Ginger plant is an ancient spice with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. The top health benefits of ginger include its ability to help with arthritis and osteoarthritis, relieve nausea and pain, prevent cancer, improve respiratory conditions, and reduce flatulence.
Ginger also helps boost bone health, strengthen the immune system, and increase appetite. This spicy root is also good for enhancing sexual activity, mitigating obesity, and relieving the pain related to menstrual disorders.
What is Ginger Plant?
Ginger, also known as Zingiber officinale, is a flowering plant, whose root or rhizome is used as a spice. It can be consumed in many forms, fresh, dried, powdered, and in the form of oil and juice.
Ginger is a common ingredient in Asian cuisines where it is used to build flavors in curries, dressings, and soups. It is also used in sweets and alcoholic beverages such as ginger cookies, ginger beer, and wine.
Today, ginger is on the FDA’s list of generally safe foods and is often used to mask the taste of bitter medicines such as cough syrups.
Ginger roots can be used to make a healing cup of tea.
Most of the benefits derived from ginger are because of the presence of an active constituent called gingerol in it. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, it is also rich in carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and protein. In terms of minerals, it has sodium, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. Vitamins in it include vitamin C, folate, vitamin B6, riboflavin, and niacin.
There are many anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds like pantothenic acid, beta-carotene, capsaicin, curcumin, caffeic acid, and salicylate in it. Also, the presence of active compounds like shogaol, zerumbone, terpenoids, flavonoids, paradol, and zingerone in ginger provide many health benefits.
Health Benefits of Ginger
The various health benefits of this amazing root are given below:
Ginger has long been used as a preventive measure for motion sickness and seasickness. A study published in Nutrition Journal reveals that ginger helps in relieving nausea during pregnancy, but was not as effective in treating problems of vomiting.
Significantly, it did not show any side-effect, an important factor when treating pregnant women. Cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy can benefit from this root as it will relieve the symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
Its quick absorption and rapid regulation of body functions cure nausea in people who have undergone surgeries, without any side effects. Nausea is also a symptom of migraine. By curing it, ginger can also help in managing migraines.
Treats Cold and Flu
Ginger is traditionally used in many Asian countries against cold and flu. A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that fresh ginger shows antiviral properties against respiratory tract infections. It can be used in the form of tea for providing relief to sore throat and coughing.
Aids in Digestion
Ginger finds a prominent mention in Chinese medicine as a facilitator of the digestive process. While many of its benefits are established part of traditional medicinal history, a review published in 2019 in the journal Food, Science & Nutrition asked for more human studies to understand effective dosage. The study, however, agreed that there was substantial anecdotal evidene, backed by clinical trials.
The elevated sugar levels after a meal may cause the stomach to reduce its natural rate of emptying its contents. It helps in regulating high sugar levels and soothing the stomach, thus, maintaining its regular rhythm.
Along with that, it has a number of compounds that improve the absorption of nutrients and minerals from the food we eat. This is why ginger is frequently used as an appetizer or an aperitif since it can stimulate the appetite while preparing the digestive system for an influx of food.
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Removes Excess Gas
Ginger is a very strong carminative, meaning that it induces excess gas elimination. Excess gas does much more than leaving you in an uncomfortable situation.
Too much gas built up in your system can go upwards and put pressure on delicate organs in the torso. Chewing on a small piece can help force the gas out in a healthy way and also prevent additional gas from building up again.
Ginger prevents the occurrence of ulcers, which are generally characterized by bleeding and acute gastric irritability. According to a study published in 2016 in the World Journal of Gastrointestinal Pharmacology and Therapeutics, ginger is very effective in inhibiting the growth of H. pylori bacteria, which is a major ulcerogenic, thus keeping your stomach healthy.
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease can create havoc in the body and leave you restless forever. Anti-inflammatory properties of ginger aid in treating these issues.
Reduces Arthritis Pain
Ginger is known to boost bone health and relieve joint pain associated with arthritis. It contains gingerol, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, according to a study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
It can improve movement in osteoarthritis, knee inflammation, and rheumatoid arthritis, as cited in a study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism journal. Along with that, it also suppresses the inflammatory compounds like cytokines and chemokines at the source before they begin to affect the body.
Ginger has been used traditionally as a medicine to treat respiratory disorders. Recent studies on it have also seconded its anti-inflammatory property.
Zerumbone, an active compound, helps relieve asthma. Research shows that the allergic airway inflammation is majorly caused by Th2 dominance and the spicy root is successfully able to suppress it.
People suffering from tuberculosis can benefit from ginger, as it helps prevent hepatotoxicity. Animal studies show that it also protects against the liver-damaging cadmium poisoning caused due to the significant ingestion of cadmium. Its essential oil exerts a protective effect against the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease occurring because of obesity.
Animal studies show that ginger can aid in accelerating weight loss and managing obesity by helping boost your metabolism. It increases exercise endurance capacity so that you work out well and get back into shape to fit in that outfit you were so excited to wear.
A study published in Tumor Biology found that compounds like gingerol, found in ginger, aid in the prevention of cancer. They have anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent carcinogenic activity in the colon that can lead to colorectal cancer.
According to a study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, gingerol inhibits the growth of ovarian cancer cells. The paper recommended the use of gingerol for the treatment and prevention of ovarian cancer.
Another study published in the journal Chemico-Biological Interactions showed that gingerol could be very effective for treatment against skin cancer.
It is not just gingerol that is highly effective in the treatment of cancer. Multiple researches show that zerumbone, another compound found in ginger, is also positively linked to the prevention of gastric, ovarian, and pancreatic cancer as it functions as an anti-angiogenic and antitumor drug.
Research suggests that ginger could delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. According to a study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, ginger improved cognitive function in middle-aged healthy women.
This shows that it can be used to improve cognitive decline among the elderly. Along with powerful nutrients, ginger mitigates the risk of brain damage and keeps your memory intact.
Relieves Muscle Pain
Ginger is well-known for reducing muscle pain and soreness caused due to exercising. The anti-inflammatory properties of this root are to be credited for this benefit.
Prevents Menstrual Cramps
Ginger helps reduce the levels of prostaglandins in the body, hence it aids in relieving cramps. Scientists believe that high levels of prostaglandins contribute to increased menstrual cramps. Cramps are the body’s way of alarming an individual to some type of danger or damage.
In this case, prostaglandins, which are hormones that function as chemical messengers, are the key activators of symptoms such as cramps, pains, and fevers. According to a report published in ISRN Obstetrics and Gynecology, it can also help reducing the severity of mood and behavior during PMS.
Boosts Heart Health
Ginger protects cardiovascular health by lowering the LDL cholesterol levels and increasing HDL cholesterol levels. It also reduces the risk of blood clotting, thereby helping regulate hypertension and keeping your heart healthy.
Ginger helps regulate the blood sugar levels in people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Glycemic and lipid abnormalities lead to long-term complications in diabetics, as per a research study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology Metabolism in 2017.
Therefore, to improve your insulin resistance and control diabetes, consider adding this root to your diet. Another study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine in 2014 demonstrated “daily consumption of 3 one-gram capsules of ginger powder for 8 weeks is useful for patients with type 2 diabetes.”
Detoxifies the Body
Ginger causes the body to sweat. Sweating cleans out the pores and allows your body to eliminate toxins. Research has also shown that sweat includes a germ-fighting compound, named dermcidin. It is positively connected to reduced bacterial and viral infections by creating a sheen on the skin. Thus acts as a protective layer of proteins.
Ginger is known to inhibit bacterial, viral, and fungal infection, owing to the presence of gingerol in it. It also helps in maintaining oral health by killing the pathogens in the mouth and keep the teeth and gums intact. Its antibacterial properties help ward off pathogenic bacteria that cause urinary tract infection (UTI), bronchitis, and pneumonia.
Ginger has been used since ancient times to cure diarrhea since it prevents stomach spasms and gas that contribute to and stimulate it. In China, the powdered form is given to those with diarrhea and this traditional practice is followed for thousands of years; scientists have concluded that these ancient treatments are indeed beneficial for this condition.
Ginger can help in alleviating the symptoms of eczema, owing to its anti-inflammatory properties. By adding ginger tea, or the juice to your diet, you can easily bid goodbye to many chronic skin conditions like dermatitis, acne, and psoriasis.
Increases Sexual Activity
A known aphrodisiac, ginger was used in many cultures to arouse desire and enhance sexual activity. The book Ginger: A Versatile Healing Herb mentions the use in Ayurveda as an aphrodisiac. Its scent has a unique allure that helps in increasing fertility and establishing a sexual connection.
This root also helps increase blood circulation, hence blood flows more easily to the mid-section of the body, an important area for sexual performance.
Uses of Ginger
- Fresh raw ginger root is a staple ingredient in Asian cuisines. It is used in curries, soups, rice, noodle, and stews.
- Pickled ginger is offered with sushi as a palate cleanser.
- World over, it is also used to flavor beverages such as tea, specialty coffees, lemonades, cocktails, and even smoothies.
- Ginger cookies, candied ginger, and the gingerbread man are popular holiday favorites.
- Ginger Tea – You can make your own ginger tea by steeping grated ginger in boiled water. It is a natural cure for a sore throat, coughs, and colds.
- Ginger juice and ginger chews are other home remedies, often given to alleviate nausea and digestive problems.
- Ginger is often used in herbal products such as soaps, shampoos, massage oils, and perfumes.
Ginger supplements are available in most pharmacies in the form of:
- Dried ginger root
- Powder form
- Essential oils
How to Buy?
Select a root that is wrinkle-free or has minimal wrinkles and taut skin. Make sure the skin is not thick and bruised. The best way to check is by scraping it with your nail. The aroma of the fresh root is peppery, sharp, and strong, so inhale the fragrance and enjoy shopping!
How to Store?
It can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. However, you should peel, cut or grate it only before using it. If you want to store a cut piece of the root, dry it first so that it doesn’t rot away.
The commonly observed side effects of ginger are as follows:
- Stomach upset
- Breathing issues
- Acid-reflux: It may worsen acid reflux in some people.
- Gallstones: It can increase bile production, which may cause the stone to create a block in bile flow. The National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health recommends that people with gallstone disease exercise caution when using ginger as it can increase the flow of bile.
- Blood-thinning: It should not be eaten with blood-thinning medicines or aspirin as it may affect blood clots.
- Pregnant women: Though it is generally considered safe, women with a history of miscarriage should consult a doctor before making any dietary change.
History and Origin
Ginger is one of the oldest remedies in herbal and aromatic traditional treatments, especially in China, India, and the Middle East. In China, it has been used for over 2,000 years for curing inflammation and diarrhea. Native to the Indo-Malaysian rain forests, ginger favors lush, moist, tropical soils for cultivation.
Its cultivation may have begun in southern Asia, but it has now spread to East Africa and the Caribbean as well. The perennial plant grows bright red flowers that come in different shapes such as torch and honeycomb. It is often used in seasonal festivals in the South Pacific for the decoration of stalls, houses, and even dresses.
Queen Elizabeth I of England, a fan of this rhizome, was the one to invent the gingerbread man in the 16th century, and it is now loved by millions of children (and adults) around the world. The gingerbread man was presented at a Royal ball. Some of the cookies were made to resemble the guests present.