Ginger is probably one of the world’s favorite medicines and cooking ingredients. A perennial herb native to China and India, ginger root has been used for centuries in Asian cooking and for its therapeutic properties. Its many different varieties are cultivated throughout Asia, Australia, South America, Jamaica and the U.S. Its delicate green leaves, resembling baby spinach, can be eaten in salads, but the roots of the plant, called rhizomes, are where the benefits of ginger root lie.
Aids in Digestion – Ginger is perhaps the best herb for digestion. It helps break down proteins to rid the stomach and intestines of gas. It also aids in the digestion of fatty foods.
Alleviates 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.
Treats 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.
Lowers LDL Cholesterol – Studies demonstrate that ginger can lower cholesterol levels by reducing 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.
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Whenever possible, choose fresh ginger over the dried form of the spice since it is not only superior in flavor but contains higher levels of gingerol as well as ginger’s active protease (its anti-inflammatory compound). Fresh ginger root is sold in the produce section of markets. When purchasing fresh ginger root, look for a root with a firm, smooth skin, free of mold and as few twists and joints as possible. If it is wrinkled, it is drying out and will be woody inside.
Ginger is generally available in two forms, either young or mature. Mature ginger, the more widely available type, has a tough skin that requires peeling while young ginger, usually only available in Asian markets, does not need to be peeled. To remove the skin from fresh mature ginger, peel with a paring knife. The ginger can then be sliced, minced or julienne. The taste that ginger imparts to a dish depends upon when it is added during the cooking process. Added at the beginning, it will lend a subtler effect.
By combining the complementary flavors of sweet ginger with the pungency of garlic not only adds a wonderful taste, their anti-viral qualities are an excellent cure for colds and flu.
Brewed as a tea, it induces sweating, which helps fevers run their course. It also tones and helps boost the immune system. For a cup of fresh ginger tea, steep about five or six thin slices of ginger root to hot water. Add lemon and sweetener if desired. Fresh ginger can be stored in the refrigerator in an airy container for up to three weeks if it is left unpeeled. Stored unpeeled in the freezer, it will keep for up to six months.