Well, last week was pure madness. I made 3 costumes for the Renaissance Festival and worked my fingers to the bone. Foregoing sleep and other creature comforts to finish on time, all was totally worth it. But now they are done! Festival visited, and life can resume its usual chaotic pace!
Ginger, is a long known and widely accepted remedy for many things, and there has been a lot of modern research going into it, many showing its great ability to reduce pain and inflammation. There are even studies now happening looking into the possibility that ginger may help prevent the formation of tumors. Ginger is a rhizome like turmeric, or galangal (used in Thai cooking), and is even related to cardamom. It is mentioned in A Thousand and One Nights, and features in many ancient recipes for food and medicine. Ginger was one of those spices that commanded large sums of money in trade and could hold up to travel on the Silk Roads all the way to the farthest reaches of Western Europe, black pepper was the other major spice. In the 4th Century BCE in the Mahabharata it mentions meat stewed with ginger and spices. Marco Polo mentions it in his travels, and it was noted by early explorers of the Americas. Ginger was then and is now a very common spice, and is found in a lot of Fall foods. So that extra slice of pumpkin pie, or glass of mulled wine is medicine…or at least that’s what you can tell your family 😀
Ginger’s warming properties makes it a great addition to foods and drinks this time of year and it is a great addition to food year round, or if you get tired of turmeric. Most people have experienced it in Japanese food (that pink stuff next to sushi), or in other Asian foods. Or maybe you have just seen that weird lumpy, knobbly brown thing at the grocery store and said to yourself “what the hell is that….how do you even eat it?!”
Ginger is famous for a reason, its fantastic! Ginger has been used in medicine for ages all over the world since at least 500 BCE. Asia has seen long use of it as additions to meals or as a side dish, and Confucius was rumored to never eat a meal without it. Our old friend Dioscorides recommended it for stomach issues, and it is mentioned in various other herbals for the same throughout the ages. It was the “Alka-Seltzer” of ancient Rome, as part of a Revolutionary War soldier’s diet, and was in the 19th century the digestive aid of choice for the US. Even the infamous (that’s more than famous) University of Salerno said that for a happy life “eat ginger, and you will love and be loved as in your youth.” There are mentions in earlier writings that ginger is an aphrodisiac but it is unlikely, another case of “its rare, so it make you strong like bull.” [insert hand gestures here]
What it can do is sooth stomachs, is a better pain reliever for minor inflammation, or pain that can be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAI) drugs, than Aspirin and the like, and helps keep you healthy with its anti-viral properties. What is great about it is unlike most of the OTC stuff you can get, ginger will not destroy your stomach, and actually tastes pretty nice. Ginger is also superior to those drugs in the way that it not only blocks the chemical formation of signals that cause inflammation like those NSAI drugs but also will attack the inflammation and break it down with its other antioxidant effects which the NSAI drugs lack. That means it does more to reduce inflammation overall, than anything you can buy in a drug store.
In my last post, An Ounce of Prevention Tea, I brought up Sam’s fantastic cold preventing tea, and ginger is a big component of it and that tea is not only good for keeping cold and flu at bay, but it is better than popping an Aspirin, Advil, Tylenol, whatever your drug of choice is, for a headache or other minor aches and pains. Plus it makes a great hangover cure, and is fantastic for lady cramps. Ginger’s anti-viral properties works well with the other ingredients in the tea, and when you toss in a few cloves (3-6 depending on your love of cloves, or pain) you have three pain relieving herbs in one go (cinnamon is the third). Want to increase its anti-inflammatory properties? Add in some turmeric! Plus if you add in a bit of Manuka honey you have a super, mega cold and flu defeating power punch! Nothing is worse than being in pain and sick, and this is definitely the way to keep that from happening. Multitasking! You know I love it!
Ginger is also great for stomach issues, it has been used for morning sickness, and any other stomach issues like indigestion and acid re-flux. It is even good for motion sickness, and helps keep all that queasy wibbly wobbly stomach stuff away. There are a few ways you can take ginger for nausea and for pain, there are pre-packaged ginger gums, candies and even ginger ale and tea, you do want to make sure that the product you are using has real ginger of some sort in it or it will not be as effective. You can also make ginger tea for yourself as a simplified version of the Prevention Tea.
Simple Ginger Tea for Headache and Upset Stomach
- 3 large Medallions of ginger – this could also be 1 teaspoon dried ginger, or even 1-1 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 8 oz Boiling water
Pour hot water over ginger, steep for 2-3 minutes and drink warm. Ginger can be a bit spicy or hot, so if it bothers you honey can help to tone that down. Ginger is one of those team player spices and it works well with a lot of other spices and herbs. You can add fennel seeds, about an inch of sliced lemon grass or 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of grated lemon grass, and a sprinkle of cardamom for a great after dinner digestive tea.
My favorite way to take ginger is Ginger Ale, I love Vernors if I can’t or don’t have time to make my own, but making your own is fun and quite delicious. If you have never made it, it is well worth the effort, the ginger makes it a spicier sweet drink than you might be used to, or if you;re feeling more British you can make Ginger Beer. For Ginger Ale I like Alton Brown’s recipe and it makes a really good one.
Alton’s Ginger Ale
- 1 1/2 ounces finely grated fresh ginger
- 6 ounces sugar
- 7 1/2 cups filtered water
- 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Place the ginger, sugar, and 1/2 cup of the water into a 2-quart saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to steep for 1 hour.
Pour the syrup through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl, pressing down to get all of the juice out of the mixture. Chill quickly by placing over and ice bath and stirring or set in the refrigerator, uncovered, until at least room temperature, 68 to 72 degrees F.
Using a funnel, pour the syrup into a clean 2-liter plastic bottle and add the yeast, lemon juice and remaining 7 cups of water. Place the cap on the bottle, gently shake to combine and leave the bottle at room temperature for 48 hours. Open and check for desired amount of carbonation. It is important that once you achieve your desired amount of carbonation that you refrigerate the ginger ale. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, opening the bottle at least once a day to let out excess carbonation.
For Ginger Beer this is a simple recipe that makes a 16 oz bottle, you can use flip-top bottles for both of these recipes. They’re sold everywhere, Container Store, Ikea, Brew stores, or you can resort to online purchase.
- 1 ounce ginger juice
- 2 ounces fresh lemon juice, finely strained
- 3 ounces simple syrup (see syrup notes)
- 10 ounces warm water (not above 86 F)
Ginger juice you can make by passing ginger through a juicer or you can microplane it into a cheesecloth and squeeze the juice out. You could also use the ginger paste in the recipe and strain after fermenting. Mix all the ingredients together, and pour about 16 oz into the bottles, you do want to leave some space (an inch or 2) at the top or you will get exploding bottles. You can add champagne yeast to each bottle, or you can add about 25 grains of yeast to each bottle. Or you can mix your cooled simple syrup with the yeast and bottle this way. You want to store in a cool dark place for 48 hours, then refrigerate immediately this will halt the fermentation process. You can use non-champagne yeast you will want to use 1/8th of a teaspoon per bottle.
Simple Syrup – mix 1 part water with 2 parts sugar, dissolve sugar in water while stirring constantly over heat. Once dissolved remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool and thicken, bottle and store. You can add a tablespoon of vodka to help prolong the shelf life.
You can also make ginger cream to rub onto sore areas, ginger is warming and is quite soothing on sore or spasmed muscles.
Ginger Muscle “Cream”
- 1 hand sized (about 6 inches) piece of ginger, grated finely
- Honey (enough to make a paste with the ginger)
- 1/2 cup (or up to a cup) Coconut oil
- Pot and boiling water
Bring the water to a simmer but do not boil the hand sized piece of ginger until it is tender. Peel and grate into fine paste, or you can pulverize it as well. Mix in honey until a thick paste is formed. In a mixer with whisk attachment, whip the coconut oil until it creates a thick paste and add in the ginger and honey paste slowly making sure that it incorporates fully. Apply and massage into sore area and be sure to avoid sensitive skin areas in applying this. This is great for sore muscle pains after a hard workout or just to work out stiff sore muscles.
A good tea for sleep and soothing minor pains, and stomach upset that comes with pain or illness is a mix of ginger and Holy Basil. It helps alleviate the aches and pains of flu and colds, or sooth and alleviate pain that wakes you in the night.
Tulsi Ginger Tea for Sleep
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of Holy Basil (Tulsi)
- 1/4 teaspoon dry (powdered) ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (1 small stick)
- 8 oz Boiling water
Pour boiling water over ingredients, steep in covered tea cup for 5-10 minutes, and drink warm. This will put you right to sleep!
You can also add ginger juice, ginger paste, or even Ginger essential oils (always use therapeutic grade!), to a bath, or rub them into the painful area. You can always make a massage oil with ginger for rubbing into sore muscles or a rub of it on the chest is great for chest colds. And a soak in a ginger bath is great for nerve pain, even more so when you include rosemary oil.
Ginger Rosemary Bath Salts for Pain
- 5 drops Ginger essential oils
- 5 drops Rosemary essential oils
- 1 lb Epsom salts
Mix all ingredients together and store in a cool dry place. Mix 1 cup of salts into a hot bath and soak that pain away.
Ginger Massage Oil for Sore Muscles and Pain
- Carrier oil of your choice
- 10-20 drops of ginger essential oil
- optional – add any additional oils for pain, or other uses
Mix up and store in a dark bottle, rub into sore muscles or painful areas.
Always one to enjoy medicinal foods I find that candied ginger is a great way to take ginger for stomach issues or pain. Plus, its candy! Again I will refer to the AB recipe (I do love him so) for this candied ginger.
Alton’s Candied Ginger Recipe
- Nonstick spray (I prefer to use olive oil, or rapeseed)
- 1 pound fresh ginger root
- 5 cups water
- Approximately 1 pound granulated sugar
- Spray a cooling rack with nonstick spray and set it in a half sheet pan lined with parchment.
Peel the ginger root and slice into 1/8-inch thick slices using a mandolin. Place into a 4-quart saucepan with the water and set over medium-high heat. Cover and cook for 35 minutes or until the ginger is tender.
Transfer the ginger to a colander to drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Weigh the ginger and measure out an equal amount of sugar. Return the ginger and 1/4 cup water to the pan and add the sugar. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar syrup looks dry, has almost evaporated and begins to recrystallize, approximately 20 minutes. Transfer the ginger immediately to the cooling rack and spread to separate the individual pieces. Once completely cool, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Alton ProTip: Save the sugar that drops beneath the cooling rack and use to top ginger snaps, sprinkled over ice cream or to sweeten coffee.
You can use a piece or two of the candy for any ailment previously mentioned, I mean come on candy medicine? What is better than that? Nothing I tell you, nothing.
And since I also like muffins, here is a great one to get that ginger in your diet, plus its perfect for this time of year.
Pumpkin Ginger Muffins
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
- 1 1/2 cup flour, whole-wheat pastry, (if you can’t find whole wheat pastry flour, may substitute regular whole wheat flour)
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger, or ginger paste
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, or 1/4 table salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (from a can or fresh)
- 1/4 cup coconut oil (you can use whatever oil you like)
- 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line with paper, or grease, 12 muffin cups with oil or shortening. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the brown sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. In a small bowl, beat the egg for 30 seconds, until foamy. Add the milk, pumpkin, oil, and orange zest. Beat well. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, and stir until the flour mixture is moistened. Fill the muffin cups three-quarters full with batter. Bake for 15 minutes, until the tops spring back when you touch them with a finger. Turn out muffins onto a wire rack to cool. Once cool, you can freeze the muffins, tightly wrapped, for up to 2 months.
So next time you have that nagging headache, or some sore muscles reach for your ginger instead of a pill! Ginger is mostly safe but if you do suffer from extreme stomach issues you should be careful about the amount you intake. For people with stomach issues try to avoid exceeding 3-4 teaspoons in a day, for everyone else don’t go above 5 teaspoons. Remember too much of anything, is too much! Always use anything in moderation.
ProTip: A friend of mine showed me that it is super easy to peel ginger using a spoon, just scrape the skin of the ginger with it and discard the brown papery outer skin. Super easy!
Educate yourself and do your own trials to see what works best for you, always remember to check places like WebMD for reactions or interactions with your medications, and if you are ever in doubt, ask a professional!