ginger_root

5 ways to add the zing of zingiber to your daily drinks

As someone who can add ginger to almost anything, I acknowledge there are two kinds of people: those who love ginger and those who don’t. If you don’t like it, you’ve probably flicked past this page, anyway. For those who do like the taste, the fragrance and the spice of this wonderful plant, there is a lot more that’s good about it than the zinginess it adds to food and drink. But what do we mean when we talk about ginger?

Zingiber officinale is a plant of the Zingiberaceae family, which has hundreds of members, many of them ornamentals — some spectacularly so. Close edible relatives are turmeric, cardamom and galangal. As with turmeric and galangal, the part of the ginger plant that is consumed is the root, or more accurately rhizome, which can be used fresh or dried and ground into a powder.

No doubt the best known ginger drink is ginger beer, which dates back to 18th-century Britain where it was an alcoholic beverage. British soldiers took it with them to Africa, the Caribbean and farther afield and over time it lost its alcoholic content to become a popular beverage, though proper ginger beer (as opposed to ginger-flavoured soft drink) is fermented from a culture or “ginger beer plant” and contains some alcohol from the fermentation process. It’s usually negligible, but there are also many alcoholic ginger beers, which may be overtaking ciders in poularity at the bottle-o.

In Asian countries, ginger is commonly drunk as a tea, sliced or grated, steeped in boiling water and sweetened or added to a cup or pot of green or black tea. It certainly makes hot water very refreshing in humid climates. I first discovered its delights in Bali.

Apart from its spicy flavour, ginger has a long, widespread and illustrious history as a healing plant, from Asia to India, Europe and the Middle East. It has been used for a huge diversity of ailments, among them arthritis, digestive problems, asthma, period pain and diabetes.

Ginger is also said to kill bacteria in food, including Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes, which makes it a great accompaniment to raw fish in Japanese cuisine. Gingerols and phenolic metabolites, active constituents of ginger, are thought to inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori in the gut, too. Probably its most desirable effects, though, are in combating nausea and acting as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Anti-nausea action

Scientific studies, though not consistent in their results, have found that ginger may temporarily alleviate nausea and vomiting from pregnancy, after surgery and during chemotherapy and motion sickness. Preliminary studies suggest a recommended dose of 1g of dried ginger a day or equivalent helps with the symptoms of morning sickness. A number of scientific studies have demonstrated similar improvement in the discomfort and vomiting of motion sickness.

Anti-inflammatory action

Ginger has long been a folk remedy for arthritis and other rheumatic conditions. In-vitro experiments and several animal studies have borne this out. Its anti-inflammatory effects are thought to be due in part to its inhibition of cyclooxygenase (COX), inducible nitric oxide synthase and lipoxygenase activities, as well as suppression of inflammatory prostaglandin synthesis and interference in cytokine signalling. A number of its constituents, including gingerols, shogaols and diarylheptanoids, may contribute to these actions.

A double-blind clinical trial on women demonstrated that 1g of ginger powder a day for three days from the start of their menstrual period was as effective as mefenamic acid and ibuprofen (both anti-inflammatory drugs) in relieving period pain. In rats, ginger has shown a positive effect on ulcerative colitis, probably also due to its anti-inflammatory action.

Zingy drinks

My favourite way to drink ginger is to peel and chop a piece of fresh root and add it to a steaming cup of matcha (Japanese powdered green tea), then eat the tea-steeped ginger pieces. It also gives a whole other flavour dimension to vegetable juices, especially the combo of carrot, celery and beetroot. You can make your own ginger beer but you need to research it properly or there can be explosive consequences (literally!). You’ll find plenty of recipes and instructions on the internet.

Otherwise, here’s our selection of commercially available ginger-flavoured sparkling drinks for a treat when you’re out and about.

Mojo Kombucha Organic Ginger Tonic

Kombucha, fermented from tea, contains live yeast and Lactobaccillus bacteria and is also slightly acidic, both of which are good for digestion. Fizzy with a slightly salty flavour and a mild ginger taste, it has 3.8g of sugars per 100mL.

Kombucha Wonder Drink certified organic Asian Pear & Ginger Sparkling Fermented Tea

There are food miles in this American product, made from oolong tea, with a delicately delicious taste featuring clear pear and ginger flavours and only 3.2g of sugar per serve per 100mL.

Red Dragon Inn Organic Ginger Beer

Unpasteurised and brewed in the bottle, this drink has a natural live yeast culture, ginger, lemons and sugar, with the best ginger flavour of all these drinks — truly fiery — and 9.7g sugar per 100mL. Red Dragon also produces Living Elixir, an organic turmeric ginger beer with ginkgo, brahmi and gotu kola.

Wort Organic Lemon & Ginger

With 11.2g per 100mL and a pleasant flavour from lemon myrtle tea, sage and chamomile blended with ginger, this is the most like a soft drink, probably because of the sugar.

Robinvale Ginger Grape Juice Drink

Though it looks like a bottle of sparkling wine, it’s non-alcoholic and made with certified biodynamic grapes and organic ginger, with 14.5g sugars per 100mL. The ginger flavour is quite mild.

 

Kerry Boyne knows few foods, sweet or savoury, that can’t be improved by the addition of ginger.

Kerry Boyne

Kerry Boyne

Kerry Boyne loves good food and is the managing editor of WellBeing.

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