Most of us are familiar with ginger, a zesty, potent root often found in many exotic sauces and sometimes added to smoothies as a flavorenhancer. Ever wonder how it became so widelyused? This article will examine the origin, use, and hidden benefits of this wonderful root.
Origin of Ginger Root:
Not surprisingly, ginger root originated in Southeast Asia thousands of years ago, and was cultivated in China and India
From India, the root was widely exported to Europe and the Mediterranean, spreading to Africa and other parts of the world
Today, Southeast Asia, Nepal, Jamaica, and parts of Africa are responsible for exporting ginger to other parts of the world
Ginger is related to other potent roots like tumeric and galangal, which are also widely used in Southeast Asia and India to flavor dishes
Because ginger is a rhizome, it is relatively easy to grow in most conditions, which explains why it has flourished in a variety of places
Uses of Ginger Root:
Historically used as a tonic, ginger has grown popular in cooking due to its unique hot flavor and aroma
Pickled ginger is often eaten with sushi to cleanse the palate
Often used to flavor sauces and curry dishes, ginger can also be brewed as a tea or chewed by itself to heighten appetite and ease sore throats.
Ginger candies are a common treat, as well as ginger beer and ale, which is often used to ease nausea and motionsickness
Hidden Benefits of Ginger Root:
For years, people have used ginger ale and tea to remedy seasickness, upset stomach and vertigo. Two main components of ginger, gingerol and shogaols, are responsible for such reactions, as they help to relax the tissues of the digestive system. People have also used ginger to treat diarrhea, colic, morning sickness and nausea due to chemotherapy, with great success. (Too much raw ginger can have a negative effect on sensitive stomachs, so use in moderation)
Another great component of ginger is its antiinflammatory effect, which helps to inhibit lipid compounds that can lead to chronic inflammation in tissues. It has shown promising success for people suffering from arthritis and joint pain, and has almost no side effects when consumed in moderation.
Because cancer is often a result of chronic inflammation in the body, ginger may also help to prevent cancer if used regularly and in the correct form (i.e. raw ginger lacking sugar).
Note: A good rule of thumb to reap the full benefits of ginger is to omit ginger candies and pop. Often times the sugar in these items will outweigh the benefits of raw ginger itself. Try this simple recipe for ginger tea when you have an upset stomach, or desire something aromatic and warm:
1/2 TBSP Raw Ginger, crushed
2 C Hot water
2 tsp. Raw Honey (optional)
Skin the ginger and, using the flat part of the knife, smash the ginger once on the cutting board, making sure that it is still mostly whole. Drop the ginger in a mug of hot water and let set for at least 3 minutes. Add raw honey if desired. You can choose to remove the ginger before drinking the tea, or leave it in for a more intense flavor. Be sure not to swallow the ginger.