Ginger is obtained from the plant Zingiber officinale. The term 'ginger' refers only to the edible part of the plant and not the entire plant itself. The edible part of the plant is called as the rhizome. This is a horizontal stem, which grows underground. Ginger was first grown in China. Today, cultivation of ginger takes place all over the world including India, West Africa, and the Caribbean islands.
The word ginger is derived from the Sanskrit word 'stringa-vera', which means horn-like body. This is because it resembles the antlers of a deer. This spice is mentioned in the writings of Confucius, the famous Chinese philosopher. It also finds a place in the Koran, which is the sacred book of the followers of Islam. It was one of the earliest known spices in Western Europe, with its use dating back to the ninth century A.D.
Consumption of ginger for medicinal purposes is primarily to aid in digestion. It contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium, potassium, minerals as well as vitamins A, B complex, and C. Consumption of ginger encourages the gall bladder to release bile, which stimulates digestion. This increases the assimilation of nutrients from the food consumed. Besides helping digestion, ginger is also used to give symptomatic relief from stomach cramps, diarrhoea, and bloating caused due to gas.
Ginger gives relief from the nausea associated with morning sickness during pregnancy. It can also be used to treat nausea caused due to chemotherapy or seasickness. Ginger contains the volatile oils zingerone, shoagoles, and gingerols, which give it its characteristic odour and flavour. Laboratory tests conducted prove that the gingerols display analgesic and anti-bacterial properties.
Ginger also has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to relieve pain in the joints caused due to rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. To relieve arthritic pain, ginger is used externally, either in a bath or as a compress. To prepare a ginger bath, add a small quantity of boiling water to a slice or two of fresh ginger. Cover the vessel to prevent the volatile oils from evaporating into the atmosphere. After around ten minutes, add this mixture to your regular bath water.
Ginger can lower cholesterol levels in the body, which decreases high blood pressure and minimises the risk of a stroke. It also has blood thinning properties, which reduce the chances of heart disease.
Consumption of ginger makes the body feel warm and promotes perspiration. This property is especially useful when a person is suffering from a fever, since perspiration causes a fever to break faster. Consuming ginger is also beneficial if you have a cough, cold or a sore throat. The best way to consume ginger is in the form of a ginger tea. Boil two cups of water with two tablespoons of grated fresh ginger for around ten minutes. Strain the mixture into your cup. Add a teaspoon of honey and some lemon for taste.
Ginger is available in a variety of forms. Fresh ginger is the term given to entire, raw roots. These are pale yellow on the inside and have an outer skin that is a light brown or creamy white colour. A piece of the ginger rhizome is referred to as a 'hand'. Whole fresh roots are those that are plucked while they are still slightly immature. When removed from the plant, these roots have a light green outer skin colour. This form of ginger is especially popular in oriental markets.
Ginger is also available in dried form. It is usually sun-dried and is available either as a whole root or in a sliced form. A dried rhizome with the outer skin left on is black in colour while rhizomes without the outer skin are white colour. Dried roots may be ground to obtain powdered ginger. Fresh young roots can be peeled, sliced and cooked in sugar syrup to obtain preserved ginger, available in canned form. If the ginger is air dried after cooking in sugar syrup and then rolled in sugar, it is referred to as crystallized ginger.
The next time you have a sore throat, leave that bottle of medicine in your cabinet. Opt for a cup of delicious ginger tea instead. You will be back to feeling your best in no time.
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- The Indiaparenting Team