The Herb of the month GINGER- The Universal MedicineJaideep Nagrath
Ginger extracts have been extensively studied for a broad range of biological activities including antibacterial, anticonvulsant, analgesic, antiulcer, gastric ant secretory, antitumor, antifungal, antispasmodic, antiallergenic, and other activities. Gingerols have been shown to be inhibitors of prostaglandin biosynthesis. Scientific studies show that gingerol, one of the primary pungent principles of ginger, helps counter liver toxicity by increasing bile secretion. Ginger has potent anti-microbial and anti-oxidant (food preservative) qualities. A recent study, furthering ginger’s reputation as a stomachic, shows that acetone and methanol extracts of ginger strongly inhibits gastric ulceration. In traditional medicine, removing toxin is one of the major uses of ginger.
It is given as an antidote to poisoning from food, from drugs and from other herbs. This was recognized by physicians and herbalists in the West, too. Peter Holmes reminds us of this in his classic text, The Energetic of Western Herbs, which has an excellent review of the true nature, properties and uses of hundreds of herbs. He quotes Henry Abraham (1794) who states that ginger is a corrective of many medicines (which) taketh away their malice. Diagnostic elements of ginger are Essential oil, Oleo-resinous matter, Gingiberene, gingerol and shogaol.
It is the most sattvic of spices is known as Ginger in English and Sonth or Adrakh in the traditional Indian texts. According to Ayurveda, it is Katu-rasam (bitter taste), Ushna-veeryam (hot potency), Vata-kapha-har-prabhavam (blemish correcting effect on air and phlegm), Katu-vipakam (pungent after-effect), Laghu-snigdha-gunam (mild and unctuous property) and is valuable as a suppressant and remedy for Kapha and Vatta disorders. It is esteemed as the most sattvic of all spices. It is called Vishava-bheshaj(the universal medicine) and Maha-aushadhi (wide-spectrum medicine).
A very important concept in Ayurveda is that of Agni (the digestive and metabolic fire). If food and other inputs are properly burnt up, processed and digested, they will not create the toxin called Ama, which is destroyed by Agni improved by ginger. In traditional Chinese medicine, removing toxin is one of the major uses of ginger. It is given as an antidote to poisoning from food, from drugs and from others herbs. Vata is suppressed by sweet taste, sweet metabolite and Kapha is due to its hot nature. Ayurveda considers ginger a pungent herb par excellence, it does not have the concentrated irritant pungency of chilli, which can sometimes be too strong. Yet it is irritant enough to challenge the muscle and blood vessels and wake them up. It also challenges the internal organs, particularly the digestive system, where ginger is said to awaken the agni, or metabolic fire. Symptoms of low agni include poor digestion, poor absorption, poor circulation, wind, constipation, poor resistance, a tendency to cold and influenza, congestion, body odors and obesity (all latter because there is insufficient fire to balance the water).
All of these problems are precisely those which ginger treats. An imported concept in Ayurveda is that of Agni, or digestive and metabolic fire. If food and other inputs are properly burnt up, processed and digested, they will not create toxin, called ‘Ama’, which collect in deposits around the body. The furring up of the arteries with cholesterol is a kind of ‘Ama’ deposit, as is arthritic deteriorations of joints. When agniis improved by ginger, it destroys ‘Ama’. The poisons and digested wastes are removed. Digestive symptoms such as nausea which are the result of toxins are treated and in the long term, conditions
such as atherosclerosis, allergies and rheumatic problems are prevented. It greatly inhibits the bacteria in the colon that work away at any undigested sugars, creating gases. But at the same time it is now known that a more important action is to create more complete digestion and absorption of foods further up in the digestive channel. It can be seen to bring blood to the stomach walls and that it has been proved to be what is known as a chola gogue which means it stimulates the flow of bile; this is certainly an advantage in the digestion of fats and the elimination of waste. It helps absorption of the other constituents. Ginger acts as an aromatic, carminative, stimulant, sialagogue and digestive and is used with success in nervous diseases and as an Aphrodisiac. It relieves gas and cramps in the abdomen, including menstrual cramps due to cold.
TRADITIONAL USES OF GINGER IN INDIAN CULTURE
Ginger, in its ancient references, has been called Maha-aushidhi (a Great Medicine) and used as a carminative and anti-fermenting medicine. Ginger is esteemed for its flavor, pungency, aroma and medicinal value. Even Greek physicians like Galen, Aviceena, Pomose etc. have been using Ginger, in various forms, to rectify the imbalancement of morbid functions of body, treatment of paralysis caused by phlegmatic imbalance, treatment of gout and gouty arthritis and even as an aphrodisiac.
The calorific value of Ginger has been rated 67. Fresh ginger has been used for cold-induced disease, nausea, asthma, cough, colic, heart palpitation, swellings, dyspepsia, loss of appetite, and rheumatism. Ginger is useful for taste and appetite as a food-seasoning spice for all kinds of foods and can be added to tea. In nineteenth century India, one English writer observed that a popular remedy for cough and asthma consisted of the juice of fresh ginger with a little juice of fresh garlic, mixed with honey. Ginger in paste form with little water can also be applied locally as a pain-reliever in headache and toothache. A paste of powdered dried ginger was applied to the temples to relieve headache. To allay nausea, fresh ginger was mixed with a little honey, topped off with a pinch of burnt peacock feathers.
The use of Ginger as a regular spice reduces the risk of indigestion, flatulence, dyspepsia, hyperacidity etc. caused due to heavy intake of non-vegetarian and fried fatty foods. Ginger strained after boiling with water, and by adding fresh lemon juice and a pinch of rock salt can also be used as an appetite stimulant, taken just before meals. This recipe cleans the tongue, throat, increases the appetite and produces an agreeable sensation. Ginger mixed with honey and hot water, can also be used as an excellent remedy for non-specific coughs and colds. Ginger boiled in water with fennel seeds and mixed with honey is an excellent diaphoretic mixture which increases sweating to reduce fever in influenza. It also acts as an expectorant in bronchitis, asthma, whooping cough and phthisis. Half teaspoonful of dried Ginger powder mixed with honey and taken with half-boiled egg once daily at night for a month will tone up the sex stimulating centers and helps to cure impotency, premature ejaculation and spermatorrhoea. A similar recipe of Ginger added with boiled milk, also helps to cure female-frigidity.
MODERN RESEARCHES ON USES OF GINGER
Digestive System Actions: Ginger is a classic tonic for the digestive tract. Classified as a bitter aromatic, it stimulates digestion and keeps the intestinal muscles toned. This action eases the transport of substances through the digestive tract, lessening irritation to the intestinal walls. Ginger may protect the stomach from the damaging effect of alcohol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen) and may help prevent ulcers.
Allergies and asthma:
Dried ginger can help in the management of allergies and asthma by offsetting the effect of the platelet-activating factor (PAP). PAP initiates inflammatory processes in allergy and asthma. It was found to become more active after changes in blood chemistry that occur in a high-fat diet.
Atherosclerosis and high cholesterol: (Arthritis, bursitis, fibrocystic breasts, lymphedema, and pain)
Ginger inhibits the production of immune-system components called cytokines. These chemicals are believed to create a long-term tendency to ward inflammation. Ginger also stimulates blood circulation. These effects of ginger are taken advantage of in treating a number of disorders marked by swelling and pain, such as arthritis. Studies have also shown that ginger can relieve pain without the side effects typically found when using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and steroids.
Research is inconclusive as to how ginger acts to alleviate nausea. Ginger may act directly on the gastrointestinal system or it may affect the part of the central nervous system that causes nausea. It may be that ginger exerts a dual effect in reducing nausea and vomiting.
Colds, influenza and sore throat:
Ginger contains a chemical called zingibain that dissolves parasites and their eggs. In laboratory trials, ginger extracts have been shown to kill the anisakid worm (a parasite occasionally found in raw fish) within sixteen hours. Ginger tea is useful as a supplement in treating schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease also known as bilharzia, bilharziosis or snail fever.
In a nutshell, wonderful multipurpose recipes can also be self-created with Ginger for a wonderful cure of any ailment. For regular use, the Vedic texts suggest a dose of 1/2 to 2 grams of dried Ginger powder with honey two to three times daily. Majority of Ayurvedic remedies contain ginger in one form or another as an effective portion of the complex herbal formulations. It is said that Ginger alone can make even the illiterate person as a successful physician.