What prompted me to further research ginger is a recipe for a diet drink given to my daughter by a “health nut” co-worker that doesn’t do “establishment” medicine but has always sought the medical expertise of an old Chinese herbalist.

What prompted me to further research ginger is a recipe for a diet drink given to my daughter by a “health nut” co-worker that doesn’t do “establishment” medicine but has always sought the medical expertise of an old Chinese herbalist.

The purpose (original) of this concoction was to gradually “cleanse” your body (detox) and simultaneously give you more energy and stamina. As it has turned out, a serendipity happening from consuming this drink is that it majorly “thwarts” the appetite. My daughter experienced this wonderful side effect, as did her co-worker as well as myself, so that got me going and diving deeper into the wonders of ginger. At the end of this column, I’ll give the recipe for this homemade ginger ale.

Ginger’s origin, from all accounts, seems to be from Southern Asia and now is cultivated throughout the tropics. The “root” or, scientifically speaking, knotted rhizome, is commonly used in the treatment of numerous conditions ranging from heart problems to travel sickness. The uses are carminative (relieves flatulence and gas), diaphoretic (makes one perspire) and anti-spasmodic (calms muscle spasms/cramps).

Ginger has been used medicinally for more than 50 centuries and is considered a safe herb with no serious side effects when taken by a healthy individual and one not taking a plethora of prescripts. It can interfere with some heart medications and keep anti-psychotic medications from doing their job as it inhibits absorption. And also, most all of the complaints of side effects such as heartburn, bloating and stomach upset come from taking the pill or capsule form rather than the loose powder or natural shavings.

And again, as always, consult your physician before you take any type of herb or vitamin -- it’s very frustrating for us “naturalists” when folks taking prescriptions start experimenting (on their own without consulting their doctors) because herbs and vitamins are quite powerful. Normally, they would have nothing but positive results, but sometimes when they are combined with “establishment” medicine, there’s no telling what is possible, and then “they” (the herbs/vitamins) get a bum wrap! It’s just too bad we don’t all have access 24/7 to a “friendly, neighborhood bio-chemist.” Anyway, just remember that ginger in its natural and pure food state is much safer.

The active constituents in ginger are polyphenolic compounds called Gingerols, and have been shown to inhibit the growth of Heliobacter Pylori, which is associated with the development of gastric and colon cancer.

The American Phytotherapy Research Laboratory in Salt Lake City conducted a classic study on motion sickness which, hopefully, will cause you to leave the Dramamine on the store shelf and go to the produce section or whole food or health food store. By spinning motion-sickness-prone students, two groups were put to the test, one group given Dramamine and the other ginger. 

They were spinning for six minutes, and the group given Dramamine had to stop after four and a half minutes, whereas the other group who had taken the “natural” cure finished the duration and virtually no nausea or dizziness ensued.

Japanese researchers tell us that it is the Gingerols that are responsible for blocking the body’s reflex to vomiting. Taking ¼ teaspoon 20 minutes before a car ride or boat trip will give you four hours of relief. Another popular remedy is three to four slices of fresh ginger root in a cup of boiling water to make a ginger tea. Sip as needed to relieve nausea.

Denmark researchers have learned that ginger can block the effects of prostaglandins -- these cause inflammation of the brain’s blood vessels which, in turn, cause migraines.  One-third of a teaspoon of fresh powdered ginger taken when you feel a migraine coming on will help stop the pain before it even starts. Using the same theory, this is supposed to be great for arthritis pain, too. Use ½ teaspoon for arthritis pain.

Additional benefits of ginger research are:

• Ovarian cancer treatment/prevention chronicled in a study at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found that ginger powder induces cell death in ovarian cancer cells where applied.

• Diabetic Nephropathy was greatly reduced in diabetic rats when given ginger.

• Colon cancer prevention as touted by the University of Minnesota, colorectal cancer cell growth was greatly hampered with ginger therapy.

• Cold/flu prevention: Ginger has long been used in the treatment of colds, flu and food poisoning as it has a therapeutic effect on the digestive system.

Menstrual cramps are greatly relieved/minimized along with bloating as the Chinese have long prescribed ginger for this.

Diet Drink Recipe (aka Real Ginger Ale)

8 ounces of water mixed with enough real lemon juice to make “lemonade”

Maple syrup; enough to sweeten the lemonade

7 or more “shakes” of powdered ginger

Mix well, and drink before meals and at bedtime

Jody Johnson is a self-taught salutogenesist and an investigative health reporter. She is a columnist for The Carthage (Mo.) Press.