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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • November 2018
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Ginger – Zingiber officinalis

Once cooler temperatures arrive, we crave chai, pumpkin pie spiced desserts, and many other warm drinks and meals. These dishes highlight spices, like ginger, that are known to have a warming effect on the body. It helps our bodies stay balanced as the temperatures continue to drop and remain cooler through the winter. Our bodies inherently know that these foods and spices are better suited for the cooler seasons than our smoothies or gazpacho. Countless recipes call for ginger, fresh or dried, and as we all know, gingerbread, pumpkin pie and chai wouldn’t be the same without ginger.

Ginger is one of our most versatile herbs, being used for a diverse and large spectrum of ailments. Few herbs can be applied to as many illnesses as ginger, which has a broad list of healing properties. The following list highlights some of those properties (a deeper dive into the benefits of ginger would uncover even more benefits): analgesic, antibacterial, antiemetic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiparasitic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, aphrodisiac, cardiotonic, digestive aid, circulatory stimulant, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, fever reducer, and antitussive. In particular, ginger has been found to be more effective than Dramamine in preventing motion sickness and nausea.

Ginger has a long history of safety, as do most culinary herbs. It is an excellent herb for women’s first trimester in pregnancy, relieving a substantial amount of nausea. Although it is safe to take daily, it should be avoided in excessive quantities and expectant mothers shouldn’t exceed more than 1 gram per day. Excessive doses are not recommended, and GI discomfort may be noted if taken in large doses on an empty stomach. It is advised to use caution when combined with anticoagulant drugs such as Coumadin or aspirin and should be avoided in cases of peptic ulcers, hyperacidity or other hot, inflammatory conditions. Excessive amounts should be avoided in cases of acne, eczema or herpes. As always, please talk to your health care provider before adding herbs into your diet.

The dried root is hotter than the fresh, and is more effective at reducing nausea, calming digestive ailments, and warming the body. Alternately, the fresh root is more suited for respiratory complaints.

The rhizomes, or roots, are used in culinary dishes and medicine making. The leaves can also be used as a seasoning and the flowers for a tisane (herbal infused tea). The root can be used fresh or dried in decoctions by simmering the roots, or tinctures. The dried root powder is commonly used in baking and can be used for tea, added to oatmeal, coffee, smoothies, herbal candies or even to a bath for its warming action.

Fresh ginger is excellent at activating the immune system. Try the below recipes this winter to prevent illness or stop a cold in its tracks.

Mulling Spices

Add this spice mixture to apple cider or wine and enjoy the antibacterial and antiviral benefits it brings this winter season. It’s an easy crowd pleaser at parties and holiday gatherings.

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon star anise

½ teaspoon whole clove

½ teaspoon cardamom

½ teaspoon orange zest

½ teaspoon rose hips

¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Add 3 to 4 cups of cider or wine and spices to a saucepan. Heat until simmering, but not boiling and let stand 20 minutes before serving. Keep it warm on the stove and strain out the herbs as you serve. Optional: add a teaspoon of honey to each cup.

Lemon Ginger Decoction (Tea)

Try this ginger decoction when you have the first symptoms of a cold or the flu. This tea will warm up the body as well as activate the immune system.

1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, sliced

2 cups filtered water

Fresh lemon juice from ½ a lemon

Honey, to taste

Add the sliced ginger root and water to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer 30-45 minutes. Strain out the ginger and add the lemon juice and honey to taste. 

Sources: “Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide.” Rosemary Gladstar. North Adams, MA, Storey Publishing. 2012.

“Herbal Therapy & Supplements: A Scientific and Traditional Approach.” Merrily Kuhn and David Winston. Wolters Kluwer Health. 2008.

“The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.” Laguna Beach, Basic Health Publications, Inc. Bridgette Mars. 2007.

Dana Schlies

Dana is a Certified Women’s Herbal Educator and Community Herbalist. She is passionate about educating women about the many botanical and alternative methods to bring the body into balance and create vibrant, healthy living. She utilizes a comprehensive approach including environment, nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and botanicals to bring support to the whole body. She is part of the team at Sweet Willow Naturals, and can be reached at 920-530-1188 or [email protected]

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