Ayurveda & Ginger – The “Universal Medicine”

 Cold & Flu Season is Here: Make sure you have ginger on hand!

Ginger is a rhizome (an underground stem/root) that is amazing in it’s benefits. In fact, in traditional Ayurveda, ginger is referred to as “vishwabhesaj” which means “The Universal Medicine.” That’s because the benefits that it offers are countless! 


When using ginger, think “digestion, lungs and circulation” – as these are the areas that it most benefits. This is in addition to it’s excellent flavor, of course! Ginger is great both medicinally as well as to flavor food. And, since it is excellent for digestion, when adding it to your cooking you’re helping to make sure that you digest your food well!


Some of the many benefits of ginger include: It reduces cold symptoms, alleviates cough and breathing difficulties, alleviates sore throat, destroys toxins (ama), stimulates digestion, prevents nausea, stokes appetite, increases circulation, alleviates pain. It’s also considered a rasayana (rejuvenative). 


Ginger is available fresh as well as dried. Fresh ginger is safe for most people. Dry ginger is hotter and can be too hot for pitta dosha.


Fresh ginger is excellent for colds, cough, vomiting, nausea, motion sickness, morning sickness, and for balancing vata. Dry ginger is good for reducing excess kapha and for increasing agni (digestive fire). 


How to use ginger? Buy the rhizome fresh from the market, and keep it on hand. Chop or slice it (peeled or unpeeled, there are varying opinions on this). Add the ginger to your cooking. Or place the ginger in a cup and add boiling water for a tea. For a cold, you can add some honey and lemon to the tea if you wish. Sprinkle dry ginger in your cooking, or you can also add it to boiled water to make tea. 


Externally, ginger makes a good paste for pain and headaches.

Ginger is in the same family as turmeric, which also has extensive health benefits.


A few precautions to note: Inflammatory skin diseases, high fever, bleeding, ulcers. Use care with high pitta conditions such as heartburn, ulcers and sweating. Not more than 2 gm per day of dry ginger during pregnancy (useful for alleviating nausea during pregnancy, however, use a low dose).  Not recommended if patient has gallstones due to its cholagogue effect. May increase the absorption of allopathic medicines. 


It’s always a good idea to keep ginger in your refrigerator ~ a handy remedy and delicious spice, available whenever you need it!


By Dr. Marisa Jackson-Kinman, C.A.S., P.K.S., A.Y.T., Faculty at the California College of Ayurveda