(NaturalHealth365) Ginger is one of the oldest spices – used as a food and natural medicine. This wonderful spice offers superior health benefits ranging from alleviating symptoms of gastric distress to anti-inflammatory action. Alternative medicine practitioners frequently recommend ginger to help minimize nausea from motion sickness, pregnancy and chemotherapy side effects.
Ginger can also be used to treat the common cold and decrease pain in osteoarthritis – because of its potent anti-inflammatory properties.
What makes ginger such a powerful anti-inflammatory food?
Ginger is a wonder-spice, packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients that effectively work together to exert significant benefits. The main components in ginger are the phenolic compounds namely gingerols and shagaol – which impart a pungent flavor to dishes.
Plus, to add some more ‘fancy’ terminology, the sesquiterpenes such as zingiberene are responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect. It is also rich in zingibain, a protein digestive enzyme.
The health benefits of fresh ginger
1. Promotes good digestion: The use of ginger as a digestive aid has been practiced for many centuries in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is commonly used in the treatment of nausea, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, gas and bloating.
One study found that ginger aids digestion by accelerating the movement of food from the stomach into the upper small intestine.
2. Anti-inflammatory: Researchers have discovered that the anti-inflammatory benefits of ginger come from the ‘gingerols’. This is why we find that many natural healthcare providers use ginger – in the treatment of arthritic conditions.
According to a study published in the November 2003 issue of Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, adding fresh ginger to dishes on a regular basis may help in relieving the discomfort, swelling and pain experienced in arthritis.
3. Immune booster: Ginger is not only a warming spice during winter but actively promotes immune health on regular consumption. Being a natural detoxifying agent, it promotes healthy sweating, which acts as a germicide on the skin’s surface.
A 2013 study, published in the Journal of Ethanopharmacology, revealed that fresh ginger was effective against human respiratory virus and inhibited from attaching to and infecting the cells in the respiratory tract.
Ginger has also been shown to decrease mucus production and clear-up heavy congestion caused by severe colds.
The nutritional importance of ginger
An ounce of fresh ginger is only 20 calories, 5 grams of carbohydrate and a gram of dietary fiber. In addition, ginger contain minerals like, iron, calcium and phopshorus; plus vitamins such as, vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin and thiamine.
Keep in mind, the percentage of nutrients varies with the variety and storage conditions of ginger.
The use of ginger has a long history in Asian cuisine, in India ginger is consumed as part of a protein-rich diet to ease digestion. Ginger contains a protein digestive enzyme namely zingibain, which is particularly effective in preventing gas caused by protein-rich foods such as beans and legumes.
Of course, another great benefit of ginger is its aromatic, pungent and spicy taste – when added to your favorite dishes.
So what’s the best way to consume ginger?
A fresh form of ginger offers the most effective health benefits. It can be added in grated or minced form to soups, teas, rice dishes, pasta, bean dishes, gravies or simply prepared in boiling water as a drink – in small quantities – to promote digestion and calm mild stomach issues.
To treat nausea or improve digestion, steep about a 2-inch slice of fresh ginger in a cup of hot water and consume throughout the day – as you see fit – for digestive relief.
Fresh ginger can be spotted in the produce section of your grocery store and is available throughout the year. It is rare to have side effects from consuming ginger, but consuming large quantities in food or high doses from supplements may cause mild heartburn, irritation of the mouth or diarrhea. Naturally, these symptoms can be reversed by simply eating less.
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1. Wu KL, et.al; Effects of ginger on gastric emptying and motility in healthy humans; Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 May;20(5):436-40.
2. Ghosh Ak;”Zingiber officinale: A Natural gold”, International journal of Pharma and Bio-sciences, Vol 2, Iss 1, Jan-Mar 2011
3. Wigler I, Grotto I, Caspi D, Yaron M. The effects of Zintona EC (a ginger extract) on symptomatic gonarthritis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2003 Nov;11(11):783-9; 2003.
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