Essential Spices and Herbs – Ginger

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a flowering plant whose root is widely used as a spice and traditional medicine over thousands of years in Asia. Ginger belongs to the same family as turmeric and cardamom.

Ginger is widely used in Asian cooking, especially China and India. While turmeric, which belongs to the same family as ginger is mostly used in the powder form, ginger is used as a fresh ingredient in most cooking. This book will focus on ginger and its benefits as part of food and cooking.

Ginger is one of the key ingredients in Asian cuisine for years. Ginger is a necessary ingredient in almost all of the meat recipes in Indian cooking. Ginger, when dried and ground results in a white powder that is used in baking (gingerbread, cookies, crackers, cakes etc.) and also making beverages (ginger ale, ginger beer, etc.). Ginger, either powdered or fresh, can be used in teas and is an essential component of ‘masala chai’.

The main bioactive active ingredient in ginger is called gingerol and it has very powerful medicinal properties. Ginger is used in several alternative/traditional medicines in the East.

Ginger has anti-oxidant, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties and is extremely good for your gut

Ginger has several health benefits. The ginger root, when consumed regularly helps improve the digestive system, when. Ginger is known is  to reduce the feeling of nausea, and also improve your body’s immune system to help fight  common ailments such as flu, common cold, fever etc.

Ginger is available in many different forms – fresh ginger, dried ginger, ginger paste, ginger powder, and ginger supplements.  Fresh ginger and ginger paste is used mostly cooking. Dried ginger and ginger powder usually used in baking.

Indigestion

Ginger has been used in traditional medicine as a digestive aid for thousands of years. In the East, ginger is an essential ingredient in meat cooking not only to add flavor to the food but also help in digestion as well. Chewing on fresh ginger or drinking ginger juice/drink can help cure minor tummy aches (due to indigestion) and help with bloating and constipation.

Ginger relieves and relaxes gastrointestinal muscles that help reduce stomach irritation. It also helps in bile production and movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract and thereby helping proper metabolism and food absorption in the body.

 

 

Nausea and Morning sickness

Ginger has been used as a home remedy for different forms of nausea from morning sickness and motion sickness to even nausea due to chemotherapy.

Ginger has been used for motion sickness (seasickness primarily) for centuries. Recent studies have shown that ginger is effective in preventing morning sickness, pregnancy-related nausea.

Pain

Ginger is considered to help with pain – especially exercise-induced muscle pain. Drinking some ginger juice/drink after exercise regularly may be useful to relieve muscle pain. Also, ginger has been studied for its effectiveness for menstrual pain and cramps and has been found as effective as some of the pain medications.

Anti-inflammatory

Ginger has been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory herb. Recent studies have shown that a steady intake of ginger for a month helped reduce inflammation in the colon.  By reducing inflammation, the risk of colon cancer is also reduced. Another study has shown promise in reducing inflammation associated with osteoarthritis.

 

 

Anti-cancer properties

There have been studies conducted on the effects of ginger in colorectal cancer patients that have shown the effectiveness of ginger in arresting the growth of cancer cells. This may not be surprising given how good ginger for the gastrointestinal system. Ginger is believed to be also effective in other forms of cancer such as pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer. Further studies are required to confirm these.

Immune system & Infections

As ginger has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, its use helps in the improved immune system. Studies have shown that ginger extract can prevent growth or even kill some of the bacteria and viruses. Studies have been conducted on the effects of gingerol against bacteria that cause gingivitis and periodontitis that have shown ginger to be effective against these. Another study has shown that fresh ginger is effective against respiratory infections. Studies have shown that ginger is also effective against fungal infections.

Diabetes and heart health

Ginger is believed to have several properties that help in maintaining a healthy heart including blood thinning, stimulating circulation, reducing cholesterol levels, and preventing heart attacks and strokes.

A study conducted on gingerol effect on blood sugar found that there were significant benefits of using ginger powder in lowering blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.

Cholesterol

Studies have shown that a daily intake of ginger help reduces LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). The studies were conducted in humans as well as animals. As a result, daily use of ginger may help maintain not only a healthy gut but a healthy heart as well.

Neuroprotective

Inflammation and oxidative damage to brain cells is considered the key contributing factors to the accelerated aging process.  By consuming anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory foods, one can reduce the effect of aging on the brain.

Ginger has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help with slowing down age-related decline in brain function such as Alzheimer’s diseases.