Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

An ancient Indian proverb states that everything good is found in ginger. We wouldn’t go quite that far — it’s certainly no substitute for electricity, friendship or chocolate frozen yogurt — but we have to admit, there’s quite a bit you can do with this versatile healing herb. Besides putting the zip in your stir-fry, here’s how to use ginger to treat a number of common ailments.

Should Ginger be in Your Medicine Chest? What the Leaves Say: Here are the ins and outs of using ginger tea, courtesy of our resident tea leaf reader Herbala:

Try Ginger if: Your stomach is sloshing and churning like an overstuffed washing machine. Whether you’ve got heartburn, abdominal cramps or a queasy stomach, a soothing cup of ginger is the herbalist’s stomach remedy of choice. Ginger contains compounds similar to the digestive enzymes found in your digestive tract, which may help you digest a heavy, protein-rich meal more easily. Ginger is particularly effective for motion sickness: In fact, studies show it’s even more effective than the prescription drug Dramamine. To head off motion sickness, most herbalists recommend ginger capsules, sold at any health food store. The standard dosage is 1500 milligrams, taken about 30 minutes before you hit the road, air or high seas.

You’re eating for two — but can barely keep down enough food for one. Ginger is a time-tested remedy for morning sickness; generations of expectant moms have found that a cup of ginger tea first thing in the morning can make breakfast a whole lot more appealing. If you’d prefer something cold, a glass of ginger ale also delivers the herb’s stomach-soothing compounds. (Just read the label to make sure your brand has no artificial flavorings — if it does, it probably contains little or no real ginger.)

You watch HDL and LDL the way other people watch ABC and NBC. If you’re waging your own personal war on cholesterol, here’s another weapon to add to your arsenal: Studies suggest that ginger can be useful in keeping cholesterol levels under control. Scientists still have a lot to learn about how and why ginger works, but in the meantime, you might want to try sipping a few cups of ginger tea throughout the day, in addition to exercising, watching your diet and following your doctor’s advice. If you’re concerned about cholesterol, a remedy this cheap, safe and pleasant to use is worth trying.

Cold and flu germs have declared open season, and you’ve got a target on your back. Chinese herbalists have used ginger for generations to treat colds and flu, and modern studies confirm that ginger helps kill the influenza virus and helps the immune system wage war on infection. If you feel a cold coming on, try sipping on ginger tea throughout the day.

All your bills are due on the same day — and it’s still not the worst day of the month. For many women, scraping the bottom of the checking account is a walk in the park compared to suffering with menstrual cramps. If monthly misery has you down, Herbala recommends a hot cup of ginger tea.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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