Ginger is a spice obtained from the rhizome of the homonymous plant (Zingiber officinale Roscoe, 1807) which is a herbaceous species native to tropical Asia.
Origins and History –
Ginger is a perennial herb plant, from whose rhizome a strongly aromatic and spicy spice is obtained, which is said to be very dear to Confucius (5th century BC) because it cleared the mind and eliminated impurities.
The name Zingiber derives from the Indian Zingibil, but the plant has many vulgar names depending on the country where it is grown; according to some etymologists, the origin of the name Zingiber derives from the Arabic Zind-schabil, which means root.
In ancient times it was the subject of numerous trades and could only be found dried, but today its cultivation has spread to many hot countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Africa, Indonesia, Peru, Thailand and wherever there are suitable conditions, that is, a warm climate tropical; however, the largest producer is India, which alone supplies more than 35% of world production and the speed of today’s transport means that it can also be found fresh in our markets, where it can be found naturally, with its cuticle external, and then it is called gray ginger, or the rhizome is decorticated and marketed as white ginger.
It is believed that the medicinal properties of Ginger were already known to ancient Eastern cultures, where the drug was used alone or as a component of herbal remedies; it has also been used for millennia in India and China as a food spice, especially in meat dishes, as a condiment or in sauces, for beer and other fermented drinks, or for syrups and biscuits, and to prepare a particularly appreciated Curry in India. In fact, Ginger has a strong antioxidant activity on fats and other foods, thus facilitating their conservation.
This plant was already considered a delicacy by the Greeks and Romans who had to pay heavy taxes to consume it.
During the Middle Ages, in Europe it was one of the most used spices in the kitchen and known by the name of “gengevo”.
The doctors of antiquity attached a lot of value to ginger: Dioscorides believed it capable of warming and calming the stomach; Pythagoras considered him an antidote to snake bites.
Galen, for its spicy flavor, classified it as “hot”, like all aphrodisiacs.
Precisely the invigorating aspect was central in the Arab peoples who took ginger pounded with honey to reinvigorate sexual performance.
According to the Salerno school, the rhizome pushed, indeed forced, young people to love, and this fame contributed to the birth of a potion made of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, breadcrumbs and rose water.
The cursed poet Francois Villon (XV century) among the lines of his “Testament” also listed a hundred ginger roots which he believed had “the property of making the genital organs of the two sexes join”.
In the sixteenth century, the aphrodisiac qualities of the plant were described by Pisanelli as excellent “to increase coitus: it is also so to give strength to a weak stomach”.
In traditional Asian medical doctrines, ginger was and is considered a “hot” element. According to the Chinese, it fights the ailments caused by cold and digestive problems, while for the Indians it is stimulating and pain-relieving.
Similarly, contemporary European herbal medicine attributes ginger the property of fighting nausea, vomiting and impotence.
Although in recent centuries this spice has lost its centrality in our cuisine, in the eastern one it has remained very important for flavoring sweet or savory dishes, sauces, Indian chutneys, spice and drink blends.
Ginger is a perennial herbaceous plant belonging to the Zinziberacee family that has the appearance of a cane with large tuberous rhizomes, very aromatic and with a camphor perfume, with hints of Lemon and Lemongrass. The drug is represented precisely by the rhizome.
This can be found naturally, with the external cuticle, and is called gray ginger, or the rhizome is decorticated and marketed as white ginger.
Ginger for its pungent aroma and the pleasant slightly spicy flavor is used in the kitchen as a flavoring and stimulant for digestion, but also in the liquor store as a corrective and for thirst-quenching drinks, and in the production of candied fruit and jams and also in the beer, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries.
Active principles –
The ginger rhizome is very rich in starches (about 60%) and contains a fair amount of essential oil, between 0.8 and 2%. The constituents responsible for the typical flavor of the drug are called gingeroli.
100 g of fresh Ginger bring about 80 calories (85.8% carbohydrates, 6.4% proteins, 7.9% fats), also they contain, on average, by weight:
– Protein 1.82 g;
– Carbohydrates 17.77 g;
– Sugars 1.7 g;
– Fat 0.75 g;
– saturated 0.203 g;
– monounsaturated 0.154 g;
– polyunsaturated 0.154 g;
– Cholesterol 0 mg;
– Dietary fiber 2 g;
– Sodium 13 mg.
Properties and Uses –
Ginger is an energetic stimulant for the presence of a yellowish essential oil, produced by the secretion of particular glandular cells, with a very complex composition; the most important substance is called gingerol and this gives the drug its intense flavor.
The dried rhizome, generally marketed in powder form, is used as a spice in the kitchen and in the preparation of liqueurs and drinks (especially Ginger ale) as a flavoring.
Today Ginger is also used in the kitchen in Europe, in modern recipes suitable for our taste, for example for focaccias, biscuits, crackers, flavored teas, but also for seasoning spaghetti.
In Arab medicine, it is considered an aphrodisiac and some peoples of Africa believe that eating Ginger regularly preserves from mosquito bites. Used for external applications, Ginger has a slight revulsive action, which is used to make poultices against rheumatism and in odontalgia.
Recent studies have confirmed several properties of this root, for example against dyspepsia: it is in fact able to act effectively on the whole digestive system, in cases of loss of appetite or slow and laborious digestion, flatulence, bloating and intestinal swelling due to its carminative properties. But it has also proven effective against car sickness, nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, and as an antispasmodic.
There have therefore been many confirmations on the properties attributed to Ginger by traditional popular use, in particular on the antiemetic effect. Ginger can be used in any form to combat car sickness, sea sickness, air sickness, and all forms of motion sickness.
Ginger has also proven effective in the case of rheumatism, gastritis and ulcer, headache, and its antioxidant activity has also been confirmed.
All the properties of Ginger have been highlighted both with studies done in the laboratory, but also with tests on healthy willing volunteers, in which it emerged that the subjects who were administered the Ginger always reacted better than the control subjects who were administered a placebo. In particular, the protective effect against gastritis and the formation of ulcers in the stomach has been shown by numerous studies, which have shown that the anti-inflammatory properties of this plant work by alleviating the symptoms of inflammation of the gastric mucosa, but can also prevent the formation of ulcers. when taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which, as is known, have the creation of ulcers in the digestive system as a side effect. Its anti-inflammatory activity is also used to prepare eye drops that have a great decongestant capacity, useful in many cases of eye inflammation, for example in case of allergy, blepharitis, or simply for refreshing and sanitizing eye washings.
The substances contained in ginger are active against a form of diarrhea which is one of the main childhood mortality factors in developing nations. Zingerone is probably the active component against enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, or diarrhea in its heat sensitive and enterotoxin-induced form.
Due to its innumerable uses in folk medicine, there are various preparations based on ginger.
Ginger tea is a remedy for colds. Three or four leaves of sacred basil, together with a piece of ginger on an empty stomach, are an effective cure for congestion, cough and cold. The rhizome of Zingiber officinale is used against dyspepsia, constipation, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Being a vasodilator, it was previously used for high blood pressure, palpitations and heart disease.
Its most active substances from a chemical point of view are 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol and 6-shogaol.
Ginger ale and ginger beer have been recommended as “stomach relaxants” for generations in the countries where these drinks are made, and ginger water was commonly used to prevent heat cramps in the United States.
Ginger has also historically been used to treat inflammation, as confirmed by several scientific studies, although a specific case of arthritis showed that ginger was no better than a placebo or ibuprofen. Research in laboratory mice suggests that ginger could be useful for the treatment of diabetes.
Ginger root has been used since time immemorial by Ayurvedic medicine to promote the natural detox of the whole body. In fact, the gingerol and the other active ingredients present in the plant are portentous to help get rid of toxins at the change of season and in the periods in which one feels swollen and tired.
In Western culture, dried ginger root powder is put into capsules and sold in pharmacies for medicinal use.
In Burma, ginger and a local sweetener made from the juice of the palm tree (Htan nyat) are boiled together, and are used to prevent the flu.
In China, a drink or soft drink made from sliced ginger and cooked in sweetened water is used as a popular medicine for colds.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ginger is crushed and mixed with the sap of the mango tree to make tangawisi, which is considered a panacea.
In India, ginger paste is applied to the temples to relieve headaches, and is ingested by those who suffer from a common cold. People also use ginger in addition to tea, for cooking, etc.
In Indonesia, a type of ginger known as jahe is used as a vegetable preparation to reduce fatigue, decrease “air” in the blood, prevent and treat rheumatism, and control bad eating habits.
In the Philippines a traditional healthy drink called salabat is prepared for breakfast by boiling pieces of ginger and adding sugar; it is considered a good cure for throat inflammation.
In the United States of America, ginger is used to prevent seasickness and pregnancy sickness. It is recognized as safe by the FDA, and is sold as a dietary supplement without special prescriptions.
Regarding precautions or contraindications for use, remember that allergic reactions to ginger in general produce rashes and, although it is generally recognized as healthy, ginger can cause stomach pain, bloating, gas production, especially if taken in the form of dust. Fresh ginger, if not well chewed, can cause intestinal blockage, and individuals who have experienced ulcers, inflammation of the intestine, or intestinal blockages, may react badly to considerable quantities of fresh ginger. Ginger can also act negatively on individuals subject to gallstones; there are also indications that ginger may affect blood pressure, clotting and heart rhythm.
Ginger is highly appreciated in the kitchen as a spice and by the food industry as a valuable flavoring (with ginger, for example, the drink known as ginger ale is produced), but it also has interesting medicinal properties.
On the market it is found in the form of fresh or dried root, reduced to powder or in the form of extract or as candied ginger using only the natural sugar of its root. The dried ginger root powder is typically encapsulated and sold in convenient tablets.
There is still no consensus on the dosage, but most doctors prescribe 500 mg to 1000 mg of ginger per day.
Ready-made packaged products can be used, such as the convenient Ginger vegetable capsules, by ingesting 1-2 tablets half an hour before traveling; or you can use dried Ginger in powder, dispersing a small teaspoon of it in a little warm water and drinking everything, always half an hour before traveling.
It is also possible to munch every few slices of Candied Ginger, before and during the trip. You can also prepare a decoction of root, boiling gently for 5 minutes, in a covered container, 2-3 slices of Ginger in about 50 ml of water and drinking the residual liquid, filtered, half an hour before leaving.
In the kitchen, ginger can be eaten both fresh, peeling its root like a potato, and dried powder. The latter is perhaps the most used version and also the easiest to keep. The fresh root, on the other hand, should be kept in the refrigerator once cut and possibly preserved in a glass jar so as not to alter its taste, appearance and properties. On the market there are also candied ginger, pickled ginger, a typical accompaniment to sushi, and herbal teas.
The taste of ginger in all its “forms” is actually quite spicy, so it is usually consumed together with other foods or in the form of a decoction. Even if there are many who dare to taste it in purity, cut into thin slices on its own or added to the salad.
In any case, fresh or grated ginger is perfect for seasoning all types of vegetables (raw and cooked). In fact, the spicy and slightly “lemon” flavor adds freshness to the usual side dish. But not only: the extract is also excellent for flavoring chicken and white meats in general such as fish and shellfish. Both in cooking and as a raw seasoning.
Those who love exotic flavors can try to enrich basmati rice or soy and rice noodles with a good amount of fresh ginger. A tasty, healthy idea that brings the flavors of summer to the table even in the middle of winter is then the mixed salad with ginger and avocado. To prepare it, you simply need to combine valerian or lettuce, finely chopped radishes, chopped avocado, strips of ginger and blood orange or pink grapefruit cut to the brim: a full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Obviously, ginger can also be freely added to tea and herbal teas. But what works most and best expresses the potential of the root is the decoction.
The ginger decoction is prepared by cutting the peeled fresh ginger into slices which must be immersed in cold water and then left to simmer. From the moment of boiling, let it cook for about 15 minutes. Then take the slices of root (you can eat them separately if you like) and filter the decoction. The latter should be drunk bitter throughout the day: you will get a strong detox draining effect.
The famous herbal tea ginger and lemon or ginger and lime is also very beneficial and pleasant in taste. In fact, the two ingredients go perfectly together. To prepare it we use fresh ginger (the procedure is the same as that of the decoction) and dried ginger. You have to boil the root for 15 minutes or dissolve the ginger powder directly in boiling water. Add lemon juice, untreated zest and honey to taste, out of the heat. This herbal tea performs a powerful action in case of cold, flu, fever, bad digestion and nausea.
Warning: The information shown is not medical advice and may not be accurate. The contents are for illustrative purposes only and do not replace medical advice.