Plants have always been a part of my life. Since I could remember, my father would bring my little sister and I into his small garden. It only took up a small square of land in our backyard but to us it felt like another world. He would spend all day out there, and then come in to teach us about the different vegetables, fruits and herbs he was growing. He knew so much and made sure to share it with his girls. The plants followed us inside, growing from clay pots and glass vases. My mother believed in the holistic elements to certain plants and was always quick to look there first. My parents worked hard to create something to pass on to us, which is why I decided to start the Herb Shop! I want to share where I’m from, where a lot of our medicinal fixes originated from, as well as, shine a light on the multifaceted uses of common plant life that we look past every day.
Zingiber officinale I.e. Ginger
Ginger is a flowering plant that originated from China. It belongs to the Zingiberaceae family, and is closely related to turmeric, cardamom and galangal. The rhizome (underground part of the stem) is the part commonly used as a spice. It is often called ginger root, or simply ginger. An old Indian proverb says, “Every good quality is contained in ginger.” That’s not much of an exaggeration. Fleshy and aromatic, ginger root has been used in cooking and healing since the dawn of history. (Castleman, 271)
Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions. However, some herbs and spices may offer additional health benefits. One of these is ginger. Scientific research shows that ginger contains hundreds of compounds and metabolites, some of which may contribute to health and healing. Ginger provides a variety of vitamins and minerals: vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, folate, riboflavin, and niacin. Since it is often consumed in such small amounts, ginger does not add significant quantities of calories, carbohydrate, protein, or fiber.
Here is a brief list of some health benefits observed with the use of ginger:
- Reduces morning sickness
- Reduces motion sickness
- Reduces muscle pain and soreness
- Reduces symptoms of osteoarthritis
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Lowers blood sugar levels
- Lowers risk of heart disease
- Treats chronic indigestion
- Reduces menstrual pain
- May lower cholesterol levels
- May improve brain function and protect against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline.
A high intake of ginger may worsen symptoms of acid reflex, irritate the mouth, and cause diarrhea. Anyone who is pregnant, or who has gallstones, diabetes, or a blood clotting disorder should discuss first with their doctor whether to increase their intake of ginger. Ginger supplements should not be used with aspirin or other blood-thinning medications.
Ginger is known for delivering brighter skin, healthier hair and even put up a fight against cellulite. Both ingesting ginger and applying it topically have major anti-aging benefits. It contains around 40 antioxidant properties that prevent free radical damage and protect against aging. It also evens skin tone and improves elasticity. See this month’s easy recipe for a Honey Ginger Lemon Mask below:
- 1/3 cup Ginger (powered or grated)
- 1/3 cup Honey
- 1/3 cup Lemon Juice
- Whip up a mixture of equal parts grated or powdered ginger, honey, and fresh lemon juice.
- Leave it on for up to 30 minutes
- Rinse to reveal radiant skin
Recipe of the Day
Ginger can be used fresh, dried, powdered, or as an oil or juice, and is sometimes added to processed food. Ginger pairs well with many different types of seafood, oranges, melon, pork, chicken, pumpkin, rhubarb, and apples, to name a few. When buying fresh ginger, look for a root with smooth, taut skin, with no wrinkles, and a spicy aroma. It is a very common ingredient in recipes and speaking of recipes, try these Maple Gingerbread cookies:
Ingredients Needed (serves 2):
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup vegetable shortening (preferably butter flavored)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1 egg
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, clove, and salt.
- In another large bowl, beat together 3/4 cup sugar and shortening until smooth and creamy. Beat in the maple syrup and egg. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.
- Shape dough into 2-inch balls then roll in cinnamon sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool a few minutes before removing to cooling rack.
Castleman, Michael. The Healing Herbs: The Ultimate Guide to the Curative Power of Nature’s Medicine’s. Bantam: New York, 1995. Print.