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Monday, October 01, 2007

Ginger - Part 2 of 2

The following is excerpted from Dr. Leung's book, Chinese Healing Foods and Herbs.  This continues the last week's article on ginger.

In Chinese medicine, ginger is used either fresh or dried.  There is no problem for Westerners in identifying fresh ginger since it is the same fresh ginger root used in cooking.  However, the dried ginger or powder on Western kitchen shelves is not the same as the dried ginger (gan jiang) used in Chinese medicine.  For the latter, the rootstock from a different variety of the ginger plant is used.  Hence the Western dried ginger spice should not be considered an equivalent of the Chinese dried ginger used medicinally.

The first recorded use of ginger in Chinese medicine dates back at least 2,000 years.  It is described in the Shennong Herbal as being of medium quality, meaning that it could be toxic after long term use.  Traditionally, ginger (fresh or dried) is considered to have warming, diaphoretic, and antinausea and anti-emitic properties.  It is also said to dissipate phlegm and stimulate the stomach and intestines.  The more common medicinal uses of ginger include treatment of the common cold, nausea, vomiting , wheezing, coughing, nasal congestion, abdominal distention, diarrhea, and adverse effects of aconite and certain other drugs and foods (e.g., crabs and fish).

Perhaps the most widespread folk medicinal use of ginger, in the form of candied or preserved ginger, is in treating motion sickness.  For this purpose, a small piece of ginger is chewed and eaten as often as necessary during a car or boat ride.  I well remember when I was growing up in Hong Kong, our relatives visiting us from the villages used to come armed with preserved ginger and Tiger Balm or White Flower Oil.  Buses used to reek of these medicines.

Although fresh ginger is sometimes used externally along with alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) to treat hemorrhoids and skin sores and boils, its long-term internal use is said to aggravate these conditions instead. Its use is also not recommended for pregnant women, even though they may experience nausea and vomiting.  

The usual internal daily dose for both fresh and dried ginger is 3 to 9 g. (0.1 to 0.3 oz.).  Fresh ginger is generally used in the form of expressed juice, a mash , or boiled in water.  Dried ginger is usually used boiled in water.

The traditional uses of ginger described above have persisted for centuries.  Other uses of ginger described in more modern herbals or Chinese medical or pharmaceutical journals include treatment of skin peeling from the hand, hemorrhoids, baldness, rheumatic pain, painful intestinal hernia, stomach and duodenal ulcers, malaria, acute bacillary dysentery, acute orchitis (inflammation of the testis), and drug poisoning (e.g., aconite and rhododendron).  Some of these uses are reportedly quite effective, especially for malaria, rheumatic pain, and drug poisoning.  The effectiveness of ginger in treating motion sickness has recently been confirmed in The Lancet, a well-known British medical journal.  

Many remedies based on ginger are found in Chinese herbals, both classical and modern.  The following are a few examples.  

To treat coughing, wheezing, and excessive phlegm due to colds, a popoular Cantonese remedy combines the use fo ginger and black beans.  A piece of fresh mature ginger, about 120 g. (4 oz.), is crushed with the flat side of a meat cleaver and placed in a hot frying pan with a small amount of black beans (30 g. or 1 oz.).  The mixture is stir-fried until the ginger turns yellowish brown.  Two cups of water are added and the mixture is boiled down to about one cup.  The liquid, which is pungent, is drunk while hot before retiring.  It will cause copious perspiration, and symptoms are said to disappear by the next day.

To treat weakness after childbirth, especially after the first child, fresh ginger is stewed with sweet vinegar, pigs' feet, and whole eggs.  The meat, eggs, ginger, and soup are all eaten usually over a period of several weeks.  Young ginger roots are generally selected for this purpose, because old roots are too pungent.  This remedy is popular among Cantonese.

For treating long-term unhealed sores and hemorrhoids, ginger, with skin, is cut into large slices, covered with alum and roasted dry.  It is then ground into a fine powder and applied directly to the affected areas.  This powder is also used to treat toothache by applying it directly on the aching tooth.

To treat baldness, a folk remedy from Guizhou calls for mashing fresh ginger, warming the mash, and spreading it directly on the bald area.  Two to three applications are said to do the trick.  I wonder.

Availability: Fresh ginger is sold in Chinese groceries and is also available in many Western supermarkets.  

This information is excerpted from Dr. Albert Leung’s book, Chinese Healing Foods and Herbs. This publication includes further information and home remedies using ginger as well as over 45 other herbs.

Learn more about ginger and read further about Dr. Leung and his writings! Visit www.earthpower.com.

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