Ginger is one of the most ancient spices well-known for its health benefits, which include its ability to relieve nausea and pain. It also helps boost bone health, strengthen the immune system, and increase appetite.
Ginger is good for preventing cancer, improving respiratory conditions, stimulating digestion, treating arthritis, and reducing excess gas. It is also good for enhancing sexual activity, mitigating obesity, and relieving the pain related to menstrual disorders.
What is Ginger?
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. In many places, it is mostly used in sweets and alcoholic beverages such as 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.
Most of the benefits derived from ginger are because of the presence of an active constituent called gingerol in it. 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:
Studies have concluded that ginger helps in curing nausea and vomiting connected with morning sickness in pregnancy. It has long been used as a preventive measure for motion sickness and seasickness. Cancer patients who have undergone a chemotherapy can benefit by 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.
Treats Cold and Flu
Ginger has been prescribed to fight illnesses and infection like cold and flu in all ages. It can be used in the form of tea for keeping the body warm. The tea acts as a diaphoretic and induces sweating, which removes toxins from the body and makes you healthy as before.
Aids in Digestion
Ginger has been discovered to be a facilitator of the digestive process. 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.
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. Ginger acts like a carminative and forces the gas down and out in a healthy way and also prevents additional gas from building up again.
Consuming ginger regularly can help improve the gut health. It prevents the occurrence of ulcers, which are generally characterized by bleeding and acute gastric irritability. In addition, it also inhibits the growth of H. pylori bacteria, which is a major ulcerogen, 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. Gingerol has been directly associated with improvements in osteoarthritis, knee inflammation, and rheumatoid arthritis. 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 to this anti-inflammatory property of ginger. Zerumbone, an active compound in ginger, helps relieve asthma. Research shows that the allergic airway inflammation is majorly caused by Th2 dominance and ginger is successfully able to suppress it.
People suffering from tuberculosis can benefit from ginger, as it helps prevent hepatotoxicity. It also protects against the liver-damaging cadmium poisoning caused due to significant ingestion of cadmium. Ginger essential oil exerts a protective effect against the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease occurring because of obesity.
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.
The organic compounds like gingerol, in ginger aid in the prevention of breast cancer and many other types of cancer. They have anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent carcinogenic activity in the colon that can lead to colorectal cancer.
Recent studies have also connected gingerol to apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells, thereby reducing tumors and the growth of cancerous cells, without harming the healthy cells around them. Gingerol is also known to protect against skin cancer.
Ginger is known to delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. These harmful factors are also to be blamed for the age-related cognitive decline. Therefore ginger, with its powerful nutrients, mitigates the risk of brain damage and keeps your memory intact.
Relieves Muscle Pain
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.
Boosts Heart Health
Ginger protects the cardiovascular health by lowering the LDL cholesterol levels and increasing the 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. Therefore, to improve your insulin resistance and control diabetes, consider adding this root to your diet.
Detoxifies the Body
Ginger is good at promoting sweating. 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 has been positively connected to reduced bacterial and viral infections as it can create a sheen on the skin, which is a protective layer of previously unknown 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. Ginger, with its antibacterial properties, wards of 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, its powder 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 ginger 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 has been used for years to arouse desire and enhance sexual activity. 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.
How to Buy Ginger?
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 a fresh ginger is peppery, sharp, and strong, so inhale the fragrance and enjoy shopping!
How to Store Ginger?
Ginger 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.
Aside from the fresh raw ginger root, you can also reap its benefits in the following forms:
- Ginger extracts
- Ginger capsules
- Dried ginger root
- Ginger powder
- Ginger essential oil
Uses of Ginger
- Beverage: In Asian cultures, it is directly used by chopping it up or using its powder in traditional dishes and in soft drinks such as coffee and tea.
- Baking: Bake a ginger cookie the next time you are having a sweet-tooth.
- Smoothie: You can make a healthy smoothie by adding some crushed ginger to it.
- Tea: Steep some grated ginger in boiling water and enjoy the tea! You can add some honey to make it refreshing and sweet.
- Soups: Your soups, stews or curries can be spiced up by a tint of ginger. Healthy and savory!
- Pickle: Pickled ginger is very healthy and it also soothes your taste buds.
- Juice: Ginger juice is one herbal cure-all drink that can be enjoyed if you are looking for something new.
Ginger’s irresistible fragrance is due to an essential oil in its composition that has been coveted and extracted by perfume makers since ancient times.
Side Effects of Ginger
The commonly observed side effects of ginger are as follows:
- Stomach upset
- Breathing issues
- Acid-reflux: Ginger 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. Talk to your doctor before using it.
- Diabetes: Ginger can affect your insulin and blood sugar levels drastically so make sure you talk to your doctor before adding it to your diet.
- Blood-thinning: It should not be eaten with blood-thinning medicines or aspirin as it may affect blood clots.
- Pregnant women: Intake of ginger has been connected to a miscarriage. Though it is generally considered safe, consult your doctor before making any change in your diet.
History and Origin
Not only is ginger known as an essence and a spice, it is known to be 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. Ginger’s perennial plant grows bright red flowers that come in different shapes such as torch and honeycomb and are 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, and several were made to resemble respected guests as well.