This will certainly be neither the first or last article written on the benefits of ginger root; it’s been a nearly universal medicinal remedy and tasty addition to food for millennia. I’ll provide an overview of the chemistry of ginger, its uses, and a recipe for fresh ginger tea that’s meant to be used to treat a variety of maladies. The recipe is provided first so people who are less interested in the details can take the practical information and go.
Fresh Ginger Juice Tea
- At least 1 piece of fresh ginger about the size of a medium-large carrot (or smaller pieces adding up the the equivalent)
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne (or cinnamon)
- Juice of 1 lemon or lime (optional)
- strong blender or food processor
- glass jar for storage
- fine mesh strainer
- Chop the ginger into rough pieces, about 1″ and place into blender or food processor with about 1/2-1 c. water. (I don’t actually skin the ginger here. You’ll be filtering it out anyway.)
- Process/blend into a pulp.
- Place a piece of cheesecloth (I double-layer it) into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl.
- Pour the ginger pulp into the cheesecloth and let the juice strain. Pick up the cheesecloth and squeeze hard to get as much of the juice out as possible. (Using about 1 c. water, I ended up with about 1.5 c. fresh ginger juice.) Don’t discard the leftover plant matter.
- Combine about 1/4 c. juice with 12 oz. hot water, 1 tbsp honey, lime or lemon juice, and cayenne or cinnamon. Consume this tea every 3 hours when ill (either cold/flu, diarrhea, nausea, or just a general run-down feeling) or at the onset of cold/flu symptoms.
- Do not substitute dried ginger. It will not be as effective. This will be discussed in the details below.
- With the remaining plant matter, you can create an infusion to extract the remaining ginger juice you couldn’t squeeze out. Put the leftover plant matter into 1 c. hot water and steep covered for 4-8 hours (overnight is good). Then use this like the ginger juice in the above recipe to get more cups of tea out of the same ginger root.
- If you have an herb or cider press, you can use this to squeeze the ginger root.
Medicinal Properties of Fresh Ginger
As an Antiviral
What makes ginger such an effective antiviral, particularly for upper respiratory viruses? The volatile compounds (the organic chemicals that can evaporate at room temperature and/or dissolve in water) inhibit the attachment of viruses to the cell walls, inhibits hemagglutinin (a glycoprotein that is found on the surface of influenza viruses and helps “glue” them to the surface of target cells), and inhibits viral proteases (which stops viral replication).
Other Medicinal Properties
Ginger has also been identified as
- Analgesic (painkiller) — better than ibuprofen
- Antibacterial (See the list below for specific bacteria ginger is active against.)
- Antifungal (both topical and internal)
- Antispasmodic (which is why it can help settle your stomach)
- Hypotensive (lowers blood pressure)
- Immune Stimulant
- Antitussive (anti-cough) with effects comparable to codeine
Specific Bacteria, Fungi, and Parasites Affected by Ginger
This is only a partial list.
- E. Coli
- Aspergillus niger (a mold that is a common food contaminant)
- Candida albicans and candida glabrata (causes of candidiasis)
- Listeria (food poisoning)
- Shigella (causes diarrhea and dysentery)
- Staphylococcus Aureus
- Toxoplasma gondii (the “cat lady” disease)
There’s very little issue with ginger in humans, unless for some reason you have an allergy. The only contraindication I could find was a caution against its excessive use in pregnant women due to an emmenagogue effect (induces/hastens menstrual flow), though there’s no reason pregnant women can’t have some ginger in food or tea. The caution was against heavy doses. In trying to find the true source of this caution, I failed to locate a single clinical case of a miscarriage or other fetal issue due to ginger consumption. It seems the caution is passed down more as folk wisdom since ginger has sometimes been used to encourage menstruation in general, and the warning was extrapolated from there.
In fact, smaller doses of ginger tea can help with morning sickness and nausea, and this recommendation is abundant across quite a few sources.
Brief Chemistry of Ginger
There are hundreds of active compounds in ginger that have been identified, but gingerols (a relative of capsaicin, the chemical which gives peppers their spiciness) are the main active compounds medicinally. When the ginger is dried, gingerols are converted to shagaols, which are also spicy in taste, but do not have the same medicinal effects. This is why the fresh ginger is called for above.
- Buhner, S. Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging Resistant and Epidemic Viral Infections(2013). Storey Publishing. IBSN: 978-1-61212-385-1
- Choi, W. et al. Antiparasitic effects of Zingiber officinale (ginger) extract against Toxoplasma gondii. Journal of Applied Biomedicine 11 no. 1 (2013):pp. 15-26
- Chrubasik, S. et al., A Comprehensive Review on the ginger effect and efficacy profiles. European Journal of Integrative Medicine 1, no. 4 (2009)
- Denyer, C.V. et al., Isolation of antirhinoviral sesquiterpenes from ginger Journal of Natural Products 57, no. 5 (1994). pp. 658-662
- Buhner, S. Herbal Antibiotics: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria
(1999). Storey Publishing. IBSM: 1-58017-148-6