Wednesday, 21 November 2012

10 Warming and Healing Uses for Ginger in Chilly November

It’s the time of the year when we get winter colds and the cooler weather can make our aches and pains worse. Ginger is such a warming and comforting herb, I associate it with this time of year and my Yorkshire gran’s ginger bread loaves, Christmas time with dad's crystallised ginger and warming foot baths. I thought I’d take a look at it’s different uses, in fact I thought it won’t take long to come up with 10 bullet points and as usual I found myself getting further involved…

Ginger Root (from

1.       Aids digestion – Ginger is a great herb for digestion. It aids in the digestion of fatty foods so I’m not surprised that we eat it at times of festivity when we eat a rich diet.
It is also carminative; helps with flatulence: the volatile oils in ginger relax the stomach and stimulate peristalsis (the wavelike motion of food through the gut) thereby supporting digestion and reducing gas
2.       Helps to reduce high blood pressure – Ginger’s warming quality improves and stimulates circulation and relaxes the muscles surrounding blood vessels, facilitating the flow of blood throughout the body.amritaveda
3.       Aids nausea and morning sickness – Ginger has been widely shown to prevent as well as treat motion sickness, relax the stomach and relieve the feeling of nausea amritaveda. Chew on ginger, preferably tossed in a little honey Food Matters.
4.       Lowers LDL cholesterol – Studies show ginger can lower cholesterol absorption in the blood and liver. Its extract can help reduce the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the body, reducing the risk of developing heart disease amritaveda. A study published in 2008 in the Saudi Medical Journal showed patients with high cholesterol who took 3 grams of ginger a day had significantly lowered cholesterol levels in just 45 days Vegetarian Times.
5.       Relieves sinus, nose and throat congestion – try warming ginger tea Food Matters
6.       In Ayurvedic texts it’s an aphrodisiac – can heat up your bedroom!
7.       Joint pain – Ginger is anti-inflammatory, add it to your bath tub Food Matters. Ginger in an oil or balm can be rubbed on areas such as joints and muscles that ache.
8.       Prevents blood clots - Ginger interferes with the long sequence of events necessary for blood clots to form. This helps to prevent clots that can lodge in narrowed coronary arteries and set off a heart attack. Something called thromboxane synthesis initiates clot formation and ginger inhibits this process. Ginger also inhibits the clumping together of platelets in the blood NStar.
9.       An immune system booster – ginger is considered to be a hot spice, meaning that it has a warming effect on the human body. Consuming ginger causes the body to sweat. The sweat glands produce a compound which, in turn, protects the skin from infection and we get the term “to sweat out” a cold Planet Save.You could also try a ginger foot bath, warming on a cold wintry day and the soles of our feet can absorb so much.
10.   Contains Gingerol – the active ingredient that reduces pain with its anti-inflammatory effect is also thought to be anti-microbial and anti-viral Vegetarian Times.Ginger is also a rubefacient and when applied to the skin, it stimulates and dilates the blood capillaries, increasing circulation.

How to take your ginger?
Surely the nicest way is to take it in our food. Lots of Asian and Caribbean recipes contain good amounts of ginger. Europeans are good at ginger in biscuits and puddings, so perhaps to be taken more in moderation this way.

Remember to have gingerbread in moderation! (

More medicinal ways include:

For colds: ginger tea and a hot ginger bath at the first sign of a cold.
 Ginger tea is made by simmering about an inch (2.5cm) ginger in 2 cups of water for about 10 minutes, strain and drink.
The ginger bath is made by putting 4 tablespoons of ginger powder in a piece of cloth or old sock and running the bath water over it. Have a 20 minute soak, and even better – drink your ginger tea in your ginger bath! (Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal, 2010, Kitchen Medicine).

Peeled ginger

For boils
A poultice can be made from equal parts of ginger powder and flour made into a paste with water and placed over the boil, cling film can be put over to hold it in place and a hot water bottle over the top will help thing come along more speedily (Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal, 2010).

A chest poultice moves mucus from the lungs, helping respiration and increasing circulation, it also increases sweating (Matthew Wood, 2008, The Earthwise Herbal).

In labour
Fresh ginger tea sweetened with honey or maple syrup to help maintain strength and contractions and give immediate blood sugar (Matthew Wood, 2008).

Cold extremities
Foot or hand bath using ginger tea.

Sore or cramped muscles
Ginger infused oil or salve rubbed onto the area.

Double infused oil:
You will need a double boiler pan (Bain Marie), vegetable oil such as sunflower oil, chopped up ginger roots, a sieve, and a jar.
·         Your double boiler has water boiling in the bottom pan and your ingredients go in the top pan. Put half of your ginger in the top pan and cover it with your chosen vegetable oil.
·         Wait 2 hours
·         Strain off the oil from the ginger, keep the oil.
·         Put the other half of the ginger in the pan and cover with the same oil. Your ginger has been used once, the oil twice.
·         Wait another 2 hours
·         Strain off the oil from the ginger, put it into a jar and label
·         You now have a double infused oil
Use this oil as a muscle rub or on aching, inflamed joints. Massage onto cold hands and feet to help warmth and circulation. Try different variations such as adding chillies to your ginger and make it chilli and ginger oil. If you know how to use essential oils safely then perhaps you could add some oils to your cooled ginger oil.

Making a ginger salve:
You need your double infused ginger oil, beeswax and a double boiler (or Pyrex bowl over pan of hot water).

·         Put your oil in the double boiler or Pyrex bowl.

·         Add beeswax. Beeswax makes the mixture solidify; the more beeswax used, the firmed your salve will be. Six parts oil to 1 part wax makes a soft salve that you can easily poke your fingers into, four parts oil to 1 part wax makes a very firm salve. More than six parts oil makes a very squidgy salve that you can easily scoop out.

·         Pour it into your jar and let it set.

·         Label the jar, I have learnt that even if you think you have the memory of the proverbial elephant you do not remember what is in which jar!

A salve creates a less messy way to apply the oil with its ginger properties.
Make your salve with any oil you have made, or even a plain vegetable oil salve to make a lip salve, just put it in a little jar.

Pots of salve made at one of Sarah Head's workshops