You may have heard that ginger is a wonderful treatment for nausea, but there are many more reasons to add this versatile root into your diet – on a daily basis. With it’s warm, zesty flavour, it’s no surprise that ginger is one of the most popular culinary spices across the world today. It’s available in many forms, including fresh, dried, ground, juiced and oil. It’s even available in capsule form, making it a convenient way to supplement your healthy diet.
So what actually is ginger root and where does it come from?
What is Ginger Root?
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a flowering plant that is closely related to its cousins, turmeric and cardamom, which all come from the Zingiberaceae family.
Ginger originated in the tropical rainforests from the Indian subcontinent to Southern Asia where ginger plants show considerable genetic variation. As one of the first spices exported from the Orient, ginger arrived in Europe during the spice trade, and was used by ancient Greeks and Romans.
The part of the plant which is commonly used for its powerful medicinal properties, is the underground stem, or “rhizome”, and has been used as a natural remedy for thousands of years. The flesh of the ginger root can be yellow, white or red, depending on the variety.
So what are the key benefits of ginger?
9 Benefits of Ginger
1. Helps Treat Nausea
Probably the most common medicinal use for ginger is its ability to relieve nausea and vomiting. In one review, the results of 12 studies and 1,278 pregnant women show that ginger was effective at decreasing symptoms of nausea with minimal risk of side effects. In addition, a study from the University of Rochester Medical Center showed that ginger helped reduce nausea severity in patients receiving chemotherapy.
2. Eases Inflammation
Although inflammation can be a normal, healthy immune response to injury and infection, research shows that chronic inflammation is a major contributor to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Ginger contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, as well as the less commonly known shogaols, paradols and zingerone. These substances are believed to explain why so many people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis experience reductions in their pain levels and improvements in their mobility when they consume ginger regularly.
In two clinical studies involving patients who responded to conventional drugs and those who didn’t, physicians found that 75% of arthritis patients and 100% of patients with muscular discomfort experienced relief of pain and/or swelling.
3. Promotes Digestion
One of the most powerful properties of ginger is its capacity to support the digestive system and ease bloating, pain, heartburn and discomfort. In one study by World Journal of Gastroenterology, ginger was able to speed up the emptying of the stomach by 25 percent, compared to a placebo in people with indigestion. Another study even found that taking ginger capsules with a meal actually doubled the speed of stomach emptying.
4. Fights Fungal Infections
Fungal infections are the cause of many health concerns, including athlete’s foot, candidiasis and digestive problems due to overgrowth of the yeast known as candida albicans. Fortunately, ginger boasts impressive antifungal properties, which can help to destroy disease-causing fungi. One test-tube study in 2016 showed that ginger extract was effective against two types of yeast that commonly cause fungal infections in the mouth. Another test-tube study which was carried out in 2003, measured the antifungal effects of 29 plant species, and found that ginger was the most effective at killing off fungus.
5. Eases menstrual Pain
A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that ginger reduces menstrual pain as effectively as medications like ibuprofen and mefanamic acid. These findings are backed up in another study, which reported that ginger reduces both the intensity and duration of pain.
6. Boosts Immunity
Thanks to its warming properties, ginger is an effective way to promote healthy sweating, which is the body’s natural way of treating a cold or flu virus. Not only does sweating increase detoxification processes, it also produces a potent pathogen-fighting agent known as dermicidin. This powerful compound is manufactured in the body’s sweat glands, secreted into the sweat, and transported to the skin’s surface where it provides protection against invading microorganisms, including bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, and fungi, including Candida albicans.
7. Regulates Blood Sugar
A 2015 study showed that ginger supplementation reduced fasting blood sugar by 12 percent and improved long-term blood sugar control by 10 percent. In another study, a modest dose of ginger improved eight markers of diabetes type 2.
8. Relieves Joint and Muscle Pain
Since ginger has been shown to significantly reduce inflammation markers, it could also help treat both joint and muscle pain. One study showed that daily consumption of ginger resulted in moderate-to-large reductions in muscle pain caused by exercise-induced muscle injury. Another study found that ginger extract helped decrease knee pain and the need for pain medication in individuals with osteoarthritis.
9. Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is essential for overall health, since it is a key component in producing bile for digestion, and manufacturing hormones. However, high levels of LDL cholesterol can build up in the blood, increasing the risk of heart disease. One of the biggest benefits of ginger is its ability to naturally lower cholesterol levels and triglycerides to reduce your risk of heart problems. A study conducted at Babol University of Medical Sciences actually found that ginger was able to significantly reduce LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol (referred to as the “beneficial” type) compared to a placebo.