Review: Rosemary Gladstar’s Hot Ginger Balls

In my quest to become greener and crunchier, I have peddled around in educating myself on the use of herbs for medicinal purposes. Some people swear by herbs, saying that if you use herbs you’ll never have to go to the doctor–ever. Me, I see herbs as a first line of defense. If we use herbs properly, then we are more likely to be healthy individuals. However, when you-know-what hits the fan and you catch that superbug or get that ear infection or need that life-saving antibiotic or procedure, doctors are te way to go.

Rosemary Gladstar’s recipe for Hot Ginger Balls, from her book Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide, is one of those “I don’t need to go to the doctor but I want relief for something in a natural way” sort of recipe. It is a recipe for making ginger pills to use for upset stomachs, be it general nausea, motion sickness, or those lovely monthly womanly problems. They are made using ginger root powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and honey, and the recipe makes about thirty tiny sticky pills (whose stickiness reduces dramatically once they dry).

It took me two tries to make the ginger pills. After forming the pills, Rosemary instructs to let them dry at room temperature or in a dehydrator. The first time I made them, I was impatient. I wanted to try the pills–not because I had an upset stomach, but because I like ginger and wanted to see what the pills taste like–so I put them in the oven to broil.

Then I promptly forgot about them.

My memory was restored as smoke started billowing from the oven. My tiny little perfect ginger spheres had burned to crispy bits of pure carbon, and they tasted exactly like charcoal. Needless to say, when I tasted them (yes, I was still determined to try a pill) they upset my stomach rather than calmed it.

My next go around was far more successful. I skipped the oven, let them dry as I was supposed to, and placed them in a tiny Tupperware container–but not before I stuck one in my mouth.

That tiny little pill was HOT. I felt like a dragon spitting flames on its dying breath, gasping and choking for air. I could feel the pill after I chewed and swallowed traveling down my esophagus and into my stomach. How, I thought, could anything so fiery calm a stomach?

I used the pills a couple of times when I didn’t really need to and found they were fairly successful at reducing gas. I’m not sure if they were meant for that and I just happened to eat them on less-gassy days or if they actually worked, but it made me at least a little satisfied that I hadn’t wasted a whole bunch of honey and ginger on these tiny pills.

The pills’ biggest test came when I flew to California. I have a rather embarrassing trouble with flying: whenever I go up in an airplane, all the gas left over in whatever little pockets of my body expands (I’m guessing due to the change in air pressure), and by the end of the plane trip I am so miserable that I want to die. Then a couple of days later, right when I’m starting to feel better enough to enjoy whatever trip I’m on, I get in another plane and have to go through the whole thing all over again. I usually take several Extra Strength Tums before each flight, with only moderate relief.

“Well,” I thought to myself, “Now it’s time for you to be either really foolish or really brave and take ginger pills instead of Tums.” So I followed Rosemary’s directions and took a couple of ginger pills a couple of hours before my flight.

And you know what? They worked. I had no cramping or stomach or intestinal pains, no bloating whatsoever, throughout the flight. I got off that plane ready to explore California and had no stomach troubles whatsoever.

Okay, I had troubles one time. My first night in Cali, I woke up feeling like I was going to throw up. I made it to my container of ginger pills (yes, I brought them–I wasn’t going to risk being without them on the flight home in case they worked on the flight up) and took a dragon-hot pill. It only marginally helped, but it turned out that was because there was something nasty in the heater vents. No matter how good those pills, they weren’t going to completely block my body’s ability to cough out a harmful foreign invading agent. Hospital staff took care of that nastiness while I was gone for the day, and then I didn’t have an upset stomach the rest of the trip.

The ginger pills have one downside: they give you nasty breath. Even if you brush your teeth, there is so much ginger in those pills that the smell sticks to your throat. The only thing I can think is to carry some mouthwash and gargle after taking the pills.

I give Rosemary Gladstar’s Hot Ginger Balls recipe four and a half stars, five if the mouthwash method works (I haven’t had the opportunity to try it yet).

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