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Ginger 101

Ginger’s warm, pungent and peppery bite is an international hit. The ginger rhizome is featured in Indian cuisine as spicy masala chai, in Japan as pickled gari (the pink stuff that goes with sushi) and in Jamaica as a refreshing ginger beer. And while no one really knows the exact origin of Zingiber officinale, the biological variability of related species in Southeast Asia makes that region the best guess. Ginger rhizome has also been a staple in both Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine, traditional practices that are thousands of years old.

Ginger loves heat and humidity, this is why it flourishes in subtropical or tropical climates like Florida and Hawaii here in the States. In these humid climates, you will often see colorful ornamental ginger blooms in front yards and parks, and these are almost always botanical cousins of the ginger we use in tea. The ginger that is traditionally used for motion sickness, stomach upset and cramping is Zingiber officinale.*

Growing this kind of ginger requires a humid climate, dappled sunlight and a location that won’t freeze during the winter. It’s easiest to start from a rhizome that already has a bud, or “eye,” visible. From this eye, green shoots will sprout, eventually reaching about 4 feet in height and blooming with small red and yellow flowers. As long as the soil is kept damp and well fed in these climates, the ginger should grow rather easily. The Sri Lankan climate is perfect for ginger, which is why we purchase ours there from a Fair Trade Certified co-op.

Traditionally, ginger has been used in Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian healing traditions. It can be prepared in foods, combined with honey as a tea, infused into vinegars or even used topically as a poultice (the practice of creating a paste out herbs and applying it topically). In Chinese medicine, the rhizome has been used to help with digestion, stomach upset and nausea for more than 2,000 years.* During the holiday season, we find ourselves frequently reaching for our Ginger Aid® tea post meals. Like other carminatives (herbs that relieve indigestion and gas), ginger is also helpful for the digestive spasms that can be felt after a heavy meal.*

During the holiday season, many folks enjoy ginger in cocktails or sweet treats, but we’d suggest seeking out healthier ginger options with low or no sugar and perhaps sipping Licorice Root tea if you’re craving something sweet.

Our Ginger Aid tea has slightly sweet and lemony notes from a blend of blackberry, stevia and lemon myrtle leaves, which complement the prevailing taste of pungent and spicy ginger. If you’re more of a ginger purist, we also have a simple Ginger tea that delivers the classic, pleasantly spicy and pungent taste. We love bringing either of these teas along for winter walks, as ginger is recommended to get the circulation going and free the body from that stagnant winter feeling.*

Ginger’s plant power is no secret, as it’s been used for thousands of years to keep people well and vibrant! We hope you’ll try and enjoy incorporating more ginger into your foods, teas and winter rituals.

Posted in Plants on December 17, 2014