Confucius, born in China in 551BC, was one of the most respected philosophers in Chinese history, shaping political and moral thinking for centuries to come.

In the time of Confucius, success in life was measured in terms of an individual's inner development rather than his outer position or accomplishments.

The philosopher believed rulers should take "as much trouble to discover what was right as lesser men take to discover what will pay".

Their good example, he said, would inspire people to live honourable lives at a time of constant political change when the moral fabric of society was in danger of unravelling.

Confucius was a great believer in the healing properties of ginger. He is said to have eaten ginger at every meal. To this day, fresh, dried, candied or pickled ginger is a staple in the Chinese diet and many herbal remedies.

Ginger was also cultivated in India and sold on to the ancient Greeks and Romans by Arabian traders. It is an odd-looking, knobby root with a pale brown skin and a strong, zingy taste, ideal for soups, sauces, salads, stir-fries and desserts.

It is also a great natural preservative. For convenience, cut some fresh ginger into small pieces and freeze them in a food storage bag.

To use, simply take out the required amount and grate from frozen.

Traditionally, ginger has been used to treat a variety of conditions and many clinical studies have validated its curative powers. It is particularly effective for motion sickness and you may find it incorporated into dishes and drinks (ginger ale) on cruise ships and airlines. It helps prevent nausea and vomiting.

If you are using beverages containing ginger for this purpose, make sure it contains actual ginger, not artificial flavourings.

During pregnancy, short term use poses no risks but long-term use is not recommended.

Ginger is a powerful antioxidant and wards off nasty bacteria so it is ideal to keep handy during the flu season.

Extracts of the root have even been shown to kill the salmonella bug. In fact, ginger is considered a useful tonic for the entire digestive tract as it helps stimulate digestive enzymes and tone the intestinal muscles.

The ancient Greeks used to wrap a piece of ginger in a slice of bread after large meals. Over time, ginger was incorporated into the bread -

a forerunner of gingerbread.

In the Orient, it is common to drink a tea brewed from fresh ginger after meals in order to ease digestion. Just pour boiling water into a cup containing a little grated ginger. Let it steep for a few minutes then add honey and lemon juice to taste.

The mild anti-inflammatory properties of ginger make it a popular treatment for arthritis in supplement form or as a massage oil, providing welcome relief from pain and swelling.

Ginger also supports a healthy cardiovascular system and has been shown to reduce susceptibility to blood clots. The Chinese use it to stimulate the circulation and warm the body. It can induce sweating, thereby expelling toxins and cleansing the whole system.

It is hardly any wonder Confucius lived to a ripe old age.

Martina is a qualified
nutritionist at the Crescent Clinic of Complementary Medicine, 37 Vernon Terrace, Brighton. Tel: 01273 202221 or email: martina_watts