Ginger is an essential ingredient in the global culinary culture and is regarded as a medicinal ingredient with health benefits. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners explained how to promote self-immunity and alleviate symptoms of COVID during the pandemic by using ginger.
When people talk about ginger, they are usually referring to fresh ginger. Fresh ginger is the rhizome of Zingiber officinale, which contains special ginger oil and gingerols. It is a low-calorie, high-dietary fiber, potassium-rich food with small amounts of water-soluble vitamins. In Chinese medicine, ginger is prepared into dried ginger, which is dried under the sun or at low temperatures. Ginger has been used medicinally for thousands of years. The medical benefits of dried ginger are described in the classic book of Chinese medicine, the “Classic of the Materia Medica.”
The Advantages of Ginger
Promotes Sweating and Warms the Body
In TCM, fresh ginger has warm characteristics, so consuming more ginger or drinking ginger soup can dispel cold, increase body temperature, and warm our bodies on frigid days.
TCM finds that most food carries “cold” or “warm” characteristics. Food can be classified into three categories: cold, warm, and neutral. Eating cold foods will bring a cooling effect to the body; when one eats warm foods, there will be a warming effect. Therefore, the human body can be balanced by warm and cold foods.
Ginger contains gingerol which can reduce the inflammatory response and ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Loosens Phlegm and Stops Coughing
Ginger’s warm characteristics can warm the lungs, loosen phlegm, and stop coughing. Symptoms of a common cold include feeling cold, having a runny nose with clear nasal mucosa, and coughing with solid white phlegm. You should drink ginger soup to dispel the pathogenic cold. However, if you have throat and respiratory tract inflammation symptoms, you should avoid using ginger as it may worsen the cold.
Promotes Digestion and Intestinal Peristalsis
Gingerols can promote intestinal peristalsis (the involuntary wave-like movement that pushes material through your GI tract), help food digestion, and promote nutrient absorption. In recent years, ginger has been widely believed to be able to inhibit colorectal cancer in Japan, and this is based on the observation and research that ginger can promote intestinal function.
Lowers Blood Pressure
In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2021, herbs and spices, including ginger, in the average American diet were found to lower blood pressure in adults at risk for cardiometabolic disease. In China, a foot bath with ginger has long been used to lower blood pressure.
Anti-Aging and Clears Free Radicals
The effect of antioxidants in ginger is much higher than in many vegetables and fruits. In addition, it can reduce damage inflicted by free radicals in the body and help to prevent cancer, atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular disease.
Ginger Cuisine Against COVID
Dr. Jonathan Liu, a professor of TCM at Georgian College in Ontario, Canada, said on the health program “Health 1+1” that ginger exerts a decisive effect during the early stage of COVID-19 infection through its characteristic of promoting sweating, stimulating the immunity of the mucous membrane layer to block the virus from entering the layer, and reduce viral invasion. Liu provided information on ginger and dried ginger for different conditions.
People with a fever, soreness, throat discomfort, heart failure, and edema are suited to use ginger. Ginger can also treat the symptoms of COVID. Liu suggested three ginger dishes:
1. Ginger with scallion stalks and brown sugar: prevents chills, promotes sweating, and relieves the symptoms of COVID-19.
2. Ginger with a cinnamon stick (or cinnamon bark): promotes sweating and brings down fever, especially for those with a recurrent fever that does not subside.
3. Ginger with mustard greens: dissipates cold, disperses lung qi, and relieves cough. For those with swollen joints, body soreness, throat irritations, and cough.
Dried ginger can help regulate symptoms such as having a cold body, cold stomach, or cold stomach pain. When suffering from COVID, some elderly do not have a fever but show symptoms such as poor appetite, lack of energy, and general weakness. Therefore, they are suited to have dried ginger.
Contraindications for Eating Ginger
An old Chinese saying goes, “Eating ginger at night is like eating arsenic.” Although it might sound a bit exaggerated, Liu said TCM dictates that medication should be taken at a specific time. The evening is the time for the human body to gather energy and relax. Therefore, people should eat food at dinner that can help them relax and sleep at bedtime. Ginger will increase heat and warm the body, stimulating the system too much, and can also accelerate intestinal peristalsis, so it is better to have ginger during the daytime. However, when using ginger to treat sickness, the timing doesn’t matter as much.