Tennyson the Acupuncturist

Ginger, don’t leave the grocery without it!

I have studied a lot of herbs in my 15+ years as an acupuncturist. Herbs, by the way, can really be viewed as an extension of food. I have studied hundreds of herbs that combine into Chinese formulas for common issues, such as, headache, poor sleep, rocky digestion, constipation, low energy, poor immune system, infertility, and recovering from respiratory illness. You name it. Ginger-the food, the herb, is often used as a great harmonizer in many formulas. It helps mobilize herbs in the formula to where they need to go, and what they need to do. Ginger also plays well with others. It can tie together the medicinal properties of multiple herbs in a formula. It can also soften the impact of certain herbs in a formula while maintaining potency. What’s not to love?! Answer: nothing. Fresh ginger is awesome!

Did you know, fresh ginger accompanies sushi in Japanese cuisine specifically because it helps prevent and treat food poisoning. So, be sure to eat all that ginger with your sushi. It’s not just a garnish.

I knew I loved ginger and all the roles it can play in the food and herb word. It’s worth noting, that in Chinese herbal medicine, most herbs are used at least in pairs. Often, herbs are used together in a formula, with a minimum of two herbs to a formula, but more commonly, 4, to 6, to 8, all the way up to a dozen. Each herb has it’s role. Some are the chief or co-chief. These herbs take on the main issues. Some herbs are the deputy, supporting the main herbs. Some herbs are assistants, helping the greater good of the formula, and honing in on the specificity of the problem, while addressing the individual constitution of the client. Some herbs are vehicles that help other herbs get where they need to go, ie. the head for a headache in the upper body, or, the bladder in the lower body, in the case of a UTI.

But today, I want to give a shout out to ginger when used alone. I knew it was amazing and versatile. Now, I think it is a wonder herb. Here’s why…

I eat well. I love food as medicine. I live it and teach it to my clients. However, I too, get a hankering for “naughty” food. Some people love ice cream. I happen to not love ice cream. For me, it is too sweet and too cold. Many who know me think I’m crazy that I don’t like it. But, I make up for this fact with my corn chip addiction- more specifically, nacho addiction. I also like chili with cheese. I don’t need a spoon because corn chips are the vehicle. I like Amy’s spicy veggie chili very much.

One day, this winter, during a cozy cold front, I got a hankering. While at the store buying my usual powerfully, healthy groceries, I also got a can of Amy’s Spicy Veggie Chili, cheddar cheese, red onion and non-GMO, organic, Frito’s style corn chips. Make no mistake, they were still Frito’s. I cozied up to a great movie and ate it. After a few hours, my tummy hurt :-(. The pain increased. I couldn’t focus on the movie anymore. I had to get up and walk. I am not exaggerating when I say, I could barely move. The pain continued to increase. It was above my belly button. It hurt so much, I felt panicky. I have all kinds of things I can take from my personal medicine cabinet given my training. My treatment of choice was fresh minced ginger and dried peppermint leaves simmered into a tea. It takes less than 10 minutes to make. My husband made it for me. Those 10 minutes felt like an eternity. The pain was so very severe, it was alarming. While I waited, and pathetically paced like a sloth, trying to keep moving, I put a big slice of fresh ginger in my mouth and chewed it, swallowing the juice. It was spicy and burned but I did it anyway. After about 5 minutes, the pain subsided just enough to dissolve the sense of panic. I continued to chew it, adding a little more since I was noticing a marked improvement.

By the time my husband had poured the infusion of simmered minced ginger and peppermint leaves in a cup, the pain was completely gone. It was shockingly effective. I still drank the infusion. I witnessed first hand and personally, that fresh ginger, simply chewed, can dissipate and resolve certain severe, acute stomach pain.

Will this experience keep me from eating Amy’s chili with chips and cheese, when I get a hankering? Probably not! But, I will be sure I have fresh ginger on hand if I get myself into trouble again.

Moral of the story: Fresh ginger, don’t leave the store without it!