Winter - Time For Ginger's Pungent Power
Dr. Stephen Fulder
Winter is the time when we get colds and influenza. Strange viruses seem to find our weaknesses and send us to bed with headaches, pains or fever for a few days. Some people have aching joints, others get coughs and mucous in their chests, or sore throats. In some way the cold and the damp has got inside our system, and reduced our resistance. One of the remedies for these problems is ginger.
Ginger is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale, which grows throughout Asia, and the Carribean. The major exporting countries are China, India, Australia and Jamaica. It is grown in Israel in experimental plantations only, as the price of imported ginger is too cheap to make it worthwhile to grow here. The plant looks like a large iris, with a large and beautiful white flower. It is grown from pieces of the rhizome, planted in the spring. In the autumn, the rhizomes are dug, some is sold and used fresh, some is boiled in sugar solution to make crystallized ginger, and most is dried and ground into powder for the spice market. The active ingredients of ginger are known. They are the pungent phenolic compounds, particularly gingerol, shoagaol and zingerone.
Ginger is a warm and pungent remedy. We only have to bite into it, feeling the taste and aromatic warmth spreading through us, to realise that it may be able to warm us up, to stimulate our resistance and circulation that may be cold and slow. Like a hot bath or a sauna, the heat spreads through the body, opening the channels, relaxing the tightness in the muscles (including those that constrict the blood vessels), and spreading body fluids and immune cells throughout the tissues.
In herbal medicine it is used for cold hands and feet, chills, weakness, poor diges- tion and vomiting, and a weak circulation.
Ginger should be taken regularly by those whose circulation needs waking up and warming up. This includes people who suffer from atherosclerosis and are at risk of heart disease from poor diet, lack of exercise, etc, feel cold, with a lack of vitality and energy, especially during cold weather, have 'poor circulation', i.e. inadequate blood supply to the skin and periphery. Ginger is very useful in driving out colds, mucous, coughs and bronchial infections. It is also useful to treat virus infections, chills, rheumatic conditions etc. In the case of the influenza, or viral fevers in general, it is important to know how to use ginger. It should be used at the stage of the fever where there is shivering or cold hands and feet, and a sensation of chill. It can help the uncomfortable, restless, low grade fever which doesn't 'break' and appears to be dragging on. In such cases fresh ginger, grated into a drink with honey and lemon, may assist to bring out the fever. That means, to create sweating and to hasten the 'crisis', as it used to be called,i.e. the break point where sweating is profuse, the fever suddenly drops, and you feel much better. It should not be used, however, if the fever is high, you feel hot, you are red and sweating, and you need to bring down the temperature. In that case, sponge the body with tepid water.
Ginger’s warming action also makes it the best of all herbal remedies for combating nausea, where it both calms the stomach and stimulates it to pass on its contents. Many new clinical studies have shown that ginger is as good as antihistamine drugs to prevent motion sickness, and it is as good as conventional drugs that treat nausea and vomiting that often occurs to patients after surgery or chemotherapy. In these cases just 1 gram of dried ginger, half an hour before the expected nausea, should help, and it will do so without the usual side effects of drowsiness that accompany usual anti-emetics. Clearly there is a lot to learn about this one spice, that sits on our kitchen shelves. We need to discover its hidden power, especially during these cold and wet days.
see Dr. Fulder’s new book on ginger ‘The Ginger Book’. Avery Publishers, New York 1997.