The Healing Root: 8 Amazing Health Benefits of Ginger
Written by Eli Ben-YehudaOn April 15, 2020
Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.
However, some herbs and spices may offer additional health benefits. One of these is ginger.
Scientific analysis shows that ginger contains hundreds of compounds and metabolites, some of which may contribute to health and healing. Of these, the gingerols and shogaols have been most extensively researched.
Native to South-east Asia, India and China, ginger has been an integral component of the region’s diet and valued for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties for thousands of years. The Romans first imported ginger from China, and by the mid-16th century, Europe was receiving more than 2000 tonnes per year from the East Indies. The top commercial producers of ginger now include Jamaica, India, Fiji, Indonesia and Australia.
Ginger is a flowering plant and its official name is Zingiber officinale. The rhizome, more commonly known as the root, is what you are likely familiar with. The root is spicy and peppery in flavor, with loads of medicinal properties. It’s used all over the world in culinary and clinical applications—both for good reason.
Types of Ginger
You can buy ginger in a variety of forms, including:
- Whole fresh roots, which provide the freshest taste
- Dried roots
- Powdered ginger, which is a dried root that has been ground
- Preserved or ‘stem’ ginger, which is made from fresh young roots that have been peeled, sliced and cooked in sugar syrup
- Crystallised ginger, which is also cooked in sugar syrup, then air-dried and rolled in sugar
Pickled ginger, which is made by thinly slicing the root and pickling it in vinegar. In Japan this is known as gari, and often accompanies sushi to refresh the palate between courses
Ginger has been called a superfood time and again, but what makes it so powerful? This root has the following eight superpowers.
1. Helps Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (known as hypertension) is a common symptom of the standard American diet, which is high in processed foods. According to the Mayo Clinic, when hypertension is left untreated it can lead to damage to your arteries, heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes. Doctors frequently prescribe blood pressure medications to their patients, but what if you could reduce your blood pressure naturally?
Ginger has been shown to improve blood pressure (in conjunction with medication) by acting as a vasodilator—it expands your blood vessels. This is helpful for increasing circulation in the body, which reduces the overall blood pressure throughout the body. Ginger also contains potassium, a mineral that research has found can help lower blood pressure. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), ginger contains 415 mg of potassium per 100 g. That’s more than a banana (a food known for being high in potassium), which only contains 358 mg per 100 g.
2. Aids In Colds and The Flu
During cold weather, drinking ginger tea is a good way to keep warm. It is diaphoretic, which means that it promotes sweating, working to warm the body from within.
To make ginger tea at home, slice 20 to 40 grams (g) of fresh ginger and steep it in a cup of hot water. Adding a slice of lemon or a drop of honey adds flavor and additional benefits, including vitamin C and antibacterial properties. This makes a soothing natural remedy for a cold or flu.
3. Helps In Pain Relief
The root, the part of the plant most widely used in alternative forms of medicine, is rich in volatile oils that contain the active component gingerol. This potent anti-inflammatory compound is believed to explain why people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis experience reductions in their pain levels and improvements in their mobility when they consume ginger regularly. Gingerols inhibit the formation of inflammatory cytokines, or chemical messengers of the immune system.
4. Aids with Digestion
Ginger has a long tradition of being very effective in alleviating discomfort and pain in the stomach. It’s regarded as an excellent carminative, a substance that promotes the elimination of excessive gas from the digestive system, and soothes the intestinal tract. Colic and dyspepsia respond particularly well to ginger.
5. Alleviates Nausea
Ginger root has also been anecdotally reported to reduce the symptoms associated with motion sickness, including dizziness, nausea, vomiting and cold sweating. Ginger has been used to treat nausea and vomiting associated with mild pregnancy sickness. However, check with your GP or midwife to ensure it is appropriate for you.
6. Anti-Cancer Agent
Pre-clinical studies have shown protective effects of ginger and its constituents against skin, breast, oral cavity, liver, and colon cancer in animals.
Many plants and their products have active anticancer agents. Ginger is considered as an important spice with many clinical potential activities. Ginger and its compounds display, anti-metastatic and anticancer agent.
7. May Reduce Menstrual Pain
Ginger is effective for cramps and reduces bleeding when an eighth of a teaspoon of ginger powder is taken three times a day during one’s period. On ginger, women went from half a cup per period down to a quarter cup. Ginger appears to be a highly effective treatment for the reduction of menstrual blood loss.
8. May Reduce Cholesterol
One 2014 study showed that ginger can lower your total cholesterol and triglycerides levels, while a study conducted in 2008 showed that it can reduce your LDL cholesterol levels and boost your HDL cholesterol. You can take ginger as a supplement or powder or simply added, raw, to food.
Ginger In Moderation
Like all things too much of a good thing can have adverse effects. While ginger has many health benefits you should know the following.
Large doses of ginger may cause sleepiness and minor sedation, according to Medline Plus. Ginger may increase the risk of bleeding so if you have a bleeding disorder, you should avoid eating large amounts of it or taking supplements, according to Medline Plus.
Ginger may also lower your blood sugar, which could cause problems if you have diabetes or hypoglycemia. Eating large amounts of ginger, or taking high dose supplements, might make some heart conditions worse so avoid ginger if you have heart disease. As well, if you take warfarin or other blood thinners, you should limit the ginger you eat since high consumption could interfere with your medication.
Consult Your Physician
Using fresh ginger for many people poses no complications. Ginger comes in many forms. Myself I do prefer using fresh ginger versus supplements.
You should know that ginger may interfere with medications that change the contraction of the heart, including beta blockers and digoxin. Before beginning to take ginger for any ailment, you should consult your doctor.
Seniors usually take medicines regularly, and it’s always unwise for them to start a new regimen without the advice of a physician.
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