Ginger is a very popular kitchen condiment the world over. It adds taste and zip to your meals but actually does so much more. Belonging to the same family as other healthy herbs like cardamom and turmeric, ginger or Zingiber officinale has long been used for its ability to treat numerous illnesses.
Ginger has been valued for several thousand years and it was a valuable trading commodity during the time of the Roman Empire.
These days it is used to deal with many digestive conditions, it can also help treat the cold, fevers, poor circulation, and cramps during menstruation and to relieve nausea. Exciting modern research has given credibility to these traditional uses and is finding many more besides.
Properties of Ginger
So why exactly is ginger so good for your health? The simple answer to that question is gingerol. Gingerol is an oily type of resin possessed by the root with extremely powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities.
The benefits of these gingerols have been well evaluated scientifically and the results of the research should encourage you to use ginger more often.
The Health Benefits of Ginger Root
The health benefits of ginger are huge both in effect and variety. Ongoing research into the health effects of the herb is encouraging. The following benefits are some of best known and most significant medicinal uses for ginger.
1. For Nausea and Indigestion
One of the most popular medicinal uses for ginger is to treat dyspepsia or discomfort after you have eaten. This use includes treating symptoms like bloating and flatulence, heartburn and nausea. It is also used effectively by some people to prevent nausea caused by motion sickness.
Its antispasmodic properties make it ideal for treating stomach cramps and upsets and also for easing menstrual cramps. Ginger is also used to help prevent or ease feelings of nausea following surgery, chemotherapy and morning sickness.
Research conducted in Taiwan found that ginger capsules helped treat people with dyspepsia by allowing the stomach to easily release its content into the small intestine. (1) Other studies have found that ginger is a very effective remedy for stomach ulcers and GERD.
2. For Respiratory Complaints and Immune Function
For thousands of years, practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine have used ginger to bolster the immune system and help stave off illnesses. Because ginger has such a powerful warming effect on the body, it is believed that it can help to break down any build-up of toxins in the organs as well as cleaning the lymphatic system.
By cleansing the lymphatic system, ginger can help to prevent toxins from accumulating and help reduce the risk of infections especially respiratory infections. Inhaling ginger essential oil either directly of from a diffuser is especially effective in improving your breathing when you have some sort of respiratory condition.
3. For the Heart
Adding plenty of ginger to your diet may help stave off two of the world’s most common killers – heart disease and stroke. Ginger like garlic can protect the heart because of its ability to prevent blood clotting. This can be a powerful natural way to reduce the risk of both heart attack and strokes.
4. Antibacterial Benefits
A study published in 2011 was conducted to measure the antibacterial effects of ginger compared to popularly prescribed antibiotics. When dealing with common bacteria like Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus, the researchers found that ginger extract was the more effective remedy.
This is significant given the concerns over a growing resistance to the effects of conventional antibiotics like the ones used in the study. (2)
5. Anti-fungal Properties
Like bacterial infections, many fungal infections are becoming more and more resistant to more conventional medicines. Fortunately, research shows that nature can provide us with the answer in the form of ginger root.
A study published in 2003 by researchers at Carleton University evaluated the anti-fungal abilities of 29 different plant species and concluded that ginger was the most effective. (3)
6. Pain Relief
Ginger has very powerful natural pain killing properties. Much like capsaicin, gingerol relieves pain by acting on receptors in the nerve endings. Researchers have found that ginger not only has a direct effect on your pain pathways but it also helps relieve inflammation which may be an underlying cause of the pain.
Ginger essential oil can help relieve muscle pain when applied topically in combination with a carrier oil or if you add a few drops to your bath. It can help relieve the pain associated with arthritis, back pain or gout. If you are suffering from a headache, try a few cups of ginger tea in order to soothe your pain.
Experts recommend several ways of using ginger to combat pain.
- One is to drink it in the form 3 or 4 times each day but the amount of ginger needed to have an effect is uncertain and experts concede more research is necessary.
- 1000 mg of ginger powder should be sufficient for most people or you could take a drop or 2 of ginger essential oil mixed with water twice a day.
Ginger may be a natural remedy for people with type 2 diabetes. The gingerols contained by the root are known to help diabetics by enhancing insulin sensitivity. A study published in 2006 demonstrated that gingerols could suppress the accumulation of sorbitol in sugar fed rats and human blood cells.
Research indicates that ginger can help both reverse diabetes and also protect against complications stemming from the disease like retinopathy. (4)
A very recent clinical study demonstrated that when ginger powder was administered for a period of 12 weeks at a daily dose of 2 grams it had a significant effect on fasting blood sugar levels. (5)
8. Anti-cancer Potential
Ginger has been extensively studies with regard to its anti-cancer abilities. Studies have demonstrated that it is effective against ovarian cancer, colon cancer, prostate and breast cancer cells. (6) (7) (8). It works by causing cancer cell death in a process known as apoptosis.
Ginger essentially tricks cancer cells to kill themselves and actually shrank the average size of prostate tumors by 56%.
While these studies are in their infancy, the potential for a natural and safe alternative cancer treatment and prevention is very exciting.
How to Use Ginger
Ginger is not only a versatile remedy but there are also numerous ways that you can use it to benefit your health. The most popular ways to use ginger include:
Ginger tea is one of my favorite herbal teas. It has a delicious flavor, is easy to make and is a great way to settle your stomach, ease nausea and relieve the pain from headaches. Drink it several times a day to deal with internal inflammation. It tastes great when drunk alone but adding some lemon and honey can improve the taste for some people.
Ginger Essential Oil
Ginger in its essential oil form is extremely potent and has a wide variety of medicinal uses owing to its very high gingerol content. You can combine a few drops of your ginger oil with a base oil and apply it to your body for pain relief. It is ideal for aching muscles and joint pain like arthritis.
It is not to everybody’s taste but simply adding a slice or two of raw fresh ginger to your smoothie or juice recipe each day can have many positive health effects.
Ginger powder is an excellent condiment to improve the flavor of your meals. It can be added to curries, pumpkin pie or even into your favorite smoothie recipes. Ginger powder extract is also available in supplementary capsule form which is a convenient option for many people.