My traveling companion, ginger has been used in various forms—pickled, made into tea, or candied—to soothe many bouts of altitude and motion sickness.
For weeks, I lived on a boat on the Sepik river, which meanders through the lush tropical forests of Papua New Guinea. Edging towards my final destination—a sight of apocalyptic proportion—the serpentine river was no match for the tempestuous Bismarck Sea. The boat climbed waves that resemble the formidable snow-capped peaks of the Hindu Kush—evoking numinous memories of my expeditions—some too deep and mysterious for words.
I can always depend on the holistic simplicity of ginger to tame my inner travel sickness. My mind was quiet and calm, not shaken by the dance of Mother Nature.
Ginger is a root or rhizome and belongs to the Zingiberaceae family. This flowering plant is native to tropical India and Southeastern Asia. Ginger is closely related to cardamom, galangal, and turmeric – as well as the banana, an unlikely distant cousin. The Romans first imported ginger from China. In the mid-16th century, Europe was receiving more than 2000 tonnes of ginger per year from the East Indies. Today, the top commercial producers of ginger now include Jamaica, India, Fiji, Indonesia, Australia, and soon, parts of Papua New Guinea (hence my Sepik River agricultural exploration).
Ginger has a long and honored tradition in folk medicine, is revered for its healing properties. The potent antioxidant compound in Ginger had long colonized our home. As a little girl growing up in Guyana, my grandfather and I planted ginger. It was essential to the Ayurvedic spice remedies we made for our villagers – it's revered as the universal medicine.
Packed with Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, manganese, and other minerals, ginger contains active compounds including gingerol, zingerone, and shogaol. The volatile oils in ginger lend to its unique woodsy, floral scent with a warm, spicy bite.
With a versatile flavor, ginger is appetizing in the piquant dishes of Asia as it is in Western confectionery, desserts, and drinks. How about incorporating ginger into your everyday lifestyle for digestive health and total body and mind wellness?
Whether pickled, candied, or juiced placed in capsules, tea, tinctures, or oils, ginger helps quell surges of nausea due to morning sickness, food poisoning, and motion sickness, including vomiting, dizziness, and seasickness. Ginger is available in soft capsule form for those who find that candy irritates the mouth.
A recent study found that ginger might be helpful in further reducing or eliminating nausea and vomiting during and after cancer chemotherapy.
In Ayurvedic medicine, ginger increases your Agni or "digestive fire." The increase in Agni warms you from the inside and release toxins in the form of sweat. Ginger helps with the digestion, absorption, and assimilation of food and is an excellent carminative, which helps relieve bloating and gas as well as soothe the nerves in the stomach.
Ginger is a powerful antioxidant. It contains a potent compound called gingerol, which is the substance responsible for alleviating joint and muscle pain. A recent study from the University of Miami concluded that ginger extract could one day be a substitute for NSAIDs.
Selecting and Storing Ginger
Many grocery stores carry fresh ginger. Store fresh, unpeeled ginger in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Fresh ginger is more superior in flavor and contains higher levels of the active component gingerol. Young ginger is paler and thin-skinned and doesn't necessarily need peeling, while mature ginger has a tough skin and requires peeling. The root should look fresh, smooth and firm with no signs of decay or wrinkling. If you have dried ground ginger spice, keep it in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark, dry place.
Gari - Japanese Pickled Ginger
Pickled ginger, or sushi ginger, is called Gari, or shin-shoga no amazu-zuki in Japanese. Pickled ginger has many uses outside being enjoyed alongside sushi:
Chop it up for stir-fries, pour the brine into cold tuna or potato salad, and whisk it into salad dressings and beverages. I incorporate a few slices into my gym water bottle together with a couple of slices of lemon.
Peel and slice very thin, four-inch ginger. In a medium jar with lid, combine sliced ginger, add 1 red radish, sliced (optional for color) 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 4 tablespoons rice vinegar.
Stir and make sure the ginger is submerged. Leave at room temperature for about 1 hour, and discard the radish or toss it into a salad. Refrigerate for up to 2 to 3 weeks.
Homemade Ginger Tea
In the winter months, try a cup or two of warm ginger tea in the morning or before a meal. During the summer season, try sipping ginger tea, warm or iced throughout the day. I personally let my ginger tea sit covered overnight on the counter because I like it strong with a sweet bite.
To make ginger tea, thinly slice and peel 4-inch piece of fresh ginger. Add 6 cups of water to a 3 Quart pot. Bring it to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the ginger tea and store in a glass jar. Sweeten to taste.
Images: Going native in Papua New Guinea while scouting a new
ginger source, cooking with local tribes, teaching in schools and yes, the middle image is an actual village hospital. Last row, images of the Hindu Kush, and me edging closer to Moksha.