Ginger: Nature’s Medicine Chest

When Tim O’Connor, owner of Olana Organic Farm, said he had beautiful, young ginger popping up on his three-acre permaculture farm, I told him I had done a story on it in the Oct 26, 2011, issue of MidWeek Kaua’i.

But after reading the book Ginger: Common Spice & Wonder Drug by Paul Schulick that O’Connor loaned me, I learned that ginger has been used medicinally for 5,000 years, and I was persuaded that the remarkable spice needed to be revisited purely for its medicinal properties.

Please consult with your doctor before using ginger to treat life-threatening health conditions.

What’s growing now: Avocado, basil (Thai, Italian, lemon), beets, breadfruit, carrots, celery, chard (Swiss, rainbow), chives, cilantro, fennel, ginger, green beans, green onions, kale (four types), lime (Tahitian), mint, Napa cabbage, pak choi, lemon (Meyer), lettuce, papaya (Sunrise), parsley (Italian, curly), pea shoots, tangelo, thyme, tomato (cherry), turmeric, turnips (red and white).

YELLOW GINGER

Digestion: One gram of zingibain, one of the 477 compounds found in ginger, can tenderize 20 pounds of meat. Called the “Alka Seltzer of the Roman Empire” by award-winning cookbook author Bruce Cost, ginger aids in enzyme-enhanced protein digestion, protects against ulcers, reduces gastric juices, stimulates digestion, provides pro-biotic support, and is an effective aid to counter nausea and vomiting.

Anti-inflammatory: Superior to vitamin E, ginger’s most pronounced effect is its ability to reverse inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a major risk factor underlying aging and age-related diseases including arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, many cancers and Alzheimer’s disease.

As an antioxidant, ginger helps neutralize free radicals, which are responsible for the inflammatory process.

In Denmark, two clinical trials showed ginger to reverse arthritic symptoms, and produce better relief of pain, swelling and stiffness than conventional medicine, with no adverse side effects. Ginger did not cure arthritis, and symptoms returned without the use of ginger.

Heart: Researchers at Cornell Medical School reported that ginger inhibits a blood-thickening enzyme as well as aspirin. Ginger’s aspirin-like properties protect against platelet aggregation, strengthen the cardiac muscle, improve circulation and lower serum cholesterol.

Cancer: As an immunity booster, ginger helps to prevent cancer and can extend longevity in a cancer patient. Studies in Montreal and Tokyo concluded that ginger may enhance immunity. Platelets spread cancer by aggregating around a cancer cell, and release growth factors that enhance tumor cell growth. Ginger may prevent the spread of cancer, and it reduces nausea induced by chemotherapy.

Parasites: Studies show that ginger is an antibacterial that kills pathogenic species such as E. coli and salmonella while stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria. Ginger’s antiparasitic effects kill worms, such as anisakis, a parasitic infection acquired through consumption of sushi or raw fish. It’s no wonder that ginger is traditionally eaten with sushi.

Compounds: The compounds in ginger contribute to its antiviral and antifungal effects and alleviate a host of health conditions such as the asthma, the common cold, fever, chills, edema, migraines, pain and sore throat.

Dose: If ginger is old, shriveled, moldy or doused with chemicals including fungicides, fumigants, mercury compounds and chlorinated hydrocarbons, it will not yield the same values as fresh, organically grown ginger.

Medicinal benefits are best if consumed raw. Take a minimum of 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger per day. For a digestive aid, add freshly grated ginger to water no warmer than 160 degrees, and drink at mealtime. For nausea, consume three hours before you’ll need it, and for overall health, enjoy ginger in the morning and throughout the day. The warming sensation of ginger may be uncomfortable for some if consumed on an empty stomach.

Olana Organic Farm produce can be found at:

Farmers Market: Kilauea Neighborhood Center (Thursday at 4:30 p.m), Namahana Farmers Market by Banana Joe’s (Saturday 9 a.m.-1 p.m.).

For weekly custom orders, call 346-5936, or email grow.kauai@gmail.com. Olana Organic Farm is donating produce to the 2012 Garden Island Range & Food Festival.

Marta Lane is a Kaua’i-based food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.

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