Ginger in the Raw
Ginger has been cultivated for thousands of years in China and India, and continues to be highly valued as both a medicine and culinary spice today.
While there are numerous articles written on the benefits of ginger, few have elaborated on the important therapeutic differences between raw and processed ginger.
I am a big proponent of raw ginger as a cold and flu remedy and for resolving common digestive complaints. It is an affordable, accessible and highly effective medicine when used right!
Lets unpack the difference between raw and processed ginger and how to use it as a home remedy.
Fresh vs. Dry Ginger
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda consider the fresh and dried forms of ginger to be different medicines with distinct therapeutic actions.
Fresh ginger is used for more acute or transient conditions like:
colds and flu
Whereas dry ginger is used for conditions which are more chronic in nature like:
For centuries, ginger’s therapeutic properties have been modified by using a variety of processing techniques, which includes - juicing, steaming, boiling, stir-frying, drying and powdering. Each processing method alters the chemistry of the final product, resulting in a unique remedy.
Ginger’s Unique Chemistry
The Ginger rhizome contains over 400 different chemical compounds but the most important bioactive constituents are it’s volatile oils and oleoresins.
The Volatile Oils
The volatile oils found in ginger are responsible for it’s characteristic aroma, combining fragrant notes of wood, camphor and citrus. They also play an important role in ginger’s antimicrobial activity.
What most people don’t realize is that a significant percentage of ginger’s volatile oils can be lost to evaporation during peeling, heating, or drying of the rhizome.
According to herbalist Stephen Buhner, when using ginger as an antiviral for colds and flu “the fresh juice cannot be surpassed in it’s effectiveness” as the volatile oil constituents are the most antiviral compounds in ginger.
The oleoresins or pungent principles give ginger its distinctive spiciness and warmth. Since the oleoresins are made up of fats and resins they are more bioavailable in tincture form or as a powder (especially when combined with fats).
Laboratory research has corroborated these traditional distinctions, by demonstrating that fresh and dry ginger have unique chemical profiles and different pharmacological properties. Researchers have found that fresh ginger has a significantly higher concentration of volatile oils, while dry ginger is richer in oleoresins.
The oleoresins in dry ginger contain more potent anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, while the volatile oils in fresh ginger show greater potency as immune stimulants and antimicrobial agents.
Using Raw Ginger at Home
The raw, juiced form of ginger is rich in antimicrobial compounds that can halt a viral infection when caught early or shorten the intensity and duration of a cold or flu when used consistently.
Raw ginger also contains the enzyme zingibain, which can help to break down protein-rich meals which would otherwise sit heavy in the stomach. Raw ginger juice is a great go-to home remedy for digestive stagnation, stomach aches, gas and bloating.
Most people chop and boil their ginger into a hot tea, evaporating away much of the volatile oil content, therefore losing a great deal of its therapeutic value as a cold remedy and digestive aid.
Making Raw Ginger Juice
You can easily access raw ginger’s healing powers with a simple home blender. A medium potency ginger juice can be made by chopping up 4-6” of ginger rhizome and adding to 1 litre of water. Blend them together on high for one minute and strain the slurry through a fine wire mesh strainer or nut milk bag.
Blended ginger juice resists spoilage due to its antimicrobial potency and can last in a sealed glass container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Raw Ginger Juice for Colds and Flus
At the very first sign of a cold or flu, an otherwise healthy adult can consume 4-6 cups of medium potency ginger juice per day within the first 2-3 days of an infection to fortify the immune system.
The antiviral compounds in fresh ginger juice will enter the bloodstream in about 30min and reach peak concentration in approximately one hour. The fresh juice packed in a water bottle or thermos should be consumed every 1-2 hours in the first 2-3 days of infection to maintain a consistently high level of antimicrobial activity in the body. This will weaken the virus and reduce the impacts of infection.
Raw Ginger Juice for Digestion
One of my clients struggling with a protracted bout of digestive issues, heeded my advice and tried her hand at making raw ginger juice at home. She called up a week later and left me the following message:
“I swear just the ginger juice alone has changed my life. My body is feeling and working amazing. This is literally the most healing thing ever!”
It really only takes 1-2 shots of medium potency ginger juice to move acute digestive stagnation and alleviate nausea. When used for a week or two it can boost your body’s digestive intelligence and kick start the resolution of longer standing digestive issues.