Recent snowfall at King Lake and Mount Dandenong quickly sent the temperature plummeting in Melbourne, so if you have freezing hands and toes, don’t despair. I have a great home remedy and some easy recipes using the deliciously warming and zingy Ginger root ~ Zingiber officinale. Admittedly, ginger is a tropical plant, not a common Melbourne backyard plant. However it is readily available fresh, dried, ground or crystalised, and most people will have some in their kitchen.
Ginger has been used as a medicinal and culinary spice in Asian, Indian and Arabic herbal traditions since ancient times. It is cited by Confucius (551-478BC) and was recommended to assist digestion, ease stomach upset and relieve diarrhoea. In Ayurvedic medicine, ginger is considered a universal medicine. It was also mentioned in the Koran, and was one of the first spices brought to Europe by Arab traders.
“Within the stomach, loins, and in the lung
Praise of hot ginger rightly might be sung
It quenches thirst, revives, excites the brain
And in old age, awakens young love again”
From the latin Regimen Sanitatis Salerno treatise on health.
Spiced Teas – Thermos It Up!
Many people experience cold hands and feet due to poor circulation. This is often worse during the winter months as people tend to do less incidental exercise and spend more time inside sitting down. We also tend to feel less inclined to drink enough water, which leads to reduced blood volume and slows blood circulation. A great way to increase the amount we drink in the winter is to drink more tea. Also, making a thermos of tea in the morning can ensure that you will not only drink an adequate volume of water over the day, but it enables you to have warm tea all day without multiple trips to the kitchen to make fresh cups. You can either just add a few slices of fresh ginger to your favourite tea brew before adding the boiling water or you can make up a specific blend depending on how you are feeling.
At the moment, I am giving my daughter a thermos of:
• 1 teaspoon licorice root (you can use a good quality tea bag)
• 1 cinnamon stick,
• 2 sprigs thyme,
• 1 small sprig sage
• 4-5 slices of fresh ginger
I put all the ingredients into a thermos, fill it to ¾ full with boiling water, sweeten with 1 dessertspoon of rice syrup (she is not a honey girl), cover and leave to steep for 5-10mins. I then fill the remainder of the thermos with cold water, as this makes the tea a more drinkable temperature for my daughter, who prefers not to wait for each individual cup of tea to cool down.
I have been making this for her to soothe her tickly throat, and ward off the viral infections that are doing the rounds at school.
The sage and thyme’s antimicrobial actions help to kill off pathogenic microbes, and the licorice has a demulcent effect to help soothe the irritated mucous membranes in her upper respiratory tract. The ginger and cinnamon raise her body temperature to make her system inhospitable to invading pathogens. In fact, cinnamon is another wonderful warming and drying spice that is commonly used in conjunction with ginger to improve circulation and alleviate colds. Cinnamon is gentler than ginger and has a more sustained action.
Caution: Please note that sage should not be used without professional advise in lactating and pregnant women as it is an emmenagogue (stimulates menstruation) and reduces milk supply (it is often used when weaning your child for this reason)
If you would like a great alternative to those stimulating caffeinated beverages, how about trying this deliciously warming spiced chai. Not only will it revitalise circulation, it will also improve a sluggish digestion.
3tsp freshly grated ginger
6 cardamom pods (flattened with the back of a butter knife)
2 cinnamon sticks
500ml cold water
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, cover and bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add milk of choice and sweetener if desired and simmer for another 2 minutes. Strain and enjoy!
*All ingredients are readily available from your local supermarket or favourite health food shop. A chai mix is also available from Northcote Natural Therapies’ ‘One Leaf at a Time’ tea range.
Ginger Essential Oil
Many years ago I spent a winter in rural Massachusetts USA. This was my first ‘real’ winter, and my feet were freezing as I had to walk through the snow to get to work. An amazingly effective remedy that I discovered was pure ginger essential oil. I would place approximately 5 drops on a tissue, which I would then place in my shoe before I put my socked foot in it. I put one in each shoe and noticed a huge difference in my overall circulation but particularly my feet! I have quite sensitive skin so I never tried this application next to my skin. If you do want to put the essential on your skin, you must dilute it into a carrier oil as volatile constituents can burn your skin.
Infused ginger oil
More recently I have been experimenting with a home made version of this remedy so I am not reliant on purchasing products for every little ailment. I started with a quick infused ginger oil made by combining approximately 1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger with 5 tablespoons of oil which I heated over a low flame and turned off before it started frying. I rubbed this on my feet, remembering to use broad strokes encouraging the flow of blood back towards my heart. Unfortunately while I felt a brief warming sensation, it was mostly short lived and I was left with cold, slightly oily feet. I have continued to experiment and have made 2 more versions of this remedy
• The fresh version on the left contained equal amounts of fresh grated ginger and oil. I used half a cup of ginger to half a cup of oil.
• The second variation on the right contained 4 tablespoons of admittedly quite old ground ginger that I found in the back of the cupboard with 4 tablespoons of oil that neatly fit into this old spice bottle.
I set these 2 preparations on a plate (oil infusions have a tendency to seep), and left to macerate for 1 week in a warm spot in the kitchen.
So I massaged some of each preparation onto each foot this morning, and found the dried ginger version to feel more potent and warmer for longer. But the fresh ginger oil wont go to waste either, as I will pop it into the fridge and use for stir fries and dressings. I will use this quite quickly so I wont bother straining the fresh plant material out. If you make the fresh plant infused oil and think it might take more than a week to consume, I would recommend to strain the plant matter out to avoid mould growth.
I hope you have enjoyed this brief intro into the uses of Ginger, and I look forward to hearing of your adventures with this lovely spice.