Ginger is one of the most popular and important spices in the world. It not only adds a delightful flavor to your cooking but it also has many medicinal benefits.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale), or ginger root, is a flowering plant in the family Zingiberaceae. It is native to southeast Asia and is grown for its edible rhizome (the underground stem). The ginger rhizome is traditionally harvested and used for culinary and medicinal purposes.
Ginger roots can be used fresh, dried, powdered, or as an oil. They are often cooked as an ingredient in many dishes. Fresh ginger can also be steeped in boiling water to make ginger herb, or processed as pickled ginger and crystallized ginger.
Ginger has a warm, spicy fragrance that is energizing. The unique fragrance and flavor of ginger is due to the presence of volatile oils zingerone, shogaols and gingerols.
Gingerol is the main active component of ginger that has been shown to have powerful antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.
Health Benefits of Ginger
1. Alleviates nausea
Ginger has a long history of use for alleviating nausea and vomiting associated with mild pregnancy sickness, and there is some evidence that it may be as effective as prescription medication .
Ginger may also relieve nausea and vomiting after surgery, and in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
For example, a study review published in BMJ Open suggests that people who are given ginger before a laparoscopic surgery or an obstetric or gynecological surgery have a reduced risk of nausea and vomiting compared to those who are not given ginger .
One small study from 2010 examined the effects of ginger root powder supplements on nausea in sixty children and young adults who underwent chemotherapy. The analysis showed that the supplement led to reduced nausea in most of the people who took it .
2. Helps digestion
Ginger can help relieve gas and other digestive issues. Some research indicates that enzymes in ginger can help the body break up and expel excessive gas, providing relief from gastrointestinal discomfort.
In a study of 24 healthy individuals, 1.2 grams of ginger powder before a meal accelerated emptying of the stomach by 50% .
Ginger also appears to have beneficial effects on the enzyme trypsin and pancreatic lipase, which are important for digestion.
3. Relieves arthritis pain and inflammation
Ginger has been used for centuries to reduce inflammation and studies show that ginger is effective in relieving the pain of osteoarthritis.
A study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research found that a ginger root supplement administered to volunteer participants reduced inflammation markers in the colon within a month.
Ginger has also shown promise in clinical trials for treating inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. One group of researchers concluded that taking ginger is “modestly efficacious and reasonably safe” for treating inflammation caused by osteoarthritis .
You can use either dried or fresh ginger root in your food. You can also make ginger tea by simmering slices of ginger for 10-15 minutes in a cup of boiling water, or buy ginger tea bags at the supermarket.
4. Prevents cancer
Ginger extract has been studied for its anti-cancer properties and research has found that it can be effective in killing certain cancer cells.
According to the research’s findings, ginger is capable of slowing down the cancer cell’s growth and control the production of angiogenic factors in ovarian cancer cells. Angiogenic factors are thought to promote the tumor’s growth. Thus, ginger supplementation may have potential in the treatment and prevention of ovarian cancer .
Ginger appears to be effective against prostate cancer as well. According to a research conducted by American scientists and published in the British Journal of Nutrition, a whole ginger extract was found to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer on mice by 56% .
5. Reduces the risk of heart disease
Ginger is also useful in reducing the risk of heart disease. In fact, ginger consumption has been shown to decrease the risk for hypertension in adults . Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Moreover, one research found that ginger extract could reduce the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in high-fat diet rats . Oxidative modification of LDL is thought to play a key role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis – the main underlying cause of cardiovascular disease.
6. Fights respiratory infections
If you’re suffering from common respiratory disorders such as cough, flu and asthma, consuming fresh ginger will bring relief. Fresh ginger has antiviral activity which is effective against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common cause of respiratory infections.
In 2013, researchers studied the effects of fresh and dried ginger on one respiratory virus in human cells. The results indicated that fresh ginger may help protect the respiratory system, while dried ginger did not have the same impact .
7. Soothes sore throat
You can also use ginger to get relief from sore throat. Research suggests that ginger may do this by blocking pro-inflammatory proteins in the body.
Sipping hot ginger tea is a popular and effective remedy for a sore throat. You can purchase ginger tea or make your own tea with fresh ginger.
Boil 4 cups of water in a saucepan. Turn off heat, add 3 one-inch pieces of fresh ginger root and allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Stir in one tablespoon of honey and drink it while it’s still warm.
8. Protects against ulcers
Due to its gastroprotective effects, ginger is an effective way to prevent gastric ulcers.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) defines a peptic ulcer as a sore in the lining of your stomach or duodenum. They are most often caused by long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin.
Ginger provides the anti-inflammatory effects of NSAIDs so you can reduce your dependence on them and reduce the risk of developing an ulcer in the first place, according to a study published in the journal Food & Function .
9. Weight loss
Drinking ginger tea probably will not result in significant weight loss without dieting or exercise. However, it has been shown that ginger does curb the appetite and stimulate digestion.
A meta-analysis of studies that looked at ginger’s weight loss benefits suggests that ginger has a significant effect on body weight and belly fat (waist-to-hip ratio) .
One small study found that overweight men who consumed ginger stayed fuller longer .
When using ginger tea to assist in weight loss, it is recommended to drink one cup before your meals every day. It is also important that the tea is consumed while it is still hot.
10. Stimulates hair growth
Ginger contains circulatory agents that stimulate the blood flow on the scalp, increasing blood circulation to hair follicles and encouraging new hair growth. Ginger also cures dandruff since it has a natural antiseptic that controls scalp problems.
Get one fresh ginger root and remove its skin. Then grate the root and squeeze it to extract the juice in a small bowl. Add one tablespoon of olive oil to it and massage the mixture into your scalp. Leave it on for about half an hour, then rinse it off and wash your hair with a mild shampoo.
How to Select and Store Ginger
Look for ginger roots that are firm, smooth with a fresh, spicy fragrance. Avoid those with wrinkled flesh and light for their size, as these indicate that the ginger is past its prime.
Fresh, unpeeled ginger roots should be stored in a plastic bag and can be refrigerated up to three weeks if tightly wrapped and up to three months if frozen. Preserved ginger can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to three months.