Now that winter is upon us, I thought I would share some simple strategies to help you stay healthy throughout the season. The first is a simple ginger tea recipe I have been using for almost 20 year to prevent or treat colds and flu. Iit has always worked and has never lets me down.
I discovered ginger tea when I was living in India in the early 90’s. I went there with the the guys in punk rock band and we traveled, studied and lived the yoga lifestyle first hand. I had an amazing experience that would change my life forever.
My friend and I stayed in temples, ashrams, hostels and sometimes slept on trains on 3 day rides through the jungle. We learned yoga, Ayurveda, cooking and traditional Indian devotional music. Every morning, we would go out to this little cart on the street corner where an old Indian guy would be brewing fresh ginger tea in the early morning just before sunrise. We sipped our homemade ginger tea out of clay cups every day for one month and the recipe has since become an integral part of my life, especially during harsh New York winters.
Ginger is often called an herb or a root, but actually it’s a rhizome, which is like an underground stem. Its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties have been revered for thousands of years in Asian, Indian and Arabic cultures.
It is also known as East Indian Pepper, Jamaica Ginger, Jamaica Pepper and galangal. It can be white, tan, brown, yellow, pink or red and is cultivated all over the world. Ginger is popular throughout the Caribbean, especially Jamaica.
Although you can find it in many forms (fresh, dried, powder, crystallized, pickled, ground), I use the fresh organic root, (except when using powdered ginger in curry spice mix) which can be easily found at any health food, traditional foods market or grocery store these days.
Food As Medicine
Ginger’s medicinal properties are valued by many cultures and have been proven by modern science: it’s anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and has antioxidant benefits and protective against several types of cancers.
Ginger is often used to treat upset stomach, gas, nausea and diarrhea. It is widely used to prevent or treat nausea associated with motion sickness, pregnancy and cancer chemotherapy.
Ginger reduces all symptoms associated with motion sickness including dizziness, nausea, vomiting and cold sweating.
Ginger is an excellent expectorate, relieving congestion in the chest or sinuses. Ginger is widely used to treat the common cold, flu, headaches and even painful menstrual periods.
Recent studies have shown ginger helps lower cholesterol and prevent blood clotting and thus protecting against heart disease.
Ginger is used by traditional cultures as well as modern health care professionals to treat health problems associated with inflammation, including arthritis and ulcerative colitis.
Ginger is used as a food preservative and is antimicrobial (kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, protozoans, viruses) has been proven to kill e-coli.
Ginger is mineral rich (potassium, manganese, copper, magnesium) and has B vitamins, but its medicinal properties may come from its powerful essential oils and phenolic compounds.
Ginger’s fiery and pungent aroma makes it distinct and is highly valued throughout the Caribbean where it grows wildly in warm, fertile tropical areas. Much of the world’s supply of ginger comes from Jamaica.
How to Make Ginger Tea
I buy ginger root from the health food store and get a piece about the size of the palm of my hand. I determine the freshness by breaking off a piece. The skin should be tight and when you break a piece, it should snap off. If it’s weak, softer and doesn’t have a crisp, clean break, its old and should not be eaten.
Always wash ginger and although some people peel it, I leave the skin on without peeling it. I do cut off the gnarly, dark edges though.
Break or cut off a piece about the size of your thumb and slice it thin (see image above).
Here are two simple ways to make ginger tea:
1 – Put the ginger slices in a pot of water and turn up the heat until it boils. As soon as it boils, take it off the heat and let it cool for 5 – 10 minutes.
2 – Boil some water and add the hot water to your cup of ginger and let steep for 5 – 10 minutes.
I don’t strain the pieces of ginger out (I leave them in and chew on them when finished with the tea). Then, just before you drink it, while its still hot, squeeze in an entire lemon and add a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper and mix it up. Do not add honey or any sweetener. That will do the trick.
The more pepper you use, the hotter it is. It should be hot enough to make you break a sweat. You will also digest any food in your gut. I drink it hot, not warm, and make enough to last for 3-4 cups.
You can adjust the heat of it by how much ginger and pepper you use.
Drink it often to enhance digestion and strengthen your immune system so you can fend off illness. When you’re feeling like your coming down with something – you can blast it out of your system right away using this tea and drink as much as you can tolerate. If you have a cold or flu, it will clear your sinuses, make you sweat and you’ll feel better soon. I have found the more ginger tea, the better. In fact, I have not been sick in years.
Ginger may be contraindicated for people with gallstones or those taking anti coagulants. This information is not medical advice, should not replace the advice of your health care provider and is not used to diagnose, treat or cure anything. Use your intelligence, think logically, research what healthy people do and make your own decisions. Tropicana orange juice and Emergen-C do not prevent colds or flu. Taking responsibility for your health does. If you get sick, there is a plethora of natural remedies that are inexpensive, safer and many cases more effective than conventional medical approaches.
S. Chaisawadi, D. Thongbute, W. Methawiriyasilp,et al. Preliminary study of antimicrobial activities on medicinal herbs of Thai food ingredients ISHS Acta Horticulturae 675: III WOCMAP Congress on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants – Volume 1: Bioprospecting and Ethnopharmacology http://www.actahort.org/members/showpdf?booknrarnr=675_15
Ali BH, Blunden G, Tanira MO, Nemmar A. Some phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe): a review of recent research. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008;46(2):409-20.