“Ginger is a workhorse herb,” says Mary Hardy, MD, a Los Angeles-based integrative physician. Tradition, scientific studies, and Hardy’s experience have shown that colds, nausea, joint and muscle pain, PMS, digestive issues, diabetes, and even sore feet respond to its healing effects. Ginger also enhances circulation, helps to prevent heart disease, and may help to prevent cancer. “It’s a good herb for self-care,” says Hardy. “It has a very good safety record, is easily available, and it’s not expensive.”
There are various ways to eat and drink ginger, from adding it to soups and stir-fries to juicing it with fruits and veggies. But for more concentrated benefits, Hardy has some other, lesser-known recommendations.
When buying fresh ginger, look for a root with smooth, taut skin, and a spicy aroma.
Brew a Therapeutic Ginger Tea
A good tea starts with really fresh ginger root. “Take a nice, plump herb that has a thin skin, is unmarked, and smells fresh when you break a little piece off,” Hardy says. “The root should be a nice, light, bright yellow, and should have the spice smell you’re used to, as well as a slight citrus after-smell.” Here’s how to brew:
- Add 1-2 tsp. freshly grated root to a cup of hot water.
- Steep 10 minutes.
- Strain, add a little honey, and start sipping.
When to drink ginger tea: For better digestion, drink it after a meal, and for everything else, drink it any time. However, in the case of nausea, especially morning sickness, supplements of ginger root powder may be better tolerated.
Make a Therapeutic Ginger Compress
Studies have shown that the combination of ginger and heat creates a synergistic effect that helps relieve joint and muscle pain, stomach pain, and bloating. To make a hot ginger compress, which can be applied a couple of times a day, Hardy recommends:
- Follow the tea-brewing directions, minus the honey, using two to three times as much ginger root per cup of hot water.
- Soak a small, 100% cotton cloth in the liquid, and apply it to the painful area.
- Cover the compress with plastic wrap and leave it in place until it starts to cool down. As an option, wrap it in a bandage, to keep the compress and plastic in place.
- The ginger liquid can be reheated and reused for another compress.
To relieve sore feet, soak them in the stronger version of the brew.
Use Ginger Aromatherapy
As an alternative to the compress, Hardy recommends diluting 2–3 drops of ginger essential oil with a palm-sized amount of organic olive oil or another neutral oil of your choice. Rub it on painful areas, such as joints, muscles, or, in the case of indigestion or menstrual cramps, on your tummy.
Take a Ginger Supplement
Supplements are a more concentrated therapeutic option. Hardy recommends capsules of dried ginger root. For nausea during pregnancy, take 1 gram per day. In other situations, doses can vary from 1–5 grams per day. For pain relief, a dose of 2–3 grams daily is generally effective.
Ginger extracts are more concentrated and require lower doses, depending upon the specific extract. To avoid stomach upset, ginger supplements are best taken with food.
Although a Western style of eating likely doesn’t contain enough ginger to deliver therapeutic benefits, fresh ginger in food does impact health. A study in Iran, published in the journal Nutrition, analyzed disease risk and ginger intake of more than 4,600 men and women. Researchers estimated that eating at least 2–4 grams of ginger daily could reduce risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.
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