Like ducklings following their mum, the cooler weather brings colds, coughs and flu in its wake. Don’t take your sore throat or cough to the pharmacy though. Relief may already be in your kitchen in the form of a knobbly stalk of ginger. This spicy stem is one of the oldest and most popular natural remedies in the world. And it’s great to ward off and treat colds and other winter ailments
In summer, we appreciate ginger in smoothies and iced teas. When it comes to winter, ginger is a staple in our cakes, desserts and warming curries. Mmmm, biryani and samosas – they warm you from the inside out.
But ginger’s benefits range far wider than the dining table. It has countless medicinal properties that have been recognised since ancient times.
In India and China, for example, ginger has been grown as a tonic root for more than 5000 years. (Today India remains the largest producer.)
Ancient Romans, impressed by its effects, imported it from the East 2000-plus years ago. After the fall of that great empire, ginger continued to be a highly sought-after commodity in Europe, and records show that, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the value of a pound (454 grams) of ginger was equivalent to the cost of a sheep.
Luckily, ginger is considerably cheaper and far more easily available than livestock today, but it’s value as a natural remedy remains.
Here are five reasons to consume more ginger this winter:
- Ginger contains anti-oxidants that boost your immune system.
Gingerols, the main bioactive compounds in ginger, are powerful anti-oxidants that help boost your body’s natural immune system. That’s useful defence when coughs and colds strike.
- Ginger eases a sore throat.
Winter coughs and sneezes spread germs faster than lightning. Our immune systems are constantly fighting off an ongoing barrage of infections that can leave us with an inflamed throat. Studies indicate that ginger appears to ease a painful throat, coughs, a tight chest and inflammation.
- Ginger helps relieve congestion.
Nasal congestion appears when flu, colds and infections cause the tissue lining the nose to swell, and breathing becomes difficult. Ginger tea helps relieve sinus congestion in three simple ways. First, taking extra fluids is part of the standard advice offered to patients with congestion by medical practitioners. This helps thin the mucus in your sinuses, and helps them drain. Second, inhaling steam also thins and loosens the mucus. Third, ginger’s principal active ingredients, gingerols, have a natural anti-inflammatory action that relieves swollen nasal membranes. And, according to a study conducted at the UCLA Center for East–West Medicine Studies, gingerols also suppress mucus production, helping to relieve your stuffy head.
- Ginger may help attack viruses.
We’re talking flu and other viral chest infections here. In his book Herbal Antivirals, award-winning author of 21 books on herbal medicines Stephen Harrod Buchner states ‘ginger’s antiviral actions include stimulating macrophage (types of white blood cell) activity that prevents viruses from attaching to cell walls, and helps destroy the virus.’
- Ginger stimulates the circulation and keeps you warm.
It’s also diaphoretic (it promotes sweating), which is good news if you have a fever.
Flu-fighting ginger brew
Drink four to six cups of this feisty brew a day to fight off colds or flu. Beware though, its bite will warm you from your head to your toes! Serve at room temperature.
In a blender, whizz together a few thumb-sized knobs of fresh ginger, one cup of water, half a whole lime (peeled and juiced), honey to taste, and a teeny pinch of cayenne. Strain into a jug.
Not convinced? Well, look at it this way. Although ginger, like any other food rich in anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, may not actually cure a cold or flu, it doesn’t hurt to pump up your body’s defences. This deliciously warming immunostimulant is a winner for both your taste buds and your health, especially during the season of colds and flu.
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Acknowledgements & Photo credits
Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.
- Bode, A and Dong, Z. The Amazing and Mighty Ginger, in Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Benzie, IFF, Wachtel-Galor, S, editors. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, Boca Raton, Florida. 2011. National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/
- Buhner, Stephen H. Herbal Antivirals. Storey Publishing, Massachusetts. 2013.
- Holford, Patrick. The New Optimum Nutrition Bible. Crossing Press, New York. 2004.
- UCLA Center for East–West Medicine Studies
- Photo courtesy of congerdesign / Pixabay.com