You've had this burning question on your mind lately…
“how much would it cost me to buy a really fluffy sheep?”
Well friends, you're in luck, 'cause I've got answers.
First off, it all depends on who you ask. Most farmers today would agree that a quality lamb would run you about $500 or so.
But, ask a farmer in Europe between the fall of Rome in 476 CE and the beginning of the Renaissance in the 14th century, however, and you may get a different answer…
say like “a pound of ginger”, perhaps?
And now you have another burning question…
“A pound of ginger was worth $500 in the middle ages?!”
I know, I know, it sounds Crazy right?!
Why was this seemingly simple and unassuming root so valuable?
Um, because it's awesome, that's why.
It's unfortunate, but our modern-day culture has lost touch with so many valuable resources for improving our health and overall wellness, many of which are simple herbs, spices, and oils. That's why I started the “Real Remedies” series… to explore some of these amazing natural and sustainable (aka… REAL) remedies for health and wellness!
In this installment of “Real Remedies” I'm going to tell you all about Ginger, why I think it's awesome, and how you can use it to improve your health! Time to get excited people 😉
A little background history on ginger…
Ginger was one of the first oriental spices to arrive in Europe… making it all the way from Southeast Asia, it's native homeland. It was primarily introduced in Europe as a culinary spice, but it's medicinal properties are far greater than just an ordinary flavoring agent.
Although the ginger we're familiar with is generally actually the rhizome (the underground stem, similar to the root), it's attached to a really beautiful tropical plant that (depending on variety) has orangish to reddish flowers.
Side note: I googled whether or not this is where the term “ginger” came from in relation to an “orangish/reddish-haired” person, but got mixed results… along with the occasional uproar that calling red-headed people “ginger” is offensive…
so, yeah… there's that.
Other spices in the ginger family include turmeric and cardamom.
What is ginger good for?
Ginger for Digestion
Ginger is great for all sorts of ailments… but I'd say it's primary (and most proven) use is as a digestive aid… particularly the “sea sick”, post-op, and pregnancy related nausea and vomiting kind of digestive aid.
As a digestive aid, Confucius wrote as far back as 500 B.C. of never being without ginger when he ate. In the famous De Materia Medica 77 A.D. Dioscorides recorded that ginger “warms and softens the stomach”. Virtually every culture has recorded the virtues of ginger as a digestive aid. Bruce Cost, wrote of ginger’s use as the “Alka-Seltzer of the Roman Empire”. Ginger was part of the Revolutionary War soldier’s diet. In U.S. early twentieth century, ginger was named the herb of choice for digestive support. (source)
Ginger has had numerous high-quality clinical studies to prove its efficacy. One study even found that ginger was “equally effective as metoclopramide” (or Reglan), a commonly given pre-surgical and antepartum antiemetic. (source)
Ginger can help ease bloating and indigestion, when consumed with a meal. Ever notice how most Japanese and Chinese joints serve some kind of “ginger-y salad” right before the meal? That's because it's not only delicious (at least to some people), but it supports healthy digestion.
For use in pregnancy: Although I have read some controversial information about the safety of ginger use during pregnancy, I feel comfortable, after much research,telling you that it is safe and effective when used in moderation. (study) (study2) The recommended dose for pregnant women is for 250mg every 6 hours as needed, with no more than 1000mg/day.
Ginger's Infection Fighting properties
I mentioned in my “natural antibiotics” post that ginger has potent antibacterial and antiviral properties. “The results of a study done in 2010 showed that ginger extract of both the plant and root showed the highest antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes when compared to three commonly used antibiotics (chloramphenicol, ampicillin and tetracycline) which ‘were also active but at less extent compared to ginger extract'”. (source)
Ginger is a really fabulous remedy for cold & flu symptoms, because not only will it help to fight infection and viruses, but will also help to ease any symptoms commonly associated with cold or flu, like nausea.
Many sources also say that ginger can act like an expectorant. It can help to loosen mucus, especially when taken as a hot tea. (source) There is also some evidence to suggest that ginger can be used to help alleviate symptoms of respiratory distress, and decrease recovery time after an episode like an asthma attack. (source)
Ginger for Reducing Inflammation & use as an Analgesic
So there's a lot of sciency stuff that goes into this… like “Ginger suppresses prostaglandin synthesis through inhibition of cyclooxygenase-1 and cyclooxygenase-2.”… but basically, ginger works by interrupting the process that causes inflammation, and therefore pain. There's strong evidence showing that ginger may actually be more effective at reducing inflammation (and with fewer side-effects) than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen)! (source)
Ginger has also been proven to be an effective pain reducer for menstrual cramps. Women can use ginger instead of the commonly-recommended advil (with it's commonly-unmentioned side effects) for pain associated with cramping. (source)
It's also great for arthritic pain. A study done at the University of Miami showed that “ginger reduced pain and stiffness in knee joints by 40 percent over the placebo.” (source)
My husband uses ginger essential oil on his upper back muscles to heat the area and calm muscle aches for effective pain relief.
Ginger for Diabetes Management & Cataracts Prevention (research pending)
There is promising research being done that is revealing that there may be hope for diabetes management in those with Type 2 Diabetes using ginger. A recent study showed that the group who took daily doses of ginger had a “significant decrease in blood sugar after 8 weeks” compared to the control group. (source)
For this reason, I would also recommend that if you have Type 2 Diabetes, you discuss the use of ginger supplementation (as you should with any herb) with your primary care provider, prior to implementing supplementation.
There was also a study in 2010 (okay, it was on rats… but still!) which had results indicating “that ginger was effective against the development of diabetic cataract” (source)… I think it's weird that science has proven this link, since the Greek physician/botanist Dioscorides mentioned it way back when as “helping in cases of cataracts” (source)… those Greeks knew what was up.
Anyways, I think the research done so far is promising, and I'm looking forward to what further research will show.
Ginger for Colic
I personally never tried gripe water when T was little, honestly just because I didn't know that much about “natural remedies” then… but if you have a colicky baby, I hear the stuff can be a lifesaver, and I will definitely try it in the future should the need arise. Although traditionally, gripe water can have differing recipes for ingredients (including alcohol, eek!), many of them have ginger listed as the primary ingredient.
I have to be honest though, I would not recommend any of the gripe waters sold in stores (or on amazon), as most of them (even the “natural” ones) have added inactive ingredients that I'm not comfortable with. If anyone knows of a good, natural choice, please let me know!
I personally will try something like this recipe for Homemade Natural Gripe Water from Sara at My Merry Messy Life.
Otherwise, you could use some (very) diluted ginger essential oil on baby's tummy to help soothe gas and bloating that can be associated with colic.
I should mention also, that there are different kinds of ginger. Not to confuse you, but certain extracts and species of ginger are more beneficial for certain ailments, so if you are serious about supplementing with ginger, do a little research to make sure you're taking the kind specifically indicated for use in treating your ailment.
How to use ginger therapeutically
- You can take ginger root supplements. (you can also take ginger root extract, but be aware that it is much more concentrated)
- Homemade Natural Ginger Ale from Wellness Mama (I REALLY wish I had known about this when I was pregnant!)
- I also like this recipe for homemade Ginger Ale from Fearless Eating
- Prepare a ginger tea with fresh ginger root slices, hot water, and some raw honey
- Make a Ginger-Honey Infusion (find recipe here)
- Take a detox bath by adding some dry ginger to the tub… or try this Ultimate Detox bath from Real Food RN, which sounds awesome!
- Therapeutic-Grade Ginger essential oil can be used aromatically in a diffuser, personal inhaler, or simply by smelling an open bottle of ginger EO – this is especially effective for relieving nausea
- Ginger essential oil can also be used topically – you can add a few drops of ginger EO to about a tablespoon of coconut oil and apply to sore muscles (Just don't get in a hot bath right after!) *Ginger is considered a “hot” oil, so dilution with a carrier oil is almost always recommended when applying topically.