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Helpful Herbs: Ginger

It may surprise you, but the spicy, soothing ginger root is something you can grow for yourself in your garden. If you’re in Zones 7 or higher (approximately Maryland south) you can grow ginger in a herb garden, but even if you’re up here in the Northeast you can cultivate it indoors or in a greenhouse.

Ginger grown in the garden likes thick compost and partial shade. It does not tolerate frost, so plant indoors or after last danger of frosting. Start ginger from a section of root at least two inches long, with at least one bud or sprout on it. The root should be dried for a few days before planting, and planted about an inch deep. Water sparingly, and if potted keep in a warm spot with partial or full shade. An indoor potted ginger needs approximately a 14″ round pot, depending on how many nodes are planted.

Ginger takes about 10 months to mature. To harvest it, dig out the entire plant and select a few healthy looking nodes to re-grow the plants. The rest of the root can be harvested for cooking or medicinal uses.

Fresh ginger can be ground or sliced for recipes. A few slices of ginger make a spicy, soothing tea when put in hot water with a drop of lemon or honey. Grated or ground ginger adds a kick to soups, stir fries, and many ethnic recipes. And, of course, ground ginger adds a delicious depth to plenty of desserts. Make ginger cookies, muffins, cake, and more with a pinch of this zesty spice.

Ginger is well known to be a soothing herb for digestive issues and nausea. Ginger tea will ease cramps, motion sickness, morning sickness, and other stomach issues. In addition to easing general nausea, regularly including ginger in your diet will help to ease more chronic indigestion. It has anti-inflammatory properties that help to ease arthritis pain and muscle stiffness, and studies have shown ginger to dramatically reduce blood pressure. Ginger is packed with antioxidants and will help to decrease your risk of cancer, aging related memory problems, and helps you fight off infections such as the common cold.

A deserving bearer of the name super food, ginger’s been spicing up recipes and helping our health for centuries. It was the first spice cultivated in the New World and brought back to Europe, and was grown in Asia since around 500 BC. It is a key ingredient in many Indian dishes, and is commonly included in recipes in many Eastern cultures.

During the Middle Ages the cost of a pound of ginger was more than that of a sheep, and historical writing about ginger speaks of its unmatched healing qualities. It is included as a aphrodisiac in the legend A Thousand and One Nights, and referred to as a sexual tonic in Greek and Roman writing. Ginger was written about in the Kama Sutra as a herb to ingested to improve one’s success in lovemaking. Its been cited as a digestive aid as far back as the writings of Confucius, and ancient Japanese healers used it to ease joint pains. To this day, more than fifty percent of traditional herbal remedies call for some use of ginger.

It is hard to list all of the historical and modern day benefits of ginger simply because there are so many. It is one of the most beneficial herbs you can grow, and the little effort in making sure it thrives in your garden or home is far outweighed by the wondrous effects it can have on your health.


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