The Surprising Health Benefits Of Ginger

For thousands of years people have used the root of the ginger plant (Latin name Zingiber officinale)  for not only culinary purposes, but also for it’s amazing health benefits. The studies performed on the medicinal properties of ginger could probably fill an enormous sized book.

The usage of ginger started in  Asia, then began to spread out to India, the Middle East, Africa and even as far as the Caribbean.  Today, the top commercial producers of ginger include Jamaica, India, Fiji, Indonesia and Australia.  Ginger is often associated with Asian and Indian cuisine and has a spicy pungent flavor.  The root is covered with a brownish skin, once peeled ginger can vary from yellow to white and even red.  It’s a great spice to keep on hand in your kitchen and you can store the fresh root in your freezer for up to 6 month.  Unpeeled ginger will also keep well in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks.  When using powdered ginger, it can be stored up to a year, if it is properly sealed in a glass container, in a dark, cool and dry place.

Anti-Inflammatory

 In a clinical study on the Anti Inflammatory and Analgesic Effect of Ginger Powder in Dental Pain Model, it was shown that 500mg ginger capsules decreased the amount of cheek swelling after surgery. Ginger contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols.  These compounds have been found to be just as effective as ibuprofen in relieving inflammation and pain from menstrual cramps, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis as well as reduce the severity of migraine headaches. 

In the February 2005 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine  research was shown how the compounds of ginger work in relieving inflammation.  Ginger was shown to suppress pro-inflammatory compounds called cytokines and chemokines. These compounds are produced from cells that have been damaged from the synovial lining of the joints(synoviocytes), as well as damaged cartilage cells (chrondrocytes) and immune cells (leukocytes).

Motion Sickness and Nausea

 Ginger may be able to reduce almost all symptoms associated with motion sickness including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweating.  Many studies have shown that ginger is just as effective in reducing motion sickness as over the counter drugs such as Dramamine.  In another important study conducted on of 576 cancer patients , supplementing daily with ginger reduced the severity of nausea induced from chemotherapy.  Ginger can also be safely used to reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.  How ginger accomplishes reducing these symptoms is by eliminating gastrointestinal distress.

Cancer Fighting

Cancer is thought to be an inflammatory disease. Because ginger has anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and antioxidant properties it has shown to be promising in the fight against cancer. The active phytonutrient in ginger known as gingerol has been studied and shown to kill ovarian cancer cells by programming them to die (apoptosis) and self-digest (autophagocytosis). Ginger also helps prevent the harmful effects of toxic substances used on the body. This makes ginger great when used in additions to conventional cancer treatments. Especially, difficult-to-treat cancers like lung, colon, breast, skin and pancreatic.

Diabetic Friendly

An important way ginger can help diabetics is by improving carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. In a clinical trial that studied the consumption of 3 grams of ginger powder for 30 days, the participants had a significant reduction in blood glucose. It is thought that the reason why ginger is so great for diabetic’s is because it inhibits enzymes in carbohydrate metabolism and decreases thirst, as well as increases insulin release and sensitivity.    

Combats Cold and Flu Symptoms

Taking ginger when you have the cold or flu can greatly boost your immune system.  Physicians of the 19th century relied on ginger to induce healthy sweating.  Recent studies conducted in Germany have shown that sweat contains a potent germ-fighting agent that may help fight off infections.  The Germans named this protein compound dermicidin.  Once the dermicidin has come into contact with the skin through sweat glands, it then is able to provide protection against invading microorganisms.  This includes bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus (a common cause of skin infections), and fungi, including Candida albicans.  

This German research confirms what the ancient healing practitioners of Ayurveda have already known, that  ginger is a powerful immune booster, warming the body and ridding the lungs and sinuses of toxins. Ginger’s natural spiciness can help clear congestion and help clear nasal passages.  It can also help with for relief with respiratory issues, such as coughs, bronchitis and asthma in certain applications.

Nutrient Profile of Ginger

Phytochemicals

  • Alpha-Pinene
  • Beta-Carotene
  • Beta-Sitosterol
  • Caffeic Acid
  • Camphor
  • Capsaicin
  • Caryophllene
  • Chlorogenic Acid
  • Citral
  • Curcumin
  • Farnesol
  • Ferulic Acid
  • Geraniol
  • Gingerols
  • Lecithin
  • 1,8-Cineole
  • Zingerone

Nutrients

  •  Amino Acids
  • Calcium
  • Essential Fatty Acids
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and C
  • . In-depth nutrient profile

 Western medicine is still discovering the health benefits that come from ginger.  Mean while, traditional Chinese and Indian medicine practioners have already known for centuries the health benefits that accompany this aromatic herb.  Ginger is potent stuff and when used fresh a little goes a long way. 

Ginger can be used in several different applications such as teas, extracts, essential oil, powders, tinctures, compresses and poultices. If you have severe symptoms, you may want to contact a Natural Health practitioner who can help guide you in the proper use and application of ginger.

Most people can easily enjoy the health benefits of ginger tea on a regular basis with out the need for guidance from a professional.  You can make ginger tea by steeping one or two 1/2 inch slices into a cup of hot water.      

 Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net  “Ginger Tea And Ginger Root ,fresh And Dried Herb” by Praisaeng

What Is Your Favorite Way To Use Ginger?  Let Me Know In The Comments Below!

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