Native to southeastern Asia, India and China, ginger has been an integral component of the diet and valued for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties for thousands of years. Ginger has been given the status of a “natural medicine chest” in ancient Ayurvedic medicine. That’s because this wonder spice has time-tested, digestion-friendly properties, in addition to its numerous other health benefits. Ginger is in the family Zingiberaceae, closely related to turmeric and cardamom.
The rhizome (root) of ginger has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries among many cultures. It was first imported from China by the Romans and by the middle of the 16th century, Europe was receiving more than 2000 tonnes per year from the East Indies. It is grown mainly in tropical countries, Jamaican ginger (which is paler) is regarded as the best variety for culinary use. According to Chinese tradition, dried ginger tends to be hotter than fresh.
Ginger contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, these inhibit the formation of inflammatory cytokines; chemical messengers of the immune system, which could 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. One study showed that ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and is a powerful natural painkiller.
Ginger is a common folk treatment for upset stomach and nausea. There’s evidence that it may help. Ginger seems to aid digestion and saliva flow. Ginger has long been used as a natural heartburn remedy. It is most often taken in the form of tea for this purpose.
Ginger has long been used as a natural treatment for colds and the flu. Many people also find it helpful in the case of stomach flus or food poisoning, which is not surprising given the positive effects ginger has upon the digestive tract.
Ginger seems to help with nausea caused by vertigo.
Ginger has been shown to be an effective remedy for the nausea associated with motion sickness.
Research has shown that ginger may provide migraine relief due to its ability to stop prostaglandins from causing pain and inflammation in blood vessels.
Ginger may be powerful weapon in the treatment of ovarian cancer. A study conducted at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Centre found that ginger powder induces cell death in all ovarian cancer cells to which it was applied.
- Ginger is available as:
- Fresh whole roots, which provide the freshest taste
- Dried roots
- Powdered ginger which is made from the dried root
- Preserved or ‘stem’ ginger where fresh young roots are peeled, sliced and cooked in heavy sugar
- Crystallised ginger which is also cooked in sugar syrup, air dried and rolled in sugar
- Pickled ginger where the root is sliced paper thin and pickled in vinegar. This pickle, known in
- Japan as gari, often accompanies sushi to refresh the palate between courses
However you like your ginger whether like in English pubs and taverns in the 19th century, where bartenders put out small containers of ground ginger for people to sprinkle into their beer, like the ancient Greeks who prized ginger so highly that they mixed it into their bread, creating the first gingerbread, or simply in a smoothie like me, it seems like you could get a whole lot of benefits from this valued spice.