Getting Grounded with Ginger
Anna, Saje’s Natural Food Specialist, digs deep on the benefits of this spicy root and serves up some Ayurveda-inspired drinks for every body.
What’s not to love about ginger? Spicy, fresh, warming, sweet, savoury—it’s no accident that ginger is a staple around the world and is used in everything from food to drink to herbal medicine. The recognizable and well-loved flavour of ginger doesn’t come wrapped in a pretty package (it’s brown and knobby, after all), but don’t let that stop you from loving this unique and versatile plant.
To celebrate the benefits of this rooty-looking plant, also known as a rhizome, Anna digs into the practice of Ayurvedic medicine and shares quick, easy drink recipes for ginger lovers of all types.
I am so in love with ginger. It’s one of the easiest ways to add ultimate health benefits to almost anything with just one ingredient. Ginger is a flavour-punch; it transforms your dish to something extraordinary with very little extra effort. Ginger just makes me happy, no matter which way I slice it.
Let’s dig in and learn more!
All in the (plant) family
The ginger we use in cooking is also known by the Latin name Zingiber officinale, and is closely related to other stars in the spice world: turmeric, cardamom and galangal. All of these plants produce a thick, complex root system, called a rhizome that sends up shoots when it is growing season.
The ginger plant’s leaves and shoots are also edible, but not used as much as the root–the flavour is milder and and they’re usually used only as a garnish. Ginger grows across the tropical regions of Asia, but the exact origins of ginger are unknown. It’s been used and grown for so long that we’ve lost track of where it actually started to grow. The healing tradition of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine have been practiced for thousands of years, with many of the remedies and recommendations for a healthy life relying on including ginger in your diet.
A staple around the world
No matter where in the world you go, you’ll probably stumble on a use for ginger. And, as more regional dietary systems make their way into our North American diet, we’re seeing ginger sprouting up everywhere.
Regional uses of ginger
- India: main dishes, drinks, candy, medicines, Ayurveda
- Japan: pickled, juiced, candied
- Thailand: sauces, main dishes, tea
- Vietnam: leaves and shoots used in soups
- Caribbean: drinks such as ginger beer, sorrel and tea
- Western cuisine: sweets, drinks (ginger ale), baking (ginger ale/gingerbread), smoothies
An Ayurvedic all-star
Ayurveda has been around for thousands of years, and has also been gaining popularity in North America for the last 50 or so years–recently, it’s been starting to hit a mainstream stride. Ingredients like ginger, along with many other spices, are showing up in remedies and popular diet choices more and more every day (turmeric latte, anyone?).
Developed in India well before what we know as modern medicine was on the scene, Ayurveda is one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful mind-body health systems. The name itself means ‘the science of life’, and is the combination of two Sanskrit words: ayur, meaning life and veda, meaning science or knowledge.
Ayurveda works on these principles: the mind and the body are connected, and the most powerful healing tool we have is our mind. In practice, the Ayurvedic approach to health focuses on meditation and understanding your unique body type so you can make optimal choices for your exercise choices and, you guessed it: your diet.
In Ayurvedic terms, ginger is thought to be something that can benefit every body type, and help address many different health concerns. Because of that, everyone can benefit from adding a little more gingery spice to their life.
To get you started on an Ayurvedic adventure, here’s three ginger tea recipes, specific to each dosha, or body type. Ginger being the panacea (or all-around good-for-you ingredient), there is no wrong choice: just choose the type that you think suits you best (or head to this site for an in-depth test) and get brewing!
For Vata - Ginger and Lemon Brew
Physical Characteristics of Vata: generally thin with a light frame, agile, energy and fatigue in bursts, tends towards dry skin and hair, cold hands and feet, sleeps lightly and has a sensitive digestive system.
Emotional Characteristics of Vata: loves excitement and new experiences, quick to anger but also to forgive, energetic, creative, flexible, a lively conversationalist.
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 4 cups of filtered water
- ¼ cup thinly sliced fresh ginger
- 1 lemon, sliced
- Maple syrup, to taste (optional)
- In a small saucepan, add water, sliced ginger and lemon slices.
- Cover and simmer for approximately 15-20 minutes.
- Pour tea through a fine sieve to remove ginger and lemons.
- Add optional maple syrup & enjoy!
For Pitta - Golden Ginger & Turmeric Latte
Physical Characteristics of Pitta: medium in size & weight, bright or thin hair, excellent digestion, warm temperature, sleeps soundly for short periods of time, abundant energy, lustrous complexion, strong appetite.
Emotional Characteristics of Pitta: powerful intellect and ability to concentrate, easily makes good decisions, sharp-witted, direct, outspoken
Ingredients (serves one)
- 1 cup warm almond mylk
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp ginger
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp vanilla paste pinch, black pepper pinch, cardamom
- ½ tsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp honey or maple syrup
- In a small saucepan warm almond mylk or any choice of nut mylk that doesn’t contain carrageenan.
- Pour contents of saucepan into a blender, then add turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, black pepper, cardamom, coconut oil & honey.
- Blend until lightly frothy, then enjoy!
For Kapha - Warming Coco Chai Tea
Physical Characteristics of Kapha: strong build, good stamina, large eyes, smooth, radiant skin, thick hair, sound sleeping, regular digestion.
Emotional Characteristics of Kapha: calm, thoughtful, loving, comfortable with routine, strong, loyal, patient, steady, supportive.
Ingredients (serves 3)
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- 1 tbsp thinly sliced fresh ginger
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cardamom
- 2 star anise pods
- 2 tbsp loose leaf black tea
- 2 tbsp maple syrup, honey or sweetener of choice (to taste)
- Heat water and coconut cream* in a small saucepan.
- Before mixture comes to a boil, add cinnamon, ginger powder, sliced ginger, black pepper, clove, nutmeg, cardamom and star anise pods.
- Simmer for 5-8 minutes.
- Add tea leaves and maple syrup. Stir to combine and then turn off the heat. Let the mixture steep for 2-3 minutes.
- Using a sieve or cheesecloth, strain out tea leaves and spices.
- Add sweetener to taste (honey is my personal favourite), then enjoy!
*Swap out for the nut mylk of your choice, if you prefer a thinner chai.
Putting together recipes that help us feel better is something I am so passionate about, which could explain my love of all things Ayurveda. The benefit of ginger is just the tip of the Ayurvedic iceberg, and understanding your type can be a lifelong process.
If you’re curious to know more, whip up a cup of ginger tea (any dosha style will do), and check out one of my favourite sites to learn more about this ancient and fascinating healing art.