Monday, November 28, 2011

Binge on Ginger in Winter

Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) is one of the top super-hero foods/herbs in my life right now. Take a bite of fresh ginger and the effect is pretty obvious. You begin to sweat and get a little hot. Ginger gets your blood pumping (stimulates your circulatory system, if you're into medical lingo), much like cayenne or other hot chilis. Especially in the time of year when the temperature starts to drop, ginger can help keep our circulation up and our bodies warm.

Good blood flow is totally key to feeling good. Blood carries important stuff to and from all parts of our bodies. If your blood is stagnant and your hands are purple, that can indicate that waste products and oxygenated blood are not moving with enough vigor. When you get cold it can be difficult to move for this reason- all the great oxygenated blood is slowed which makes it tough to use your muscles. Equally, when you're tired, motionless or asleep your pulse slows. In these situations, ginger is the name of the game.

When I get sleepy, stiff or drowsy I take a small nibble of fresh ginger and chew it up. It starts by totally waking up my head, and follows with the rest of my body. In seconds I'm jumping around- way better than coffee! (Ginger tea also works- directions to follow for that).

Ginger is also a strong anti-inflammatory. Attention athletes, people with inflammatory conditions (eg. asthma, atherosclerosis, autoimmune diseases, celiac, inflammatory bowel diseases, some cancers etc), and everyone else that's ever eaten a hamburger- ginger is one of your sidekicks. Combine it with turmeric and a touch of cayenne for a super powerful anti-inflammatory trio. The most potent way to take these is to juice the ginger and turmeric (or puree in blender with water and strain) and add a pinch of cayenne. Take it like a shot and hold on for a wild ride. If you're averse to spice, this might not be the best for you. I'll talk about more subtle ways of imbibing this sacred rhizome.

A short note on inflammation: Inflammation is more than just what happens when you sprain your ankle. In a positive light, it helps heal injuries. Inflammation is an immune response to harmful substances in the body in an attempt to remove the yucky stuff and get you back on track. The problem here is that the response often gets left on, much like a stove. In a time where we put a lot of suspect things in our surprisingly tolerant bodies, it makes sense that our bodies are constantly inflamed trying to get rid of the villainous materials. Chronic inflammation (the bad kind) is caused by food sensitivities, stress, consumption of inflammatory foods (refined sugar and flour, trans fats and damaged fats, dairy, low quality meat, preservatives like sodium benzoate). Herbs (reduces inflammation), diet (removes causes of inflammation) and meditation activities (reduces stress) used in combination form a powerful trifecta to calm the storm.

Ginger has one more bit of magic to it, which is its amazing ability to calm an upset stomach. Its an old remedy for nausea, and thus a great thing to take on the plane or when traveling (fresh or syrup works for this). It's great to drink ginger tea before or after a meal to help with digestion.

Ginger is a universal herb that helps a variety of people, though keep in mind that all herbs do not work for all people. If you're not feeling good using it- stop. Using herbs is all about using your intuition. Your body's message always comes before intellectual information. If something is making you feel worse- even if the whole world has told you how good it is for you- skip it.

Ginger Tea
Sliced piece of fresh ginger (1-2 inches)
2 cups of water

Simmer the ginger in the water for 10-15 minutes, strain and drink. Add honey if you want to!

Ginger Puree
Ginger puree can be used in salad dressings, drinks (like hot cocoa or cocktails), smoothies etc.

One large piece of fresh ginger
enough pure, filtered water to blend

Slice ginger and put it with the water in the blender. Blend until it is completely liquid, and there are as few chunks as possible. Strain through a fine strainer or cheesecloth (squeezing). If it's blended finely enough, I often don't strain it because its more potent without. I put it in a jar and put it in the refrigerator, using it within a week.

Ginger Syrup
Ginger syrup can be used in beverages (like hot cocoa!), eaten off a spoon for digestion or nausea, put in smoothies and sauces, drizzled on raw or gluten free desserts, put on hot cereal or cold cereal etc.

One piece of ginger (about 4 inches)
Two cups of pure, filtered water
About two cups of raw honey (preferable) or raw organic cane sugar

Chop ginger into small pieces and add to water in a saucepan. bring to a boil and simmer until reduced by about one half. Liquid should equal one cup. The result will be an incredibly strong tea (decoction). Strain the ginger chunks out using a fine metal strainer or cheesecloth
ginger tea. Measure the liquid and put it back in the saucepan. Add twice the amount of sugar or honey (one part liquid, two parts sweetener is the syrup ratio) on low heat. Dissolve the sugar or honey into the liquid by stirring. If using raw honey- be conscious not to boil or bring above 110ยบ F, as this will kill the enzymes- a double boil might be useful in that case). Once it is thoroughly dissolved, remove from stove and pour into small dry, sterilized containers. These can be stored in a dark, dry, cool place until they are opened, when they should be refrigerated. Add alcohol so that the solution contains at least 20% alcohol (if using 40% vodka, keep this in mind) to preserve without refrigeration, though this is not ideal, as it adds alcohol and can dilute it. If you find mold growing inside one of these containers, you need to throw it out.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I am a super-hero, and so are you.

Being a super-hero is about being the healthiest most vibrant being you can be. It's about listening to your body, taking action on things you care about, loving yourself, gratefulness, integrity, clarity and living your highest potential as a super-being on this planet. When we liberate our deepest self, we become super-heroes.

What if everyone in the entire world were super-heroes dedicated to righting wrongs and holding the world to the highest vision of integrity that we can conceive of and then some? That will actualize in the glorious moment when every human metaphorically rips off their shirt and their super-hero outfit that was there all along will be exposed to the world. Everyone will have superpowers (super-strength, super-vision, super-hearing etc) fly, save the world and wear wonderful costumes.

My part in this is fully delivering my piece of the puzzle of the map to super-herodom. A big portion of this righteous path is easing out of dis-ease. I will do my best to empower you with the knowledge to bring the best plant medicines and foods into your life, and in so doing helping to create a lifestyle that is nurturing and enlivening.

I am totally passionate about plant medicine, and nerdiness is too good of a gift not to share. I am by no means an expert, but I am all about including you on my journey for knowledge.