gingembre (French), al-zinjibr (Arabic), tangawizi (Swahili)
For thousands of years and across many continents, the noble root (actually a rhizome, like bananas) called Zingiber officianale, or ginger, has entranced and enchanted us.
It is the tropical triumvirate of delicate, medicine and spice all at once, originally from South Asia and brought to Africa on the trading routes.
Health Benefits of Ginger
The American Cancer Society links ginger with preventing tumor growth. We already know that ginger is a medicine. That’s why we drink ginger ale or hot spicy ginger tea when we feel weak, get a fever or have a stomach ache. In parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo it is mixed with mango sap and drank as a common health tonic, like western ‘Swedish Bitters.’
Ginger is famous for nausea and warding of all kinds of motion sickness and morning sickness. Candied ginger can be found in most health food stores, or you could always make your own. It makes a warming snack and is very good for digestion.
In Ayurvedic medicine, a tradition from India, ginger is used extensively for grounding, energizing and promoting health and longevity and it finds its way into not just food, but body care products as well. Ginger is warming, enlivening, and used to help with circulation for the grandparents and those who always have cold fingers and feet (!). In proper Horn of Africa masala chai, ginger is a key essential ingredient, best grated in fresh to the boiling pot of milk and spices.
Ginger in Natural Health Treatments
In the kitchen, ginger provides a strong flavor, almost overpowering at times. It is mixed liberally with hot pepper to sweeten fried plantains in an anglophone West African dish called kelewele, one of the region’s famous bar snacks.
Ginger can be purchased fresh or powdered. Fresh ginger needs to be peeled, easily done with the back of a spoon. Keeping at least a solid handful of fresh ginger in your pantry means you’re prepared to make your friend a healing tea when she stops by, like ginger with lemongrass. Powdered ginger has its place, as a softer introduction to its character in a mellow masala chai, or in gingerbreads and candies.
We’d love to hear about your household’s use of ginger. Tell us something we don’t know (firstname.lastname@example.org).