I am often instinctively called Ginger when people don’t know or don’t remember my name. Either it’s a subconscious nod at my gingery red hair, or I just have a face that subtly hints, “Ginger!”. Either way, it’s been years and years since my friendship with ginger began, and this delicious, warming, cozy herb and I are tight allies for life.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is ideal for those folks who run cold at the core. Who dread the colder winter months because even their bones feel cold, and they cringe at the thought of stepping outside in the blistery snow storms. Their hands and feet are always on the “Jack Frost” side, and their digestion may run a little slow. Ginger is also fantastic for those, in Ayurvedic philosophy, who are considered to be of a Vata constitution and could use some grounding and warmth. Ginger has a naturally pungent and almost spicy taste that is absolutely revitalizing to your entire body, getting things moving and circulating both deep in your core, and also to your peripheral hands and feet.
Herbs, like people, have a strong personality and should ideally be used where they are most efficient and most needed. Ginger is hot – pungent and hot – and works best for people who are cold in order to bring about that balance. (Hint: I wouldn’t recommend using ginger if you have active inflammation happening somewhere in the body, as this excess heat can exacerbate ulcerations or bowel disorders). So, do you run cold at the core, or cold in your periphery (like cold hands and feet)?
Dried ginger, taken as a tincture or tea, is best for warming and nurturing the core of the body (especially for digestion). Fresh ginger, taken as tea, is best for warming the extremities and awesome for that first stage of a cold where you need to push those pathogens out of the body by producing a superficial sweat (this is call a diaphoretic action). Fresh ginger can also be taken daily as a tonic herb to not only keep you warm and grounded, but also to modulate and enhance your digestion by relaxing the smooth muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. It is also a broad spectrum anti-inflammatory for the musculoskeletal system, supporting the muscles, joints and ligaments. (As a side note, Vata’s tend to run a little dry and…brittle, if you will. They may often be susceptible to arthritic conditions or tight muscles, hence why ginger is a great ally for them).
My favorite way to take ginger is as a fresh tea.
Take about 1 inch fresh ginger, peel and coarsely chop. Place in 2 cups of water in a saucepan on the stove and let simmer (with a covered lid) for 15 minutes. This is called a decoction, and is ideal for those tough portions of an herb like stems, roots, rhizomes or bark. Strain and put in your favorite mug to sip on those chillier days.
I also LOVE taking crystalized ginger with me when I travel. Traveling is one of the very few things that really puts me on edge and just gloriously unravels my otherwise calm and collected persona. Flying especially is the worst. Oh my gosh I hate flying. Putting a piece of crystalized ginger in some hot water and sipping on that brings me right back into my peaceful aura and helps put me at ease again. Like I said – we’re tight allies.
What’s your favorite way to take (or eat!) ginger?