I don’t believe that lasting happiness is typically achieved through stuff like a job promotion, a new home or adopting a puppy, although there’s no doubt that such happenings deliver a jolt. According to the new documentary Happy, status (career, relationship status, income) only account for 10% of the differences in our levels of happiness. The film also says that 40% of potential happiness is unaccounted for, suggesting that there is a lot one can do to become a happier camper. Which leads me to ginger root.
Ginger is a magical, but not terribly attractive, root that’s used in a variety of culinary and medicinal preparations. On a whim I picked up a “hand” of ginger at the market. What’s the deal with this little guy? I excitedly hurried home where a quick Google search evolved into a full-blown project.
So what makes ginger so remarkable, and why should you (and I) keep some in your kitchen so that happiness is just at your fingertips?
Health Benefits of Ginger Root
- contains cineole, which has been found to relieve anxiety and stress
- alleviates stomach aches and improves digestion,
- relieves pain by reducing inflammation much like aspirin and ibuprofen,
- has been found to treat cold and flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever, cough, mucous, nausea, sore throat and body aches,
- may slow the growth of colorectal cancer cells (University of Minnesota study); induces the death of ovarian cancer cells,
- helps improve the immune system, and
- may help prevent stroke.
Good health, of course, makes me happy. But stay with me here:
Ginger Root for Natural Beauty
- improves blood circulation (which creates its signature warming sensation) which could reduce the appearance of cellulite,
- contains a potent antioxidant known as gingerol that combats free radicals that cause pre-maturely aged skin,
- relieves symptoms of external inflammation including acne, psoriasis and burns, and
- contains antiseptic elements that may help to reduce bacteria that causes acne.
Okay, I know you’re anxious to start mixing it up, but first things first:
Selecting + Storing Ginger Root
When selecting ginger, pick a smooth hand with some weight to it. Wrinkled ginger is older and will be drier. If you plan to use the ginger within a week of purchase, place it in a paper bag and store it in the crisper of your fridge. For longer storage, go on and cut the hand into fingers, and peel them. Submerge the fingers in a jar of dry sherry, and it will keep in the fridge up to three months (more on that later).
1. Ginger Root Tea
This is probably the best and simplest way to experience ginger happiness.
- 1 hand of fresh organic ginger root
- 1 cup oz water
- agave nectar or honey
- lemon juice, optional
Peel the ginger. A potato peeler works well, but a metal spoon is also handy and produces less waste. Next, slice the ginger into thin wedges. Steep 6 – 8 slices of ginger root in a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes, or 25 minutes for a stronger brew.
Strain away the ginger slices and sweeten the tea to taste.
I prefer agave nectar, but honey is lovely as well. Squeeze a little lemon for added effect, and enjoy the pleasant “tingle.” When I drink ginger tea, I can feel anxiety slipping away with each sip.
If you like the idea of drinking the benefits of ginger, but prefer them delivered in a sexier package, try this out for size:
2. Blood Orange Ginger Root Fizz
- 3 blood oranges
- 1 lemon
- 1 handful of thinly sliced ginger root
- 5 tablespoons of club soda
- 1/4 cup raw cane sugar
Slice the blood oranges and lemon, and place in a pitcher. Toss in the ginger slices, and fill the pitcher with ice water.
Add the club soda and refrigerate overnight.
Enjoy ginger’s signature tingle—an awesome alternative to soda. Speaking of tingle:
3. DIY Ginger Root Hair Cleanser
- 2 tablespoons of green tea leaves (optional); recharges skin cells, treats irritated scalp
- 2 slices of ginger root; stimulate scalp circulation, anti-inflammatory properties treat scalp irritation
- 2 tablespoons of castile soap; mild cleansing.
- 8 ounces of water
Bring the water to a boil and steep green tea and ginger in it for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, strain away tea leaves and ginger, and funnel tea into a bottle.
Add castile soap, and mix well. As with all recipes, conduct a patch test to determine if you are allergic to any of the ingredients.
Pour cleanser over tresses, massage into the scalp. Enjoy the tingle, rinse well and style as usual. Your scalp will send you a handwritten thank you note.
So remember what I was saying about ginger and how its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial magic help to fight acne?
4. DIY Ginger Root Aloe Facial Toner
- 3 slices of ginger root; reduces inflammation, attacks bacteria
- 1 oz aloe vera juice; moisturizing, humectant, ideally pH balanced for skin.
- 1 oz witch hazel; natural astringent
- 8 oz water
Bring the water to a boil and steep the ginger in it for 15 minutes. Allow to cool, strain away the ginger, and funnel 2 ounces of the tea into a bottle.
Add aloe vera juice and witch hazel, and mix well. Again, conduct a patch test—you never know what you may be allergic to. To use, pour a small amount of the toner onto a cotton ball and swab the entire face after cleansing. Kindly refrigerate the toner as it contains no preservatives. Plus, this feels so amazingly fresh when applied cool. It’s a great way to start the morning!
This next recipe is best reserved for a Friday evening. Cancel any plans you may have for going out, and instead spend it sloughing off the stress of the week with this:
5. DIY Ginger Root Detox Bath
- 2 tablespoons fresh, minced ginger root; promotes blood circulation.
- 1 cup epsom salt; draws toxins from the body, relaxes muscles.
- 4 tablespoons ground mustard powder; detoxes the tissues, relaxes the muscles, promotes sound sleep.
Peel, slice and dice the ginger into small cubes. Combine the minced ginger and remaining ingredients in a bowl. Mix well and transfer into a container.
Add two small scoops of the mixture to a tub of hot water. Swirl around (the mixture, not yourself, but dance about if you’re so inclined) until the mixture dissolves. Slowly lower yourself in the tub and soak for at least 15 minutes.
While this is certainly a lovely way to while away an evening, note that the ginger root may cause your skin to become flushed and tingly. If you become too warm, add cool water to the tub. Take your time getting out of the tub—detoxing is hard work and your legs may feel a bit weak. Follow with a glass of water to flush toxins from the body.
6. Ginger Root Infused Sherry
Earlier I recommended storing ginger root in sherry for long-term storage. When you finally get around to using the ginger, don’t toss out the sherry—this will add instant flavor to soup or sauces.
Now if you really want to take it there (your life, that is), try your hand (pun intended) at some simple gardening. Gardeners have been found to live longer and happier lives. If you’re planting ginger, well, you have a gift that just keeps giving!
6½. Growing Ginger Root Indoors
Why indoors? For starters, you won’t have to deal with frosty temperatures. Plus, ginger makes for a lovely house plant. To start, buy a fresh hand of ginger root from the market and soak it overnight in warm water. Plant the hand about 2 inches deep (“eye buds” pointing up) in a container filled with light, well-draining potting soil. The container should be at least 8 – 10” deep with a drainage hole. Next, add gravel at the bottom of the pot for even better drainage—ginger hates soggy roots!
Place the container in a sunny spot where it can soak up filtered (not direct) sunlight. Make sure to keep the roots uniformly moist.
Most importantly, be patient, grasshopper—it will take almost a year before you can reap your first ginger root harvest. The plant will grow anywhere from 2 – 4 feet high. Meanwhile, below the surface, sprouts will begin to poke its way through the soil. Harvest as much as your heart desires, but remember to re-plant a bud so that you can keep the party going, so to speak.
All of this tingly happiness can be yours—simply make ginger root one of your pantry staples.
Do you use ginger root? How do you use it? Don’t you feel happier already?
If not, here are 9 reasons why you should have s*x tonight (and tomorrow morning)!