Growing up as a half Indonesian, the one herb I learned about pretty early on, was ginger. It’s one of those herbs that I now find to be an absolute staple in our house, as it has so many amazing medicinal qualities.
Having a cold? Ginger.
Blocked sinuses? Ginger.
Throat issues? Ginger.
Upset stomach? Ginger.
Feeling cold? Ginger.
Internal inflammation? Ginger.
Ginger belongs to the Zingiberaceae family, and it’s closely related to turmeric, cardamom, and galangal. The rhizome (underground part of the stem) also called the root, is the part that’s commonly used as a spice.
Ginger has a very long history of use in various forms of traditional and alternative medicine. It’s been used to aid digestion, reduce nausea, and help fight the flu and common cold, to name a few of its purposes. The unique fragrance and flavour of ginger come from its natural oils, the most important of which is gingerol. Gingerol is the main bioactive compound in ginger. It’s responsible for much of ginger’s medicinal properties.
Ginger is rich in antioxidants, compounds that prevent stress and damage to your body’s DNA. They may help your body fight off chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, and lung diseases. It helps digestion, promotes weight loss, relieves nausea and morning sickness, cold and flu relief and reduces cholesterol.
Ginger in Ayurveda
In Ayerveda, Ginger is thought of as a “universal medicine.” It’s both spicy, sweet and warming. There is an ayurvedic sutra (verse) that says that everyone should eat fresh ginger just before lunch and dinner to enhance digestion. The frequent use of however, is contraindicated in cases of hyperacidity; during any form of haemorrhage (including menstruation); vertigo; and chronic skin disease.
Depending on what you want to achieve with the use if ginger, you either use fresh ginegr or powdered ginger. Both have a healing effect on the body, but vary in the way you use it and what it does for you.
Fresh ginger is slightly less warming than powdered ginger. This makes fresh ginger perfect for use during warmer seasons, while ginger powder is perfect during the winter.
The volatile oils (essential oils) are mainly found in fresh ginger. This makes it juicy and hot. The dry powder contains oleoresins which make it spicy and warm.
Ginger in Traditional Chinese Medicine
According to Traditional Chinese medicine, ginger helps restores Yang or hot energy.
In traditional Chinese medicine, all foods can have therapeutic benefits for the body, and the lines between an edible item’s nutritional and medicinal properties are often blurred. Yang foods, such as red meat, ginger, pepper and garlic, generate warm or hot energy.
If you’re experiencing a heat syndrome (meaning there is excessive yang in the body), you’re experiencing symptoms such as a rapid pulse, flushed face, thirst, irritability, fever. This is a sign for you to take yin foods that balance out the heat, by generating cool or cold energy in the body.
And when you have a cold syndrome (meaning there is excessive yin in the body) you may experience feeling cold, a pale complexion, a pale tongue or even diarrhoea or loose stools. This is a sign for you to add more heat (thus yang) to your body.
What is Wedang Jahe or Indonesian Ginger Tea?
A drink that originates in Central and East Java, Wedang Jahe can be served either hot or cold. In Javanese, wedang means ‘hot beverage’ and jahe means ‘ginger’.
This ginger tea is a very easy to make concoction of fresh ginger, rock sugar or palm sugar and hot water. It’s frequently consumed during Monsoon Season, when the temperatures drop a bit and cooler weather brings more flu-like symptoms with it. So in Indonesia, Wedang Jahe is consumed to help the body fight off colds, flu, and other illnesses. And in addition to that, it’s also often consumed simply as a delicious and sweet drink.
Whereas some make it as only a ginger tea, others add more spices and herbs to it. Think of honey, cardemom, lemon, or lemon grass (sereh). And the last one is exactly the way I make it, with the additon of lemon grass and other spices.
Health benefits of lemongrass
Lemongrass is one of those herbs that are home to Asia and used in many different Asian dishes. It’s a tall, stalky plant that has lemony aroma and a citrus flavour. In cooking or in drinks, it’s used for exactly that. The fresh, lemony flavour.
The leaves and the oil that come from the stalks are used to make medicine. It is said to promote sleep, relieve pain, and boost immunity. Lemongrass contains several antioxidants, which can help scavenge free radicals in your body that may cause disease. In addition to that, it has antimicrobial properties that may help treat oral infections and cavities.
Another great use of lemongrass, is the use of Lemongrass essential oil as aromatherapy. The resort that we often go to in Thailand (Crown Lanta in Koh Lanta) was the first one to show us that it’s an excellent bug repellent, by setting up a diffuser in each suite. A gorgeous smell that also freshens the air, uplifts your mood and reduces stress. Lemongrass essential oil is one of my personal favourites and I always have a bottle at home for use in a diffuser or burner. I highly recommend going for high grade oils, such as those from DoTERRA. That way, you know it’s safe to use and filled with all the good properties of Lemongrass.
How to make Wedang Jahe?
Now… Time to make some delicious and healing Wedang Jahe! It’s super easy and will only take up to 15 minutes to make, when using all of the ingredienst below.
Igredients of Wedang Jahe
The first step is to prepare all ingredients for this Indonesian Ginger tea. Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe. But remember, you can also make it with only ginger, water and rock sugar / palm sugar / brown sugar.
- Fresh ginger, sliced (6 cm or 2.5 inches)
- Water (600 ml or 2.5 cups)
- Lemongrass, bruised (1 stalk)
- Cloves (2 whole cloves)
- Cinnamon stick (1 stick)
- Rock sugar or palm sugar* (100 grams or 3.5 oz)
- 6 Cardamom pods (cracked to release flavour)
- Optional for extra flavour: 3 pandan leaves (tied into a knot)
It’s good to know that this makes for quite a sweet drink. This is how we traditionally consume it. However, I’m not a big fan of adding this much sugar as it affects my health. You can simply reduce it to 50 grams. Can’t find the traditional Indonesia rock sugar or palm sugar? You can also replace it with brown sugar.
Making Indonesian Ginger tea (Wedang Jahe
1 In a non-stick pan, dry fry the ginger slices until fragrant. No need to add oil, it’s just the ginger that you want to warm up a bit, so that all the flavours come out nicely.
2. Meanwhile, set the water to boil. While the water is coming to a boil, prepare all the other ingredients.
Slice the lemongrass stalk in the middle and bruise to get the volatile oils to come out of it. You can use the back end of your knife for this (careful), a meat tenderizer or even just by folding it a couple of times with your hands.
Gather all other ingredients and gently crush the cardemom pods, so that the seeds can give off their flavour.
3. Once the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and add the sliced ginger, the bruised lemongrass, the cloves, and the cinnamon stick.
4. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Add sugar to taste here. I recommend not adding in too much at once, but simply try and see what suits you best.
5. Turn off the stove. Strain and either serve immediately or allow to cool then transfer to sterilised bottles. You can store it in the fridge for up to 5 days. Drink it warm or cold, whatever you prefer.
6. In case you want to make more Wedang Jahe to store in the fridge, you can use the same ingredients again. After straining, return all solid ingredients to saucepan and add 3 new cinnamon sticks, 1 ltr water and sugar (to taste). Return to the boil and repeat steps 3 – 5 as above.
Thanks to the amount of ginger in this drink, it is both spicy and warming. If it’s too spicy when you’ve made it, simply add more water to dilute it a bit.
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