Ginger to Balance Vata and Keep the Flu Away

Kripalu School of Ayurveda

According to Ayurveda, winter is ruled by ethereal vata dosha. Vata’s qualities are cold, light, dry, mobile, rough, and hard—basically all the qualities you can experiences on a winter day. In order to counteract the inevitable forces of vata, we seek to balance with opposites. Treat dry with moist, and balance cold with warmth. I like to use ginger root as my defense against dark, cold, and flu.

The beautiful rhizome ginger has an abundance of healing properties and is thought of in Ayurveda as “universal medicine.” Referred to as ardrakam or shuntha in Sanskrit, ginger is pungent (spicy), while at the same time sweet and warming. It’s the perfect antidote for chill and damp.

Ginger has many benefits, including

  • Analgesic—reduces the sensation of pain
  • Antiemetic—helps with nausea
  • Aromatic—intoxicating, uplifting scent
  • Carminative—relieves flatulence
  • Diaphoretic—induces sweating
  • Digestive—stimulates our digestive fire to help break down and assimilate nutrients with more ease
  • Expectorant—helps clear mucus
  • Nervine—soothes fragile nerves
  • Sialagogue—increases the secretion of saliva
  • Stimulant—gets circulation flowing.

How to Take a Ginger Bath

Combine 1/3 cup powdered ginger and 1/3 cup baking soda. Add to a warm bath. Soak, breathe, and savor.

The aromatics of the ginger will help open the lungs, increase circulation, and stimulate warmth. A perfect remedy for whatever ails you in the waning days of winter.

Simple Ginger Tea

1-inch chunk of fresh ginger, sliced
¼ lemon
1 teaspoon raw honey (optional)

Place the sliced ginger in a small saucepan and add 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool to a palatable temperature. Before drinking, add a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of raw honey.

This is a great beverage to have in the morning or 30 minutes before meals. It helps to get the gastric juice flowing, leading to stronger digestion—which inevitably leads to a potent immune system. Like ginger, lemon is also classified as a heating digestive stimulant, and it’s loaded with Vitamin C, which also bolsters the immune system. In addition, in Ayurveda, honey—while technically a sugar—is perceived as kapha-pacifying.

Triple Ginger Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen

Mince the ginger as if you were trying to turn it into a paste. In my most recent batch of these, I used a big, flaked, smoked sea salt along with the sugar to finish the cookies—feel free to experiment. I grind the anise in my spice grinder and then do a bit of sifting.

½ cup large-grain sugar (such as turbinado)
2 cups flour (spelt, all-purpose, whole wheat, or gluten-free)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon star anise, finely ground
4½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup unsulphured molasses
2/3 cup fine-grain natural cane sugar, sifted
1½ tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 large egg, well-beaten
1 cup crystallized ginger, finely minced
Zest of 2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper or a Silpat mat, place the large-grain sugar in a small bowl, and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, star anise, ground ginger, and salt.

Heat the butter in a skillet until it is just barely melted. Stir in the molasses, natural cane sugar, and fresh ginger. The mixture should be warm, but not hot; if it is hot to the touch, let it cool a bit. Whisk in the egg.

Pour mixture over the flour mixture, and add the crystallized ginger (make sure it isn't too clumpy) and lemon zest. Stir until just combined.

I like these cookies tiny—barely bite-sized—so I scoop out the dough in exact, level tablespoons and tear them in two before rolling each 1/2 tablespoon of dough into a ball.

From there, grab a small handful of the large-grain sugar you set aside earlier and roll each dough ball between your palms to heavily coat the outside of each. Place a few inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until cookies puff up, darken a bit, get fragrant, and crack.

Lauren Gernady is the Academic Coordinator for the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, and a lifelong student of holistic living. An Ayurvedic Health Counselor and 500-Hour Kripalu Yoga teacher, Lauren explores Ayurveda daily through cooking, writing, and spending time in nature.

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