Ginger (botanical name: zingiber officinale) has a long history of being documented for its health benefits, especially in relation to digestive health, fighting inflammation, and nausea. It has been praised around the world in different fields including Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, Western Science, and even ancient folklore remedies.
The magical medicinal plant grows with clusters of flowers (sometimes white, yellow, purple, or red depending on the variety), and green leaves, but it’s the underground part of the stem from which the roots grow (known as the rhizome) that holds the healing properties and volatile oils. Here are some amazing facts and health benefits about this aromatic, and wonderful ingredient.
It’s part of the Zingiberaceae family, which is closely related to galangal, turmeric and cardamom.
Where It Grows:
It typically grows in warmer areas of Asia – such as China, India, and Japan. It also grows in West Africa, South America, and the Middle East. The highest producer of ginger in the world is India, that contributes to roughly 34% of the world’s total amount, followed by Nigeria, then China.
It is said the Queen Elizabeth I of England invented the gingerbread man.
The history of ginger is thought to date back over 2000 years, and it’s inextricably linked to its medicinal purposes, especially as a stomach settler. The ancient Chinese and Indians used ginger as a tonic root for many ailments. Chinese have described ginger as a ‘yang tonifying herb’; that warms up the body, ancient Hawaiians used to drink juice from the stems of flower heads after hiking, and the ancient Greeks used to eat it wrapped in bread as a post-dinner digestive aid. It was also used to bless Austronesian ships, and for healing rituals.
Introduction to Europe:
Ginger came to Europe during the spice trade and was actually one of the first spices to be exported from Asia.
It’s been praised for helping with various stomach issues, including aiding the digestion process, settling stomach upsets, reducing nausea, and even helping with gas, and irritable bowel syndrome. It’s also shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties, and can help with menstrual pain, arthritis, cold and flu symptoms, degenerative disorders, and cardiovascular disorders. (Source)
How It’s Consumed:
The best way to consume it is to prepare a root, but it can also be eaten dried, powdered, as a juice, or even in oil form.
The intense flavour and smell of ginger comes from its naturally occurring oils, and the most prominent of these (which is praised for its medicinal properties) is gingerol, which is a relative of piperine and capsaicin (found in chillies).
What It Tastes Like:
If you’ve never tried ginger, it’s a hot, fragrant, and spicy root, with a zing to it.
Tips for Preparing Ginger:
One of the most important things to remember about ginger is that its goodness is very close to the skin. Instead of slicing the skin off, use a spoon to gently peel it, and if you buy organic ginger, you don’t even need to peel it.
A popular Ayurvedic remedy that helps you sleep, and is good for fighting inflammation is golden milk. Check out this Minimalist Baker recipe.
A great winter warmer, and alternative to coffee is this ginger root tea.
If you like Vietnamese cuisine, Deliciously Ella has a great chilli ginger pho recipe.
Here’s a refreshing mint and ginger lemonade recipe.
We also love this garlic and ginger veggie stirfry.
For a powerful health tonic, try this ginger and lemon shot.
One of our very own smoothie recipes that incorporates ginger is ‘The Self Defence One’ – perfect for if you’re feeling a little under the weather, and in need of a boost. Check it out here.
Growing Ginger in the UK:
You may think growing ginger is reserved for the tropics, but it IS possible to grow stem ginger in the UK. Check out this advice article by James Wong.
Hopefully this has inspired you to try and incorporate ginger into more of your dishes!