Ingredient focus... ginger
A culinary spice and medicinal marvel, Jo Lewin gives the nutritional low-down on this versatile seasoning.
The many curative properties of ginger are widely researched. Used on the skin it can stimulate the circulation and soothe burns. As a diaphoretic it encourages perspiration, so it can be used in feverish conditions such as influenza or colds. The root, which is the part of the plant most widely used in alternative forms of medicine, is rich in volatile oils. It is these oils that contain the active component gingerol.
Soothes digestive system...
Historically, ginger has a long tradition of being very effective in alleviating discomfort and pain in the stomach. Ginger is regarded as an excellent carminative, a substance that promotes the elimination of excessive gas from the digestive system and soothes the intestinal tract. Colic, and dyspepsia , respond particularly well to ginger.
Gingerroot appears to reduce the symptoms associated with motion sickness including dizziness, nausea, vomiting and cold sweating. Ginger has also been used to treat the nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy including hyperemesis gravidarum , the most severe form of sickness related to pregnancy.
Ginger also contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. These substances are believed to explain why so many people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis experience reductions in their pain levels and improvements in their mobility when they consume ginger regularly. Gingerols inhibit the formation of inflammatory cytokines; chemical messengers of the immune system.
How to select and store
Fresh ginger can be purchased in most supermarkets. Mature ginger has a tough skin that requires peeling. Fresh ginger can be stored in the fridge for up to three weeks if it is left unpeeled. Whenever possible, choose fresh ginger over dried since it is superior in flavour and contains higher levels of the active component gingerol. The root should be fresh looking, firm, smooth and free of mould with no signs of decay or wrinkled skin. If choosing dry ginger, keep it in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark dry place for no more than six months.
Ginger is very safe for a broad range of complaints, whether it is taken in a concentrated capsule form, eaten fresh or sipped as a tea or ginger ale. Ginger contains moderate amounts of oxalate. Individuals with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones should avoid overconsuming ginger. If you're unsure or concerned whether it is safe for you to consume ginger always consult your doctor.
Gingerbread biscuits are a classic for all the family:
Double ginger gingerbread men
Or add spice to a slice of cake:
Triple ginger & spice cake
Jo Lewin holds a degree in nutritional therapy and works as a community health nutritionist and private consultant. She is an accredited member of BANT and is covered by the association's code of ethics and practice.