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Why Ginger is an Important Spice for Wilderness Travel

Ginger is one of the oldest and noteworthy spices, long prized for its sharp flavor and medicinal qualities.

Ginger is a pungent rhizome (underground part of the stem) of the tropical herbaceous plant Zingiber officinale botanically related to turmeric. Like turmeric, ginger contains many active beneficial constituents. While ginger is most known for soothing an upset stomach, it is also a mild stimulant that promotes circulation and reduces pain. Ginger also contains blood-thinning actions, which can help prevent internal blood clots.

Whether ginger is consumed fresh, or dried and powdered as a spice, it can heal. Is is no wonder that ginger is such a powerful food.

Ginger Health Benefits

Pain Reliefknee

The health-promoting properties of ginger are due to its rich phytochemistry. Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb making it an ideal candidate for treating joint problems. The primary bioactive compounds are gingerols and shogaols, both of which contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Ginger reduces inflammation similar to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Ginger contains COX-2 inhibitors which suppress pain-causing enzymes in the body during inflammation [1]. A study by the University of Georgia showed ginger consumption could reduce muscle soreness by up to 25 percent for an entire day [2]. Consume ginger regularly to reduce arthritis pain and tendonitis.

Warning: ginger has blood-thinning actions. Use ginger with caution if you take blood-thinning medication or suffer from a blood clotting disorder.

intestineGastrointestinal Relief

Ginger is an excellent natural remedy for nausea, motion sickness, and general stomach upset due to its carminative effect that reduces flatulence and expels intestinal gas.

Gingerols and shogaols are the primary constituents responsible for soothing an upset stomach and aiding in digestion. These substances improve digestion by increasing wavelike muscle contractions, called peristalsis, which move food through the intestine.

Zingerone, the active substance released in cooked or dried ginger, destroys E.coli and relieves diarrhea associated with it.

Motion Sicknesssea kayak

Ginger frequently outperforms the synthetic drug Dramamine for treating motion sickness.

As a preventative: mix a half teaspoon of ginger powder in a glass of water and drink it 20 minutes before traveling on winding roads, sea kayaking, and other activities that upset your balance-sensing system. Also, try using this acupressure remedy for treating motion sickness when it occurs.

Increase your Intake of Ginger on the Trail

Consume one teaspoon per day of powdered (2 TB of fresh ginger) with food or drinks to reduce pain and muscle soreness. The dosage works best if it is divided throughout the day.

  • Munch on crystallized ginger (ginger cooked in sugar syrup, then air dried and rolled in sugar) and gingersnap cookies while hiking.
  • Sprinkle dried ginger on trail mix.
  • Stir in powdered ginger with your drinking water. Add to hot or cold water, tea, or coffee to soothe stomach distress or pain.
  • Sprinkle ginger over rice, oatmeal, pasta, soups or sprouts.
  • Add ginger to sweet no-cook desserts, such as chia seed puddings.
  • Drink ginger ale when in town – check the ingredients to make sure it contains actual ginger (many do not).
  • Look for trail food containing ginger to reap the most benefit. Outdoor Herbivore meals containing ginger

Tips for Purchasing Ginger

In the United States, most of our fresh ginger comes from Hawaii. The dried form, or spice, often comes from India, Indonesia, China, and Jamaica. The taste of ginger varies depending on the variety and origin. Overall, ginger is characterized by a bright, citrusy aroma and a spicy-sweet, peppery flavor. When purchasing dried ginger powder, look for organically grown ginger which is grown in cleaner soils and not irradiated.  When buying fresh ginger, avoid those that feel overly dry and wrinkled, as this is an indication of old ginger. Also, look at the color of fresh ginger – a lighter root stalk denotes high quality, while darker colors indicate inferior quality. The features and quality of ginger vary depending on the origin.

  • Jamaica ginger: prized for the best aroma and taste
  • Chinese ginger: pungent aroma
  • Malabar ginger: slight lemony taste
  • West African ginger: very hot, high oil content

Article sources:
[1] Reinhard Grzanna, Lars Lindmark, and Carmelita G. Frondoza. Ginger—An Herbal Medicinal Product with Broad Anti-Inflammatory Actions  Journal of Medicinal Food. June 2005, Vol. 8, No. 2: 125-132. DOI:10.1089/jmf.2005.8.125
[2] Christopher D. Black, Matthew P. Herring, David J. Hurley, Patrick J. O’Connor. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Reduces Muscle Pain Caused by Eccentric Exercise. The Journal of Pain, 2010; DOI:10.1016/j.jpain.2009.12.013

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