Ginger, also known as Zingiber officinale, is one of the most ancient spices in the world. Though many people call ginger root, it is a rhizome, an underground stem that grows horizontally. This spice has been used in Asia for its medicinal properties for the last 4,700 years and also it is closely related to Turmeric. It was high in demand during the Roman Empire. Queens Elizabeth I of England was a fan of this spice and is credited with the invention of the gingerbread man. Soon, you will see the health benefits of Ginger and also ways to include Ginger in your daily diet.
So, what gives ginger its medicinal properties?
Ginger gets its medicinal properties from Gingerol, one of the many chemical components of this ancient spice. This oily resin is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
Top 15 health benefits of ginger
Here are the top 15 benefits of ginger that are supported by scientific research:
1. Improves bone health
Gingerol, the main bio-active compound in ginger, is known for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Use of ginger has been very useful in the treatment of knee inflammation and the related pain. In a study by the University Of Miami on patients with Osteoarthritis, it was discovered that ginger supplements cause notable pain reduction. In fact, ginger proved to be much more effective than placebo during this study.
2. Improves heart health
Ginger has been used for years to treat heart-related problems. Ginger contains anti-inflammatory properties that work like common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Ginger blocks the very genes that are needed to create inflammation.
According to a research conducted on rats, it was discovered that the rats that were given a higher dose of ginger extract had significant reduction blood clotting factors and cholesterol levels. The study concluded that ginger might be used as a cholesterol-lowering anti-inflammatory blood thinner.
3. Lowers blood sugar
Gingerols are helpful in enhancing sensitivity to insulin. According to a study in Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, gingerols suppress sorbitol accumulation in human blood cells and sugar-fed rats. So, not only does ginger help prevent and reverse diabetes, but it also helps in preventing related conditions like diabetic retinopathy.
- Recommended read: Sugar Busters diet
4. Aids in digestion
Ginger can help a lot in the digestive process. The elevated sugar levels in the body can slow down the rate at which the stomach empties its contents. Ginger helps in controlling the sugar levels, thus improving the digestion. Ginger also helps in absorption of the various nutrients into the body. This is the reason why people eat ginger as an appetiser in different Asian cultures.
5. Help treat diarrhoea
Ginger has been used for years to treat stomach ailments. Ginger controls spasms and gas that can aggravate diarrhoea. This ancient spice also has antibacterial, analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that help get rid of digestive problems. In the Chinese culture diarrhoea, patients are made to drink ginger tea as it can replenish the loss of nutrients in the patient’s body.
6. Removes excess gas
Food items that help sooth the digestive system are known as carminatives. Ginger is a useful carminative that helps to give relief from gas and bloating. Too much gas in the system can get dangerous as it can put pressure on the other organs of the body. A carminative like ginger prevents gas from building up. According to James A Duke, author of ‘The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods,’ ginger can help in treating gas, bloating and cramps. Gingerols also help in getting rid of the pain that accompanies bloating.
7. Prevents menstrual cramps
Ginger can help prevent menstrual cramps when taken at the beginning of the period.
During menstruation, prostaglandins are the hormones that act as chemical messengers and key activators of cramps, pains and fevers. Ginger helps in reducing the levels of prostaglandins in the body, and this helps in relief from the pain.
8. Prevents cancer
According to recent research done at the University of Minnesota, gingerol can delay the growth of colorectal cancer cells. In similar research at the University of Michigan, gingerol is effective in delaying the growth of ovarian cancer cells. This cancer prevention property of ginger makes it a great choice for cancer preventive measures.
There is also evidence that ginger can help in pancreatic and breast cancer prevention as well.
9. Reduces nausea
Ginger is highly effective in curing nausea. It was used as a remedy for seasickness in ancient times. Ginger has also been found to be very helpful in curing nausea in patients going through chemotherapy. It is also found to be a very effective remedy for pregnant women suffering from morning sickness. Though studies suggest having 1.5 grams of ginger will help cure morning sickness, it is better to consult your doctor.
10. Helps relieve muscle pain
The anti-inflammatory properties are helpful in giving relief from muscle pain and soreness caused by exercising. According to a study conducted at Georgia College and State University at Milledgeville daily consumption of raw and heated ginger reduced muscle pain by 25 and 23 percent respectively.
11. Helps lower cholesterol levels
High levels of LDL lipoproteins (bad cholesterols) in the body can be very harmful to your health. Daily consumption of ginger helps lower bad cholesterols in the body. According to a 45-day study done on 85 people with high cholesterol, consumption of three grams of ginger daily helped in significant reduction of LDL cholesterol levels in their body.
12. Protects against Alzheimer’s Disease
Stress and chronic inflammation have been linked to the ageing process. This is one of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease. According to studies, the antioxidants in ginger can inhibit inflammatory response in the brain. According to a new study, ginger can inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase that has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Ginger has the same effect on the body as the acetylcholinesterase inhibitors that are prescribed by the doctors.
Ginger is known to promote sweating. Sweating helps eliminate toxins from the body. Our sweat also contains a compound called dermcidin. Dermcidin creates a protective layer on the skin, and this protects us from bacterial and viral infections.
14. Treats flu
Ginger has been used to treat flu and infections since ancient times. It helps to control the symptoms of flu. The anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of ginger make it a useful remedy for controlling fever, headache and cramps during an infection.
15. Cures Ulcers
Ginger is also known to heal ulcers. In a recent study, Indian scientists discovered that ginger was up to eight times more effective in treating acid reflex than Prevacid, a drug usually prescribed to treat this condition.
4 Ways to use ginger in your diet
Now that we know about the various benefits of ginger, it is time to learn how to include this medicinal spice in our diet. Here are the multiple ways to incorporate ginger into your diet:
Add it raw to any smoothie that you like to drink. You can also add it to any homemade fruit or vegetable juice.
2. Essential Oil
The ginger oil contains the highest level of gingerol. This oil is the best way to use ginger as a medicine.
3. Ginger Tea
Ginger tea is used to relieve nausea, treat a sore throat and relax the body. Add some honey and lemon to this tea and have at least two or three cups a day.
4. Ginger Powder
Use ginger powder or grated ginger in curries and other dishes. It can add an excellent flavour to your meal.