Ginger and Garlic: Winter Miracle Foods
Recently I was reflecting, marveling really, at some of my favorite winter wonder-foods, and garlic and ginger were at the top of my list, for so many reasons! I find their miraculous qualities and benefits absolutely indispensable during the winter months.
Of course, their potent immune-boosting qualities are invaluable, as it seems there’s always some nasty bug being passed around at this time of year. But in truth, there’s so much more to celebrate about ginger and garlic that I thought they deserved a moment in the spotlight.
Now, let me be clear. I’m a winter person. I live in the mountains of Colorado, where some of the most stunning snowy landscapes come to life when winter sets in. My constitution is pitta-predominant, so while getting outside is a crucial part of my self-care in every season, I get out most frequently during the winter months.
I genuinely love it. I relish the sudden absence of people on the trails. I squeal with joy as I dash through champagne powder on my skis, and there’s just something magical about tromping through a snow-covered meadow on a cool, crisp, cloudless morning with the surface glinting in the sun like a sea of flashing lights.
On those mornings, I always feel like I’m receiving a standing ovation from millions of beloved friends, and it absolutely makes my heart sing. I can almost hear the beauty, even through the deafening silence.
When the first snow descends upon the woods around my house, I can feel my nervous system slow down and drop inwards—ready to embrace a more internal mode of being. There’s a spaciousness that invites me to be more present with myself and to connect deeply with my heart.
I find myself so grateful for hot drinks by the fire, a good book, the insulating nature of the snow outside, and the warmth of quality time with loved ones. The gathering strength of my digestive fire (agni) fosters improved clarity of mind, and I immediately feel a sense of permission—to relax, to sleep a little longer, to slow down, to tuck in.
The Qualities of Winter
In Ayurvedic terms, winter is considered primarily a kapha season because of its cold, moisture-laden heaviness, cloud-covered days, and the grounded, slow qualities that make so many plants go dormant and hordes of wildlife head into their dens to hibernate. But the winter also has strong vata undertones, especially in exceptionally cold, dry climates or where winter is particularly isolating.
We need extra oil and unctuousness to keep our tissues from drying out, and meaningful connections to protect against isolation and loneliness. It is also a great time to focus on bolstering the immune system.
I’m a huge fan of keeping things simple—especially in the winter, when it seems that simplicity is one of the primary energies being reflected around us in the natural world. Together, garlic and ginger offer a simple and easy way to keep us warm, strengthen our immunity, and help us thrive all winter long. I always keep them very close at hand this time of year!
The Qualities of Garlic and Ginger
Garlic and ginger are both pungent, warming, and clarifying. While ginger is a strong digestive, garlic is a bit oily and has some substance to it, which is generally a good thing in the cold, dry months of winter.
Both of them naturally kindle agni, destroy agni (the digestive fire), destroy ama (toxins), support proper circulation, clear excess kapha (think stagnation and mucus), and pacify both vata and kapha. Even better, both garlic and ginger make for a delicious addition to countless recipes! And there are many other fun, easy ways to include them in your winter routines. We’ll get to that shortly.
Ginger and Garlic for Digestive Support
From an Ayurvedic perspective, agni is the very source of life. Perhaps even more significantly, Ayurveda teaches us that impaired agni is at the root of every imbalance and disease, so looking after your digestive capacity is absolutely essential for your overall health. In fact, tending to agni is the number one way to promote optimal health throughout the system.
In the winter, the agni is actually stronger than at other times of year because the cold weather forces the fire principle deep into the core of the body—bolstering its strength. But we can further boost its performance by adding digestives and detoxifying foods and herbs to our diets.
If these concepts interest you, consider reading Banyan’s health guide, The Importance of Healthy Digestion, which explains why agni is so critical to our overall health, and how to best care for yours.
Ginger and Garlic for Immune Support
Interestingly, Ayurveda’s strongest link to the immune system, ojas, is the superfine essence of all of the bodily tissues and is therefore considered the end product of perfect digestion. This means that the quality of ojas is a very direct reflection of the quality of agni. Strong agni yields healthy ojas and impaired agni leads to low quality ojas. So as you can see, our immunity itself is directly correlated with our digestive strength.
In addition to stimulating improved digestion, both garlic and ginger have long been used to stimulate and foster strength in the immune system. Ginger is revered for its capacity to thin and clear excess mucus, cleanse both the subtle and more substantive channels of the body (including the blood and the lymph), encourage healthy circulation and sweating, and remove excess kapha from the lungs.
Garlic encourages the maintenance of a normal body temperature, clears excess kapha from the body, supports the lungs and sinuses, and helps eliminate harmful bacteria while preserving natural, beneficial flora.
If fostering immune health is an area of focus for you, consider reading Building a Healthy Immune System for a much more in-depth exploration.
Ginger and Garlic for Heart Support
According to Ayurveda, the heart center is a vitally important crossroads in the body—on both physical and energetic levels. If you’re unaware of how utterly essential and broadly influential the heart center is, please consider reading: Vibrant Heart: An Ayurvedic Guide to Heart Health.
As I said earlier, I find that the winter season invites a kind of heart-level connection—with ourselves and with others—that’s simply harder to access at other times of year. At this point, we shouldn’t be surprised, but guess what? Both garlic and ginger are highly beneficial for heart health.
So, whether your physical heart could use a little boost or you find yourself tending to your emotional heart center, garlic and ginger can offer just the right amount of strength and warmth.
Ways to Welcome More Garlic and Ginger
Are you beginning to see why I called them winter miracle foods? I hope my enthusiasm is contagious! But let’s get practical. How can you incorporate more garlic and ginger into your life this winter?
Obviously, the easiest and most straightforward way to add more of these miracle foods is to cook with them. They are incredibly versatile, so experiment with adding their tasty flavor profiles to your favorite stir-fry, or spice up any soup, stew, or casserole.
Super Immune Garlic Drops
I honestly can’t tell you how many times these simple drops have come to the rescue in my family. They can be used in any number of ways to support a local immune response and to promote clarity and balance in the affected tissues.
- 1 fresh garlic clove
- 2 ounces boiling water
To make these drops, cut the top off of the garlic, smash it with the flat side of a knife, and peel the clove. Let the peeled clove sit in a small bowl for 10 minutes. Pour the boiling water over the garlic and let it stand another 10 minutes. Strain the garlic-infused water into a sterilized dropper bottle.
Cool and use as needed:
- Ears. Place a few drops in the ear canal (or fill it and lie still with that ear facing upward for several minutes before draining).
- Throat. Gargle with and swallow a couple of droppers full. The gargling benefits the tissues of the mouth and throat and consuming the drops offers more systemic benefits.
- Sinuses. For the courageous among you, you can even place a drop or two in your nasal passages, giving yourself a garlic nasya, especially if you are antagonized by excess kapha. Note: This technique will burn for a few seconds.
Garlic has incredibly robust defenses against bacteria, so it tends to last well. But to be safe, use the drops within one week and make a fresh batch as often as you need to. If you’re going through them quickly, prepare several cloves at a time and store in a larger dropper bottle or a small jar.
Fresh Ginger Tea
Ginger tea is delicious, warming, agni-kindling, and clarifying. Simply boil some fresh ginger, either grated or sliced, in a cup or more of water (adjust the potency to taste). If you prefer, ginger powder also works great. Ginger tea is particularly beneficial during the colder seasons, but can be taken year around for immune, digestive, heart, and circulatory support.
Digestive Ginger “Pickle”
This ginger pickle can be taken 15–30 minutes before every meal. It harnesses the digestive and cleansing qualities of fresh ginger and the other ingredients serve to enhance those benefits. This is one of the simplest ways to stimulate the appetite, kindle agni, boost digestion, and burn away ama.
- A nickel-sized slice of fresh ginger
- ¼ teaspoon raw honey
- A squeeze of lime juice
- A pinch of mineral salt
Simply combine these ingredients in a small bowl (or even directly in a spoon) and eat shortly before your meals.
Ginger Liquid Extract
Our Ginger liquid extract delivers the wide-reaching health benefits of ginger root to the body with ease and convenience. Take 30 drops in water or juice one to three times daily, or as directed by your health practitioner.
Say Yes to Being Supported
Even though I love the winter season, I’m not going to pretend that it is without its challenges. For me, garlic and ginger have become welcome and supportive friends at this time of year.
I hope that you enjoy experimenting with these wonder-herbs! See how it feels to enlist the support of garlic and ginger to promote enhanced digestive strength, improved immunity, vibrant heart health, and overall well-being. Here’s to embracing the winter season for all of its magic, while continuing to thrive. Let garlic and ginger be your allies!