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.