[NUTRITION]Spicy ginger tea, an ancient cure for colds and fluWe’re in the depths of winter ― the sneeze season ― and for many Koreans, when they feel a touch of the ague coming on, the tipple of choice to ward off cold and flu bugs isn’t anything kimchi related: it’s a humble cup of ginger tea.
In oriental medicine, ginger is considered a medicinal herb that lowers fevers, stops coughing and eases bronchial congestion. According to “Dasanbang,” written by Jeong Yak-yong, a Joseon Dynasty scholar, drinking ginger tea causes the body to “sweat out a cold.” In a related idea, ginger is also believed to be effective in expelling bad energy from the body, says Jung Sung-ki, a professor at the College of Oriental Medicine at Kyung Hee University. Mr. Jung recommends drinking tea made of sugared or honeyed sliced ginger to get rid of, or at least ward off, the seasonal malady. Other ginger tea medicinal recipes include adding onion, or jujube, sugar and a dash of alcohol. The traditional Korean folk remedy involves sugaring and drying sliced ginger at 80 to 90 degrees centigrade (176 to 194 Fahrenheit), and then adding boiling water as needed.
Ginger warms the body noticeably because of its hydroxyaryl compounds, which give the rhizome its sharp taste and help speed up one’s metabolism. It is also, reputedly, more effective against motion sickness, in cars or at sea, than conventional medicine. And as its effects are purely gastric, ginger doesn’t make one drowsy, unlike some pills. It’s said that fishermen who were out to sea for a long time used to take sugared ginger along with them as a tonic. Last year, an obstetrics and gynecology research team at the University of Adelaide, Australia, said that pregnant women who took 1 gram a day of ginger and 75 milligrams a day of vitamin B did not suffer from morning sickness, with no side effects on the fetus.
Ginger has little nutritional value, but it has been used as a spice in Korea since the Goryeo Dynasty (918 to 1392). A later Joseon Dynasty scholar, and also a doctor, Heo Jun, wrote in his oriental medical book, “Donguibogam,” that dried ginger boosts the appetite and aids digestion. Modern physiologists say the hydroxyaryl compounds speed up the production of digestive enzymes to help gastric juices circulate. The same compounds are good at sterilizing germs linked to food-poisoning, such as cholera and salmonella, according to Kim Woo-jung, a professor of the Food Science & Technology Department at Sejong University.
In oriental medicine, dried ginger is an indispensable herb, being the go-to ingredient for more than half of all prescriptions. This is because it has two functions ― it acts as a dispersant for the other herbs, enabling faster and more effective absorption into the body, and it also works as an antidote, neutralizing poisonous herbs that are sometimes used in the prescription.
A good ginger rhizome should have a strong earthy smell, but shouldn’t taste too sharp. It should have a hard texture with a thin peel. Avoid darker soft ginger with thin roots.
But be warned, ginger isn’t good for everyone. It is a vasodilator, so is not recommended for people with diseases having a high possibility of bleeding, such as gastric or duodenal ulcers. People who drink ginger tea should wait before going outside, however, because cold winds are thought to be more likely to give one a cold after a person consumes ginger.
by Park Tae-kyun
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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