You have probably taken ginger in food. Maybe even heard that it can help relieve a digestion issue. But, do you know that this humble root is a critical component of herbal and indeed, holistic medicine? What are the health benefits of ginger?
Ginger, whose scientific name is Zingiber officinale, is a tropical flowering plant that originated from South East Asia. Its rhizome, or ginger root, has been in use as a spice and medicine for thousands of years. Ginger is a versatile tuber that can be used in many forms including fresh, dried, or as a liquid extract without losing its beneficial value.
Health Benefits of Ginger
There is a body of research that demonstrates the many health benefits of ginger. It is no wonder that the root has been an important component of traditional Chinese medicine as well as Ayurveda. Indeed, ginger is a great part of holistic medicine.
Here are some of the most important health benefits of ginger:
1) It Is Anti-Inflammatory
Inflammation is a natural defense mechanism that your body deploys at a cellular level when faced with danger from toxins, harmful bacteria, and viruses as well as injury. Because of this, we cannot really avoid inflammation. However, chronic inflammation is something we don’t need in the body.
Ginger has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which can help in the prevention or even healing of diseases that result from chronic inflammation. Such diseases include asthma, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), cancers, and allergies.
The active components of ginger such as shogaol, paradol and gingerol, give it its anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines which are responsible for causing chronic inflammation. 1),2)
2) Helps to Manage and Prevent Diabetes Mellitus
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that messes up with the way your body cells respond to insulin. Insulin is a hormone responsible for the movement of glucose from your bloodstream into your cells. Diabetes causes sugar level to build up in the bloodstream which can lead to serious consequences. Ginger helps regulate insulin level as well as its responsiveness. It also helps to lower the blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
However, taking ginger in large quantities may have some side effects which include diarrhea, stomach upset or heartburn. Therefore, you are advised not to take more than 4 grams of ginger per day, and 1 gram if pregnant.3)
3) Lowers Bad Cholesterol
The level of bad cholesterol increases in the bloodstream when you do not exercise, are overweight or inherit a tendency to have high cholesterol. Having high levels of bad cholesterol or LDL in your blood increases the chance of getting strokes and heart attacks. A research published in the “Food and Function” journal in 2013, found ginger to have the ability to lower the levels of bad cholesterol while still increasing the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) in the blood.
The study explains that ginger does this by activating an enzyme that increases your body’s use of cholesterol thereby lowering its level. Therefore, ginger is a great addition to your diet if you want to maintain a healthy heart.4)
4) Reduces Vomiting and Nausea
Nausea presents with an uncomfortable feeling in the throat that may result in the expulsion of stomach contents. On the other hand, vomiting is the forceful, involuntary expulsion of contents from the stomach. Ginger is well known for its antiemetic effect – helping alleviate vomiting and nausea. It has been used as a natural remedy for stomach upsets for thousands of years by healers and modern doctors alike.
It can also help with nausea that comes from morning sickness, motion and chemotherapy. This is because ginger acts as a flatulence inhibitor and digestive tract soother.5)
5) Helps to Prevent and Cure Cancer
Numerous studies done different researchers, have shown that ginger is effective in the prevention of various cancers including gastrointestinal, gastric, liver, pancreatic, colorectal cancers, and cholangiocarcinoma. In fact, ginger has been shown to be more effective in destroying cancer cells than conventional medicine such as chemotherapy. This is made possible by an active constituent of ginger called 6-shogaol, that forms when the root is either cooked or dried.
What makes this constituent so effective is the manner with which it works. Unlike conventional treatment, the ginger constituent destroys cancer cells at concentrations that are non-toxic to non-cancerous cells. Furthermore, it has the ability to destroy cancer stem cells which are responsible for poor prognosis and tumor relapse.6)
6) Reduces Muscle Pain and Soreness
A study carried out by researches from Georgia University, Georgia College, and State University found that ginger reduces muscle pain. The research involved 78 participants, and two types of capsules; a placebo and a capsule made from raw or heat-treated ginger. The participants were asked to take the capsules for 11 days and do strenuous exercises on the eighth day. 24 hours after exercising, the participants on ginger capsules reported feeling less pain compared to the others on placebos.
Although it was a small study, the results highly suggest that ginger does indeed reduce muscle pain and soreness.7)
7) Reduces Menstrual Pain
For many women, menstrual pain can sometimes get to the point of interfering with their normal life. Many resort to painkillers in order to relieve the discomfort. Using ginger can be a natural way to deal with menstrual cramps alongside other symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, headache and upset stomach. Ginger works through zingibain, an enzyme contained in it.
This enzyme inhibits the body’s production of prostaglandins, a type of pro-inflammatory chemical that triggers the uterus to shed its lining. Therefore, menstrual cramps can be linked to prostaglandins production.8)
8) Improves Brain Functions
Ginger is also great for the brain. This is mainly because of the powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties contained in it. Conditions such as anxiety, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, and brain fog are as a result of chronic inflammation of brain tissues. Furthermore, there is evidence that ginger enhances brain function.
A study involving 60 middle-aged women and intake of ginger extract, showed an improvement in reaction time and working memory. Additionally, various animal studies show that ginger can fight age-related decline in brain function.9)
If you are looking to constitute a medicine chest of home remedies, ginger should be at the very center of it. Ginger has multiple documented health benefits which make it one of the most important remedies in herbal and holistic medicine.