5 times more effective than Dramamine)
  • Vasodilator
  • Warming properties which stimulate physiological functions (herbal stimulant, warming to the body)

Dosage and Delivery:

Can use tea, tincture, or capsules.  Also available pickled and often served with sushi.  Available in a candied form.

  • Tea:  2 tsp powdered or grated root per cup of boiling water.  Steep 10 min.
  • Motion sickness:  1,500 mg 30 min before travel.
  • Inflammatory Conditions:  500-3,000 mg per day
  • Compress for muscles:  Make a ginger tea (decoction), soak cloth in it and apply to area.

Safety:

Although ginger can relieve morning sickness, pregnant women should not ingest more than 1 gram daily.  Contraindicated for pregnant women with a history of miscarriage.

Contraindicated for UTI, inflamed prostate, endometriosis and similar problems.  In large amounts it tends to irritate the urogenital tract.  May cause heartburn in some  people.  Doses higher than 6 grams of dried powder on an empty stomach may cause G.I. distress.  People with gallstones should consult physician before using medicinal amounts of ginger.  Avoid excessive amounts of ginger in cases of acne, eczema, or herpes.

Ginger may cause adverse reactions when used in combination with anticoagulant drugs such as Coumadin or aspirin; if you are suing such medications, seek the advice of a qualified health-care practitioner before commencing use of ginger.

Miscellaneous Notes:

Whenever you use a strong herbal laxative, also use a strong aromatic carminative like ginger, fennel, anise, or cardamon which will prevent intestinal cramps from the herbal laxative.

Fresh ginger contains higher levels of gingerol, and protease.

Traditionally it was used to revive a lowered sex drive, and add a warm, stimulant spice to life.

In magical traditions, ginger is said to attract love, prosperity, and success.