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How Ginger Is Used In Traditional & Modern Medicine
Ginger has so many uses that I thought I would devote a blog post to listing them. In addition to its properties as an antifungal, ginger has been shown to be effective against osteoarthritis, motion sickness and morning sickness.
In traditional medicine, it has long been used to improve digestion, treat nausea and reduce inflammation. Let’s learn some more about this incredible natural remedy!
Wishing you the best of health!
How Ginger Is Used In Traditional & Modern Medicine
Ginger has so many uses that I thought I would devote a blog post to listing them. In addition to its properties as an antifungal, ginger has been shown to be effective against osteoarthritis, motion sickness and morning sickness. In traditional medicine, it has long been used to improve digestion, treat nausea and reduce inflammation. Let’s learn some more about this incredible natural remedy!
Ginger is not actually a plant, but rather the root, more specifically the rhizome, of another plant named Zingiber officinale. It is native to Asia where evidence suggests that it has been in use, both for medicinal and cooking purposes, for over 4,000 years. It is a beige-colored stem that sticks up about 12 inches above ground, and it has a long and narrow green leaves with white and yellow flowers. The active ingredients in ginger, those which give it its medicinal properties, are volatile oils which can represent anywhere from 1% to 3% of the entire weight of the root. Among these active ingredients are shogaols and gingerols.
Traditional Uses For Ginger
Ever since its discovery, ginger has proven to be very useful to Asian and Arabic cultures. It is an ingredient in countless recipes, but has also been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. In various cultures, ginger has been used to treat common ailments such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, flu, diarrhea, arthritis, colic, and even painful menstruation.
These medicinal properties have often been exploited through the use of ginger-based drinks. For example, tea made with ginger root is a common, traditional remedy for a cold, while ginger beer and ginger ale are still drunk to help ease indigestion. In Burma, ginger is mixed with another local plant and consumed as a preventative measure against the flu. People in India make a paste out of ginger and apply it to their temples to treat a headache. They also eat it to treat a common cold, and mix it with salt and lemon to use against nausea.
Elsewhere in Asia, ginger is used by Indonesians in a number of remedies designed to treat rheumatism and fatigue, and control poor eating habits. People in the Congo make a juice from ginger mixed with sap from a mango tree and use it to treat a wide variety of conditions. In Nepal, people often use ginger to reduce the symptoms of a cold.
No other country has been more prolific in herbal remedies than China. Here, a simple drink made by mixing ginger in water with brown sugar is used to relieve the symptoms of the common cold. A special omelet made of scrambled eggs and diced ginger root is consumed to treat coughing. A type of dried candy is made using ginger fermented in plum juice, which was also used to treat coughing. Lastly, ginger is also used by the Chinese to treat inflammation and arthritis.
Ginger In Medical Research
Ginger has been shown to have several medicinal benefits, although more research is needed in many of these areas. As with many other natural remedies that pharmaceutical companies are unable to patent, there has simply not been enough funding devoted to research on ginger. This means many of the research studies available are from Asian universities, smaller, and sometimes poorly designed.
In a 2001 double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers examined 261 patients who all had osteoarthritis of the knee. (1) They found that the patients who took ginger regularly experienced significantly less knee pain after 6 weeks. The only side effects exhibited were minor stomach upsets.
Another studies have found that ginger can reduce inflammation in the colon, as well as in various arthritic and musculoskeletal conditions. One recent in vitro study, on cells from patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, found that ginger extract reduced the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. (2) In fact, it had a similar effect to that of betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory steroid medication.
There is research to suggest that ginger is effective at dealing with nausea such as that brought on by motion sickness. One such study, looking specifically at seasickness found that eating 1g of ginger “reduced the tendency to vomiting and cold sweating” among naval cadets. (3)
Multiple studies among pregnant women have highlighted the potential for ginger to be used for morning sickness. (4) In general, studies have shown a decrease in nausea and instances of vomiting among women who took ginger, as opposed to those who took the placebo. However, it should be noted there is some evidence that ginger may be mutagenic, so it should be used with caution, for no more than a few days in a row, and preferably under the supervision of your healthcare professional.
Since ginger is effective at relieving nausea, it was hoped that it could also be used as a preventative measure to reduce nausea experienced after surgery and other medical procedures. However, in this instance, ginger proved to be no more effective than a placebo.
Future Uses For Ginger
Most of the research into ginger over the past few decades has focused on its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to reduce nausea. These have been confirmed by various research studies into inflammatory conditions like arthritis, and nausea-related conditions like motion sickness and morning sickness. Ginger has been categorized as “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA and is commonly used for the conditions listed above. However, other research studies have suggested that there may be wider uses for ginger.
Several traditional uses for ginger are still being tested, as some of them have shown promising initial results. For example, some cultures have used ginger as preventive medication against heart disease, and preliminary studies suggest that this might indeed be the case. It is possible that ginger might lower cholesterol and prevent blood from clotting. This would, in turn, prevent blood vessels from getting blocked and significantly reduce the chances of a stroke or a heart attack. Even so, more research is necessary in order to determine if ginger is effective or safe for people with heart disease.
References and Further Reading
1. Altman et al (2001), “Effects of a ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis”, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/1529-0131(200111)44:11%3C2531::AID-ART433%3E3.0.CO;2-J/full
2. Ribel-Madsen et al (2012), “A Synoviocyte Model for Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis: Response to Ibuprofen, Betamethasone, and Ginger Extract—A Cross-Sectional In Vitro Study”, http://www.hindawi.com/journals/arthritis/2012/505842/.
3. Grontved et al (1988), “Ginger root against seasickness. A controlled trial on the open sea.”, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3277342.
4. Vutyanavich et al (2001), “Ginger for Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy: Randomized, Double‐Masked, Placebo‐Controlled Trial”, http://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2001&issue=04000&article=00017&type=Fulltext.
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Calendula was introduced to me as an oil for the skin rather than a food, but I’ve since learned it works well on both accounts. A type of marigold, this is an easy-growing flower with simple yellow blossoms that brighten up the garden beds, as well as work as a pest deterrent. As for humans, it helps sore throats, inflamed gums and ulcers. Calendula can be consumed as a tea, added to salads or, most famously, substituted for saffron. It is often referred to as “the poor man’s saffron.”
Dandelions have a bad rap as being a weed, but nothing could be further from the truth. Dandelions are edible from the root to the flower and have loads of useful nutrients, including a mega-dose of beta-carotene. The flowers in particular are noted as being delicious battered and fried or sautéed whole. They can also be tossed into salads, along with the dandelion greens, or baked into bread. Check out this OGP recipe for Spring Salad with edible flowers and dandelion greens.
Hibiscus is something I have in abundance in my garden. The leaves are absolutely delicious in salads and come in lots of varieties, from cranberry hibiscus, to okra, to rosa de Jamaica. The flowers are also edible, and throughout Central America, rosa de Jamaica is beloved as a tea. Otherwise, the flowers can be pickled, cooked, baked or eaten raw. They are tart with hints of citrus. Try this OGP recipe for Hibiscus Cherry Cooler.
Roses are pain to grow, but a rose is a rose is a rose. People love them, especially those who don’t grow them and don’t have to deal with the thorns. Whatever the case, roses have an absolutely delectable and unique flavor. They are quite common in Turkey for candies, tea and hookah tobacco, and they are eaten the world over. Usually, they are used in sweets or sugary drinks as they have perfume smell and flavor. Taste-test these Cardamom Rose Cupcakes.
Lavender is a superstar in the scent scene, but it is also starting to make a splash in the dietary world. Related to mint (as is basil), it is no wonder. The issue with eating lavender is that, because of its strong scent, it must be used sparingly to be enjoyed. Nevertheless, it is noted for helping with insomnia, anxiety, depression and fatigue, so it’s not a horrible thing to add to a dish. Like roses, it fits very well into desserts, but it can also be a taste surprise in savory dishes. How about Lavender Coconut Ice Cream?
Violets are so recognizable, they’ve got their own crayon. Some people even name their children after them. The sweet-smelling flowers are useful in and out of the kitchen. They’ve long been used for anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antiseptic purposes, as well as a cure for a whole slew of medical ailments, from whooping cough, to acne, to scurvy. With cooking, they do well in salads, sweets and teas. They are good help for headache relief. Snack on these Candied Violets.
And, the list goes on. Of course, there are all the teas, namely jasmine and mint, which come up time and again. There are commonly utilized vegetable versions, like squash blossoms. Just check out this massive list of flowers you could be eating. What’s more is that, as I’ve learned, whether edible or not, many flowers have a laundry list of medicinal values, which means they are without a doubt a useful part of any food garden. So, I guess I am a flower gardener now.
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Posted: 18 Jun 2014 09:19 AM PDT
[You can fight inflammation with common ingredients from your own kitchen. Here's a list of the top nine anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, plus some of my favorite recipes using them.] You may think that “inflammation” only occurs after a bee sting, when you scald your hand on a hot…
Turmeric: This common spice used so often in Indian cooking (it’s the main ingredient in curry powder, and what lends it its golden hue) has been noted over and over as a top anti-inflammatory herb. The reason is curcumin, the pigment that provides that glorious color. Curcumin has been shown to improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, reduce the risk of various cancers, and even help with liver function. as well as showing promise preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric has a very subtle, slightly nutty and fragrant taste.
Ginger: You’ve probably heard that ginger can help treat nausea and improve digestion, but its anti-inflammatory properties are also impressive, courtesy of compounds called gingerols. But note that the powdered form is more effective than the fresh to treat inflammation. According to Studio Botanica, ginger pairs up with turmeric as the two most potent anti-inflammatory spices.
[Watermelon-Basil Cooler –basil]
Basil:The base of your favorite pesto is also a potent anti-inflammatory, shown to work in a similar fashion to anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or Tylenol. In addition, the natural oils in this herb are anti-bacterial and can help fight infection. Plus, like most herbs, basil is chock full of vitamins and minerals, too.
Black Pepper: Yes, it does more than make you sneeze! Black pepper not only decreases inflammation, but also helps to reduce the pain associated with it. Interestingly, it also helps improve digestion by preventing intenstinal gas; and it can help to increase the bio-availability of turmeric by up to 1000 times when the two are ingested together. So don’t pass by the pepper grinder next time you have that plate of pasta, soup or salad.
Cloves: I love cloves in all kinds of festive baked goods and puddings, so I was thrilled to discover their anti-inflammatory properties, too. Like many other spices or herbs, the major benefits are derived from cloves’ volatile oils, which contain eugenol, an anti-inflammatory compound. Clove oil has long been known as a remedy for toothache pain, providing both analgesic and antibacterial properties to soothe pain and prevent infection. There’s also some evidence that, when combined with other existing anti-inflammatory compounds, cloves will increase the overall effects of the other spices or herbs. Gingerbread, anyone?
[Grown-Up Superfood Cookies–cinnamon]
Cinnamon: This common household spice is not only slightly sweet tasting, fragrant and delicious; it also helps to keep blood sugar stable, lowers cholesterol, is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, and possesses a slew of other health-promoting properties. Among these, of course, is that it decreases inflammation in the body.
Garlic: Garlic is another staple household superfood that confers multiple health benefits along with its anti-inflammatory properties. Containing sulfur compounds called allicins, garlic (and to a lesser extent, onions) work to prevent the body’s inflammatory response from following through, much the way nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen) do. The anti-inflammatory effects also work to help prevent heart disease and perhaps even obesity.
Cayenne: Spice lovers, rejoice! Feel free to sprinkle your cayenne pepper with abandon, knowing that the compound called capcaisin in it helps to decrease inflammation in your body. It’s even been used topically for arthritis with good results. Furthermore, contrary to what many people may think, cayenne is actually good for stomach upset and may even help to protect against ulcers due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
[Roasted Squash and Apple Bisque–rosemary]
Rosemary: Perhaps the least familiar ingredient in this list, this herb from an evergreen shrub is another useful anti-inflammatory food that works by inhibiting the pro-inflammatory response in the body. Rosemary has been shown to reduce pain, to reduce cortisol levels (which are raised by stress) and–perhaps most interesting–to stimulate hair growth! It’s also a delicious addition to many vegetable-based dishes.
Of course, there are many other foods that can help reduce inflammation, such as Omega 3 fatty acids (the most common source is fish oils, but walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and seaweeds and many other foods are also good sources); nettle and licorice (both available as tasty teas); berries; or cruciferous vegetables; all topics for a future post!
Not sure how to incorporate these powerhouse herbs and spices into your daily regime?? Here’s a list of some of my favorite recipes that contain them.
Carob-Buckwheat Breakfast Bake (cinnamon)
My All-time Favorite Tofu Scramble (turmeric)
Almost Instant Pumpkin Porridge (cinnamon)
Baked Pumpkin-Cranberry Oatmeal Pudding (cinnamon, cloves, ginger)
Watermelon-Basil Cooler (basil)
Holiday Nog (cinnamon)
Meal-in-a-Bowl Pesto Bean Topped Salad (basil, garlic)
Apple and Red Wine Soup (cinnamon, cloves)
Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad (basil, garlic)
Roasted Squash and Apple Bisque (rosemary)
Almond “Feta Cheese” (rosemary)
Raw Gingersnap Cookie Bon Bons (ginger)
Soba Noodles with Ginger, Chard and Walnuts (garlic; use gluten-free noodles–and forgive the awful photo!)
Vegan Cassoulet (garlic, cloves)
Vegan Tortière (cinnamon, cloves)
African Sweet Potato Stew (turmeric, cayenne)
Gingered Potatoes with Browned Onions and Tomato (ginger, turmeric)
Tempeh “Bourguignon” (garlic, cloves)
Grown Up Superfood Cookies (cinnamon)
Cinnamon-Crumb Coffee Cake (cinnamon, of course!)
Cinnamon-Spiced Coconut Bark (yep, more cinnamon)
Corn Tea Health Benefits
| By Stephanie Lee
The silk threads that surround an ear of corn may be steeped in boiling water to create tea. Corn silk is reported to have a variety of health benefits, as it contains moderate amounts of iron, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium. Prior to ingesting corn tea, consult with a healthcare provider regarding health concerns and treatment options.
Corn tea may improve urinary tract infections and kidney stones. According to the Phytomed Health Group, the corn silk utilized in the production of the tea has diuretic properties and may help to sooth irritation in the urinary system. Furthermore, corn silk, when used in conjunction with other herbs, may help treat health conditions such as mumps or inflammation of urinary bladder or urethra.
Lori A. Futterman and John E. Jones, co-authors of “PMS, Perimenopause and You,” explain that corn silk may alleviate common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, such as water retention, breast tenderness and bloating. Futterman and Jones also mention, however, that corn silk tea should not be ingested by pregnant or nursing women.
Blood-glucose stabilization is another health benefit that is associated with consumption of corn silk tea. A study published in the November 2009 edition of “Nutrition & Metabolism” investigated the effect corn silk may have on mice diagnosed with hyperglycemia, which is the excess of glucose in the bloodstream. The results indicated that corn silk extract significantly decreased hyperglycemia levels through the amplification of insulin levels and the mending of damaged beta cells. Furthermore, the mice exhibited an increased ability to store sugar in the liver.
In addition to supporting urinary tract health, relieving symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and stabilizing blood-glucose levels, Phytomed Health Group notes that corn silk may also alleviate prostate disorders, carpal tunnel syndrome and obesity. Corn silk also contains antiseptic properties that may help to eliminate skin boils and treat other minor wounds or infections. The vitamin K content of corn silk may also help to control bleeding during childbirth. Additional benefits include treatment for heart complications, jaundice, malaria and gonorrhea.