Ginger has been used for centuries in China for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Used in many forms – fresh ginger, dried ginger, ginger tea, ginger juice, or ginger oil – ginger is an important herb in the Chinese diet.
Sheng Jiang, fresh ginger, is said to be warm, acrid and mildly diaphoretic. It enters the Lung, Spleen and Stomach meridians.
Ginger is very commonly used to treat the early stages of the common cold and may even prevent catching a cold during cold or rainy weather. For this purpose, several slices of fresh ginger are boiled in water for about 10 minutes with brown sugar added at the end. The tea is typically taken in the evening just before going to bed so that the patient can “sweat the cold out”. Fresh ginger warms the Lung and helps stop coughing. Xing Su San is a famous herbal cough formula which has ginger as an ingredient.
Ginger warms the stomach and is a very powerful herb to relieve nausea and vomiting. A simple ginger tea has been shown to be effective for cancer patients in reducing the severity of nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Placing a slice of ginger over the acupuncture point PC6 on the inside of the wrist significantly helps relieve nausea and vomiting, even when due to motion sickness or morning sickness. For this purpose, the ginger is placed on the right side for females and the left side for males.
Fresh ginger eliminates toxins and has been used to treat seafood poisoning. It is also commonly used to neutralize the toxicity of other herbs. Ban Xia and Tian Nan Xing are two herbs that must be preprocessed with ginger juice to reduce their toxicity.
Fresh ginger is often added when cooking stews and beans and is especially helpful for people who tend to have a cold constitution. Ginger aids in the digestion of meats by helping the body to flush uric acid. Ginger also reduces flatulence associated with beans.
Topically, fresh ginger juice or paste can be applied to treat burns. Ginger juice was also reported to be effective in the treatment of vitiligo when the affected area of skin was rubbed three to four times a day for two to three months.
Gan Jiang, dried ginger, has similar functions to fresh ginger but is much warmer and is said to be a major restorative of the body’s yang energy. It enters the Heart, Lung, Spleen and Stomach. Whereas Sheng Jiang treats exterior cold symptoms, Gan Jiang treats interior cold symptoms associated with a diagnosis of yang deficiency. These patients are cold in nature and usually have a pale tongue and a slow, deep thready pulse. Dried ginger should be avoided for people with heat signs- those with a red tongue, red face, fast pulse.
The essential oil that is extracted from ginger, is warming, invigorating and decongesting. It is often combined with essential oils of eucalyptus, tea tree, and marjoram to counteract colds and flu and strengthen the immune system.
About the Author: Joyce Marley is a licensed acupuncturist who provides acupuncture therapy in New Hartford, NY. She writes Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) health articles about acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.