Ginger Root - Unique Perceptions Featured Herb


Ginger is a herb that is used as a spice and also for its therapeutic qualities. The underground stem (rhizome) can be used fresh, powdered, dried, or as an oil or juice. Ginger is part of the Zingiberaceae family, as are cardamom, turmeric and galangal.

According to the National Library of Medicine, part of the NIH (National Institutes of Health), ginger is widely used throughout the world for treating loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting after surgery, nausea resulting from cancer treatment, flatulence, stomach upset, colic, morning sickness and motion sickness.

Some people find ginger helps them with the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection, bronchitis, cough, menstrual cramps, arthritis and muscle pain. Ginger contains a chemical that is used as an ingredient in antacid, laxative and anti-gas medications.

Ginger is also used as a flavoring by the food and drinks industry, as a spice and flavoring in cooking, and for fragrance in soaps and cosmetics.

In India, ginger is liberally used in daily life. Ginger-infused chai is a household favorite, and it's grandma's antidote of choice for battling cold and flu. Ayurveda, a system of traditional medicine native to the Indian subcontinent, gives ginger the status of a virtual medicine chest.

For thousands of years, herbalists have used the root of the ginger plant to relieve stomach troubles. With its natural anti-inflammatory effects, ginger is also a common remedy for inflammation-related health problems like rheumatoid arthritis.

History of ginger

The University of Maryland Medical Center writes that ginger has been used in China for over 2,000 years to help digestion and treat diarrhea, nausea and stomach upsets.

The Mahabharata (circa 4th century BC), one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, describes a stewed meat meal which includes ginger.

Approximately 2000 years ago, ginger was exported from India to the Roman empire, where it became valued for its therapeutic as well as culinary properties.

Ginger continued to be traded in Europe after the fall of the Roman empire, where its supply was controlled by Arab traders for hundreds of years. During medieval times it became a popular ingredient in sweets.

During the 13th and 14th centuries ginger and black pepper were commonly traded spices. By the sixteenth century one pound in weight of ginger in England would cost the equivalent of one sheep.

Health Benefits of Ginger

A number of studies have supported ginger's stomach-soothing effects. In addition to easing post-surgery nausea and vomiting, the herb appears to reduce motion sickness and morning sickness. What's more, a 2009 study of 644 cancer patients found that taking ginger supplements decreased post-chemotherapy nausea by 40%.

Ginger may also help alleviate chronic pain, possibly by lowering your levels of hormones that induce inflammation. A study published in 2005, for instance, suggests that ginger could lessen pain more effectively than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Muscle pain caused by exercise

A study involving 74 volunteers carried out at the University of Georgia found that daily ginger supplementation reduced exercise-induced muscle pain by 25%. The study was published in The Journal of Pain.

Inflammation of the colon

A study carried out at the University of Michigan Medical School found that Ginger Root Supplement administered to volunteer participants reduced inflammation markers in the colon within a month. The study was published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research. Experts say that inflammation of the colon is a precursor to colon cancer. Co-researcher Suzanna M. Zick, N.D., M.P.H., explained that by reducing inflammation in the colon a person reduces their risk of developing colon cancer. Zick said "We need to apply the same rigor to the sorts of questions about the effect of ginger root that we apply to other clinical trial research. Interest in this is only going to increase as people look for ways to prevent cancer that are nontoxic, and improve their quality of life in a cost-effective way."

Home Medicinal Uses

  1. Haven't been feeling hungry? Eat fresh ginger just before lunch to stoke a dull appetite and fire up the digestive juices.
  2. Ginger improves the absorption and assimilation of essential nutrients in the body.
  3. Ginger clears the 'microcirculatory channels' of the body, including the pesky sinuses that tend to flare up from time to time.
  4. Feeling airsick or nauseous? Chew on ginger, preferably tossed in a little honey.
  5. Can't stop the toot-a-thon? Gas-oops-guess what?! Ginger helps reduce flatulence!
  6. Tummy moaning and groaning under cramps? Munch on ginger.
  7. Reeling under joint pain? Ginger, with its anti-inflammatory properties can bring relief. Float some ginger essential oil in your bath to help aching muscles and joints.
  8. Just had surgery? Chewing ginger post-operation can help overcome nausea.
  9. Stir up some ginger tea to get rid of throat and nose congestion. And when there's a nip in the air, the warming benefits of this tasty tea are even greater!
  10. Bedroom blues? Try adding a gingery punch to a bowl of soup. (Psst...the Ayurvedic texts credit ginger with aphrodisiac properties).

Ways to Use Ginger

  1. Ginger Tea:
    Sipping ginger tea can help calm an upset stomach, as well as ease congestion when you've got a cold. Add 5 thin slices, peeled, fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp dried (not powdered) ginger with 1 cinnamon stick (3-4 inches) to 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and boil on medium for 20 minutes. Strain and serve. You can add lemon juice to the tea (for help with a cold) and honey to sweeten if necessary.
  2. Cold Treatment with Milk:
    At the onset of a cold, add 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon and ginger to 1 cup of scalded milk. Add 1 T of honey and drink while hot. Very soothing and stimulating.
  3. Inner Ear Disorders:
    Grate 1 tsp fresh ginger (or 1/2 tsp dried ginger) and add to 1 cup boiling water. Steep for 15 minutes (25 minutes if using dried ginger) and strain. Sweeten with honey and drink as a tea. Controls motion sickness, nausea and vertigo caused by inner ear disorder.
  4. Ginger & Herb Rice:
    Cook basmati rice. When you take the lid off the pan, quickly stir in finely chopped garlic, ginger, green chilies and fresh cilantro leaves. The burst of flavor and fragrance will drive your senses crazy with desire!
  5. Ginger In Your Juice:
    'Grate' idea: grate some ginger root and put it in your juicer, along with carrots and apples and a little lemon juice. Totally yummy and, of course, so good for you!
  6. Gingery Dessert:
    Even a smidgen of grated ginger on your vanilla panna cotta or strawberry sorbet can wake up the flavor!

Side Effects

Since ginger acts as a blood thinner, it's important to discontinue use at least two weeks before surgery and let your doctor know you've been using the herb.

Sources

  1. http://altmedicine.about.com/od/ginger/a/ginger_health.htm
  2. http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/10-healing-benefits-of-ginger
  3. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265990.php
  4. Jude's Herbal Home Remedies, Jude C. Todd, Llewellyn Publications, 2013.