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Tao of Food: Ginger for the Common Cold and Postpartum Recovery

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Ginger, the root of the Immortals, has better medicinal properties and is used more widely than Ginseng. The word, Jiang, 薑, is derived from the ideogram representing the ancient agrarian method of planting rows of ginger between rice paddies. The ginger plant, with its aromatic flowers, serves as a natural anti-pest barrier, which deters little critters. No wonder the Hawaiian custom of hanging a garland of aromatic ginger blossoms serves as a natural bug repellent for the island visitors.

The nature of ginger is warming and its flavor is aromatic and spicy. It has the effect of supporting the free flow of qi/energy and promoting both blood circulation and mild sweating. Hence, it has a curative effect on the common cold. Ginger also functions as a blood cleanser, therefore, if you have mild gastric-enteritis (mild intestinal inflammation), a ginger, honey and lemon tea concoction, Hon's Brew, will help to alleviate the symptoms.

Finally, I have included a time-tested Chinese folk recipe for a nourishing Ginger Vinegar Soup. It is given to young mothers who have just given birth. After my wife came home with our newborn daughter, my mother brought over a bag of ginger peels and Ginger Vinegar Soup. We thought that the ginger peels were to be used for drinking. So, we put them into our daily tea. After we told her what we had done, my mother burst out laughing, "Aye, the ginger peels are for your wife to wash her body. This way, any invasive cold from the delivery will be eviscerated."

Ginger Vinegar Soup Recipe:
1 lb of fresh ginger root
1 bottle (approximately ½ gallon) of sweet rice vinegar from Chinatown (Ask the grocer for "birth sweet vinegar".)
1 dozen eggs

Directions:
Make the soup ahead of time in a clay pot or earthenware slow cooking crock pot, one month before the delivery date. Peel the ginger root and save the peels for the body wash. Hard boil the eggs and de-shell them. Now, put all the ingredients into the crock pot and set it on the automatic setting. (If your slow cooker does not have an automatic setting then simply turn it to the high temperature setting.)

Let it cook overnight for eight hours. Then store the soup in the crock pot's container in the refrigerator until the birth. The day after the baby is born, heat up the Ginger Vinegar Soup to a simmer and serve to the mother. The soup will help to restore the free flow of qi and blood resulting from qi stasis or depletion due to the stress of giving birth. The sweet rice vinegar will restore her appetite, initiate the letting down of milk for breast feeding, as well as help to lift the uterus back to its original position.

From the traditional Chinese medicine perspective, postpartum depression is due to the depletion of blood and qi from the process of giving birth. Drink the broth and eat the eggs daily to help rejuvenate and restore the depletion of blood and qi. Often the husband and relatives are served the broth as well. This is a vegetarian version of the traditional recipe, which sometimes includes pig's feet. When my wife first saw the pig's knuckles in the Ginger Vinegar Soup, she vowed that they would never touch her lips, but her body craved the rich protein and calcium. She ate every last bone.

Hon's Brew recipe:

5 slices of fresh ginger root -- cut to the size of a quarter
1 lemon -- washed and cut in half with peel intact
3 tablespoons of honey or to taste
1 large cup of hot water

Directions:
Put all the ingredients in a large mug and pour in the hot water; let brew for 10 minutes and then sip slowly--the liquid should be cool enough to drink. You can drink Hon's Brew 3 times/day until the symptoms are resolved. If you do not want the lemon with its peel then you can just squeeze the lemon juice into the mug.