Ginger is one of the soothing substances used by people suffering from the common cold. While its effectiveness as a cold remedy may be unproven, it certainly produces a comforting aroma and flavoring that many believe is good for the digestive system.
Those who prefer alternative cold remedies favor this spice as useful in battling symptoms and easing aches and pains. As a natural agent, it is favored for treating a host of other ills as well.
Ginger as a spice is a derivative of a rhizome known as "ginger root." The root is available as a dried or fresh knobby chunk in the vegetable section of grocery stores. In ground forms, it becomes the much-loved spice. These have vastly different tastes, which also add to the diversity in the uses of ginger. As with many other medicinals, ginger probably originated in Asia, but was most popular as a dried spice and was rarely served fresh.
Since early times, people have revered ginger for its healing properties. For centuries, it has been an alternative treatment for many maladies, including:
Stomach ailments, including motion sickness, especially seem to respond to ginger. Some people also find ginger to be beneficial for an upset stomach due to chemotherapy treatments or pregnancy. While professionals still find that medications are more effective, ginger is an attractive alternative because of its lack of corresponding side effects.
New, limited studies show that ginger can also help a host of other conditions and ailments, including:
Literary and historical listings of ginger are frequent. It's very much a part of the ancient practices in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Practitioners use it as a "carrier," meaning it increases the beneficial effects of certain herbs in healing treatments. In Roman times, it was a commodity much like currency, as well as a flavoring ingredient and curative.
The oils in ginger receive credit for its reported healing powers. They are also responsible for the strong flavor and its popularity as a spice. The oils may have soothing properties that ease digestion, especially when symptoms of a common cold or flu make it difficult to eat.
Ginger is also quite pungent, and it is the heat that could also be beneficial in alternative cold remedies. Some state that ingesting ginger causes the body to warm, making it perspire, which could be helpful in fighting the first stages of a cold or battling chills from a fever.
"Gingerol" is one of the oleoresin compounds found in ginger. It is also the spiciest part of the rhizome and may be specifically responsible for coming to the aid of cold symptoms. When heated, it becomes sweeter by nature and known as "zingerone." As the ginger root, or rhizome, begins to dry, shagaols also form. These, like gingerol, seem to provide some positive benefits.
Because the oils are so potent, small quantities of ginger will go a long way. The U.S. Department of Agriculture gives ginger a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) classification.
Hot ginger teas are one way to enjoy the benefits of ginger and possibly relieve cold symptoms. The steaming effect is part of the reason it can clear congestion and soothe the linings of a stuffy nose.
Quite often, medicinal recipes call for the addition of honey and lemon to speed the healing effects and enhance the taste. This can possibly alleviate an annoying, dry cough. Used as a gargle, it may ease the pains of a sore throat. Some limited research indicates that ginger requires thorough chewing or it can lead to blockage of the intestines.
Herbal formulas and extracts may also provide relief from cold symptoms. Capsules contain powdered ginger.
For purely steaming and clearing the nasal passages, fresh ginger root seems to be effective. Grate it into boiling water and inhale. You can also purchase pure oils for this method. Relieve headaches related to the common cold with a poultice of ground ginger and water applied to the forehead.
Like other spices and non-restricted forms of home remedies, use ginger with some caution. Every individual is different and larger quantities can lead to some intestinal distress and possibly heartburn. Those on blood-thinners, including aspirin, should be aware that ginger could increase the anti-coagulation effect. It also acts to release bile and individuals suffering from gallstones should avoid ingesting ginger.
More research is under way into ginger's healing properties, including benefits as a cold remedy. Some claims remain untested while others have limited results, but they scientifically suggest there is potential for positive effects on many ills.
Plantcultures.org (n.d.). Ginger — History. Retrieved November 19, 2007, from the Plant Cultures Web site: http://www.plantcultures.org/plants/ginger_history.html.
Tierra, Michael, L.A.C., O.M.D. (n.d.). Treating the Common Cold. Retrieved November 19, 2007, from the Planet Herbs Web site: http://www.planetherbs.com/articles/colds.html#xtocid4128.
UMM.edu (2007). Ginger. Retrieved November 19, 2007, from the University of Maryland Medical Center Web site: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/ginger-000246.htm.
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