Written by Nicolette (Chinese Medicine)
Herbs! Delicious, nutritious and medicinal. These versatile, nutrient dense flavour explosions from the earth can greatly enhance our daily lives by providing us comfort and sustenance; spicing up a boring stir-fry, making health food actually appealing to eat as well as helping us recover from the many ailments we may encounter throughout our lives.
With the recent cold change in the weather over the past few days my body is craving comfort and warmth. In the spirit of this shift, I thought I would re-introduce you to a slightly different view of one of our most popular and beloved herbs in both the west and the east: the humble and underrated ginger.
Ginger is actually a rhizome (technically not a root, but an underground stem) of the botanical name Zingiber Officinale. It is in the same plant family as turmeric (Zingiberaceae), and shares some wonderful benefits. Ginger is used widely in Chinese, Ayurvedic and Unani medicines as well as advocated in naturopathy.
In the western literature, ginger has been proposed to have the following benefits and actions:
Ginger is widely used in Chinese medicine and its use in classical formulas is well known in our circles . Zhang Zhong Jing, one of the great accomplished physicians around 150-219AD, was known to use a combination of fresh ginger with Chinese dates and liquorice root in many of his classical formulas as a way to protect the digestive system from the harsh aspects of other herbs. These powerful formulas are still used today.
In a similar way, fresh ginger is often added to other harsher herbs during preparation to reduce their toxicity and potential harsh effects on the digestion. In Japan, fresh ginger is often used when preparing fish dishes to decrease chances of food poisoning.
Ginger in Clinic
In clinic we can use ginger in several preparations. The herbs that we use can be prepared in certain ways to moderate their temperament and actions to suit certain clinical situations that may present to us. These give us different therapeutic outcomes and are used under different circumstances.
Sheng jiang – Ginger in its fresh, unprocessed form. Properties: Acrid and warm
Sheng Jiang is used for nausea, vomiting and retching. It prevents bitter herbs from damaging the stomach and can correct the flow of Qi in the stomach downwards to counteract feelings of nausea and vomiting. A simple fresh ginger tea to sip can be very helpful for those prone to motion sickness and can be helpful for those going through chemotherapy or morning sickness.
It can also be used at home as a tea in the initial stages of a common cold marked by more chills and body aches than fever. Slices can also be added to a hot bath to help induce mild sweating to help the illness pass quicker
Gan jiang – dried form of ginger. Properties: Acrid and hot
This form is more warming and is used for people who feel cold in their body. It can also be used for digestive complaint and abdominal pain of this nature. It can promotes circulation through warming and unblocking the channels for joint pain which is improved with heat.
Dried ginger is perfect for those who feel the need to rug up when everyone else is in footy shorts and singlets.
Pao jiang – prepared charcoaled version. Properties: Bitter and warm
This preparation is still warm, but this preparation changes the ginger to become bitter, not acrid, and gives it an astringent quality. It can therefore be used to stop bleeding and diarrhea in circumstances where the bleeding is due to deficiency cold.
RECIPE: Warm Fresh Ginger Root Tea.
Place a 3-4 fresh ginger slices into a saucepan with 350ml of water.
Bring to a boil then let steep till cool enough to drink. Strain out the ginger pieces and enjoy. If desired, sweeten with a little honey.
For those looking to stimulate their digestion and aid in weight loss a little cinnamon, cayenne pepper, honey and lemon can be added for a metabolism boost. This is a great addition to your morning routine to help start the day right.
Ginger is not suitable for ‘hot’ constitutional types. So those with burning acid reflux, common colds with high temperatures and very sore throats and those that feel they run hotter than others be cautions. If you cannot eat a small amount of ginger without it burning in your stomach, then ginger is not for you.
In practice, herbs are not prescribed singularly, but as a carefully constructed and balanced formula to help you personally address the dysfunctions that might be arising in your body. For a more personalised approach, consult with your local practitioner.
May the warmth of ginger see you through the upcoming cold and wintery days.
If you would like to book an appointment with Nicollette you can call the clinic on (03) 5429 3610 or book online by clicking the link below.