Ginger is obtained from the plant Zingiber officinale. The term ‘ginger’ refers only to the edible part of the plant and not the entire plant itself. The edible part of the plant is called as the rhizome. This is a horizontal stem, which grows underground. Ginger was first grown in China. Today, cultivation of ginger takes place all over the world including India, West Africa, and the Caribbean islands.
The word ginger is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘stringa-vera’, which means horn-like body. This is because it resembles the antlers of a deer. This spice is mentioned in the writings of Confucius, the famous Chinese philosopher. It also finds a place in the Koran, which is the sacred book of the followers of Islam. It was one of the earliest known spices in Western Europe, with its use dating back to the ninth century A.D.
Consumption of ginger for medicinal purposes is primarily to aid in digestion. It contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium, potassium, minerals as well as vitamins A, B complex, and C. Consumption of ginger encourages the gall bladder to release bile, which stimulates digestion. This increases the assimilation of nutrients from the food consumed. Besides helping digestion, ginger is also used to give symptomatic relief from stomach cramps, diarrhoea, and bloating caused due to gas.
Ginger gives relief from the nausea associated with morning sickness during pregnancy. It can also be used to treat nausea caused due to chemotherapy or seasickness. Ginger contains the volatile oils zingerone, shoagoles, and gingerols, which give it its characteristic odour and flavour. Laboratory tests conducted prove that the gingerols display analgesic and anti-bacterial properties.
Ginger also has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to relieve pain in the joints caused due to rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. To relieve arthritic pain, ginger is used externally, either in a bath or as a compress. To prepare a ginger bath, add a small quantity of boiling water to a slice or two of fresh ginger. Cover the vessel to prevent the volatile oils from evaporating into the atmosphere. After around ten minutes, add this mixture to your regular bath water.
Ginger can lower cholesterol levels in the body, which decreases high blood pressure and minimises the risk of a stroke. It also has blood thinning properties, which reduce the chances of heart disease.
Consumption of ginger makes the body feel warm and promotes perspiration. This property is especially useful when a person is suffering from a fever, since perspiration causes a fever to break faster. Consuming ginger is also beneficial if you have a cough, cold or a sore throat. The best way to consume ginger is in the form of a ginger tea. Boil two cups of water with two tablespoons of grated fresh ginger for around ten minutes. Strain the mixture into your cup. Add a teaspoon of honey and some lemon for taste.
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