Tuesday, August 23, 2016

      Blog#54: Ginger and Turmeric: Anti-inflammatory Herbs

The parts of these plants that we typically use in teas, curries and herbal formulas are rhizomes, which are modified stems that grow horizontally underground and store nutrients for the plant.  Unlike roots, rhizomes often have leaves and nodes and do not anchor the plant to the ground or prevent erosion.  Rhizomes may send out adventitious roots.   Fresh ginger is usually green, pink, and whitish in color.  The sliced rhizome is usually medium to pale yellow.  Turmeric, when fresh and whole has a light brown to medium orange skin; sliced, it is bright orange.  It is best to use both herbs fresh rather than dried, if you can find them that way.

When fresh, the aromatic oils are present and supply more nutrients than herbs have in the dried form.  Although we are often advised to peel the skin off, if the rhizome is organically grown and free of mold, it is better to leave the skin on since that part contains a lot of nutrients.  It is generally best to lightly cook these herbs, not letting the temperature rise above about 130 degrees F.  Adding black pepper to Turmeric will tend to make its effects more potent.  Most packaged and bottled supplements are poor quality.  Fresh, whole herbs are always best, followed by organic powders from reliable sources, such as Frontier Herbs.

Ginger and Turmeric are safe for most people to use.  These herbs usually would not be used as simples (singly) or in infusions (see previous several blogs for explanation of infusion) but would instead usually be used with at least one or two other herbs or in an even larger formula.  They also can be used in teas or in cooking.  The Ginger and Turmeric we are familiar with come from plants in the same family –Zingiberaceae.  This family of plants probably originated in Southern Asia, can only thrive in a fairly narrow range of temperature, from approximately 58 to 86 degrees F, and require considerable annual rainfall. 

Both Turmeric and Ginger have warming qualities and therefore should be used with caution with a fever.  Otherwise, they are quite effective in strengthening the immune system, alleviating pain and inflammation, including that from arthritis.  By limiting and even reversing inappropriate inflammation, these two herbs also can help improve brain function, increase energy level, elevate mood, and possibly prevent or at least slow some types of degenerative conditions, such as spinal disc degeneration and premature aging.  Several studies have shown ginger to be an effective anti-microbial for both streptococcus and staphylococcus.  Turmeric has also been shown to have anti-microbial properties, especially in regards to E coli and some fungi. 

Occasionally, people have allergies to one or both of these herbs, usually ginger.  To be safe, if you have never used one or both of these herbs before, start with a very small quantity, and if this causes no reaction, you should be able to use it.  Give yourself periodic rests from using these rhizomes. 

Below are two reports of successful use of these herbs.

A woman with toenail fungus mixed organic turmeric powder with either organic apple cider vinegar or just water, formed a paste, and then spread the paste on the affected nails and wrapped the nail in gauze nightly.  In approximately two months, the fungal infection began to diminish and in six months the infection was no longer visible.  If she stopped for longer than one month, the fungus began to return, so she had to use the paste at least twice a week thereafter.  She also avoided sugar, bread, and mushrooms, and ate a healthful diet with many fresh vegetables. 

A man with severe osteoarthritis of the knees began using green tea with ginger.  He used two or three slices of whole organic ginger rhizome per cup of water, leaving the skin on.  The green tea was also organic, one tsp per cup of water.  He allowed the ginger to simmer in the tea for 20 minutes, keeping the temperature below 130 degrees F by monitoring with a candy thermometer.  He made two days’ worth at a time and kept it refrigerated.  He drank two to four ounces after each meal for three months before he began to notice results, and then continued for another three months before the pain and swelling were gone.  At that point, he found he was best off taking a one-week break after every one to two months, to give his body a rest.  If he took longer than two to three weeks’ break, pain and swelling would begin to return.  He also ate a healthful diet, avoiding sugar, wheat and dairy, and processed meats.

This month’s offer:  feel free to contact me with questions about references about studies done with these two herbs.