Diet and Nutrition

Health Benefits of Ginger

Health Benefits of Ginger

Key Takeaways

  • Ginger has many health benefits including that it helps with digestive issues, nausea and pain reduction. 
  • Ginger comes in two forms, young ginger and mature ginger. 
  • It is an especially popular ingredient in Asian cuisines — including Chinese, Indian, Arabic Japanese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, Filipino, and Korean.

Where is ginger found in the world?

Ginger is native to the warmer parts of Asia, such as China, Japan, India, and the Middle East. It is thought to have started out, growing wild in the rainforests of the Indian subcontinent. This is because of the richness of variety of ginger in India. But today, it is also grown in South America and Africa. The ancient Romans are also familiar with the herb as they have been importing it from China long before the Spaniards introduced it to their colonies. Today, the top producers of ginger are Indonesia, India, Australia, Jamaica, and Fiji.

It is often thought of as a root, but actually it is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale. Other members of this family are turmeric (Curcuma longa), cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), and galangal. A rhizome is an elongated subterranean stem of the plant, which is usually horizontal. It is thickened by deposits of the plant’s reserve food material and produces shoots above and roots below. These modified stems also allow the parent plant to reproduce or propagate asexually. In addition to that, by having reserve food material, ginger is able to survive perennially. A rhizome is not a root. A rhizome possesses buds, nodes, and usually scale-like leaves, unlike true roots.

The ginger is knotted, thick and beige in color. Its leaves are long, narrow, ribbed, and green. It produces white or pink flower buds which bloom into yellow flowers. It has annual leafy stems which grow up to about a meter, or three to four feet tall.

Which cuisines use ginger?

Ginger is a popular ingredient in nearly all Asian cuisines — including Chinese, Indian, Arabic Japanese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, Filipino, and Korean.

In Chinese cuisines, Szechuan and Cantonese dishes frequently rely on ginger and garlic to add flavor to the meals. Ginger is also popularly used to flavor the oil in stir-fried dishes.

Ginger-garlic paste is a staple in Indian cuisine. Most dishes begin with pan-roasting onion, garlic, and ginger. Having ginger-garlic paste ready is a must for every Indian home. Ginger is also one of the core ingredients in India’s special curry powder.

In Japanese dishes, pickled ginger is often found as an accompaniment to sushi dishes and even rice bowls. Pickled ginger, or gari, is made with young ginger, or shin shoga. This gives it the pinkish color. It is marinated in salt, then later cooked in a mixture of sugar and vinegar.

Korean dishes are known for their savory and bold flavors. This is all thanks to their armory of spices and sauces, which include ginger, garlic, soy sauce, scallions, chili pepper flakes and paste, and sesame oil. Traditional kimchi is made with finely minced ginger or ginger juice added before the fermenting process.

In Filipino cuisine, ginger is often used in soups and stews, particularly chicken and fish dishes. It is used to contrast the strong tastes of the meat.

How to use ginger

During your grocery trips, try looking for fresh ginger root whenever possible. It contains higher levels of gingerol and protease, which is the ginger anti-inflammatory compound. This usually comes in two forms, young and mature, although young ginger is usually only available in Asian markets.

Young ginger is fleshy and juicy, and its flavor is very mild. It can be pickled, candied, or made into tea. Pickled ginger is made by marinating the ginger in salt first. After patting it dry, it is then cooked in a mixture of sugar and vinegar. Candied ginger is good for sore throats and coughs. It is made by cooking the root in sugar until it is soft. To make ginger tea, just add 3/4 teaspoon of chopped ginger in one cup of hot water. Close the teapot and let it simmer for five minutes.

On the other hand, mature ginger is fibrous and almost dry. The juice from mature roots is often used as seasoning in various cuisines.

Add ginger to your dishes like soup, fish, and stir-fries. It goes well with a variety of things. Some examples are, for produce, apples, bell peppers, bok choy, carrots, celery, figs, potatoes, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes; for herbs and spices, basil, chili, cilantro, lemongrass, and miso; poultry, seafood, sesame oil, soy sauce, sake, seaweed, and yogurt.

If no fresh ginger is available, you may wish to purchase dried ginger powder. In that case, try looking for organically grown crops. Although the flavor can be quite different, this can be substituted for fresh ginger in a ratio of 1:6. Powdered ginger is typically used to flavor pastries like gingerbread cookies, crackers and cakes. It is also used for ginger ale and beer. Aside from that, powdered ginger can also be placed inside a capsule and taken orally, similar to over-the-counter medication.

Ginger roots can also be processed through steam distillation to extract its oil. Some people use ginger oil as massage oil to relieve muscle pain.

What are the health benefits of ginger?

Ginger has been part of the herbal traditions in Asian, Arabic, and Indian medicine for a very long time.

Digestive Issues. Ginger contains phenolic compounds, which are known to relieve irritation in the gastrointestinal tract and suppress contractions — limiting the movement of food and fluids. It also helps stimulate saliva and bile production. As such, it is helpful in alleviating stomach pain, chronic indigestion, or dyspepsia, and heartburn.

The results of one study show that ginger speeds up the emptying of the stomach after a meal. Its effects cause an acceleration of up to 50 percent. Not only does it empty your stomach faster, it also helps in improving the absorption and assimilation of the nutrients from the food you just ate. And for the gassy people in your lives, ginger reduces flatulence too.

Nausea. In another study, ginger proved effective in reducing the symptoms of motion sickness. Cold sweat and vomiting was reduced, although nausea was not. Ginger had not shown to be more effective than prescription or over-the-counter medication. However, ginger does not induce side effects like dryness of mouth and drowsiness that the aforementioned medications produce.

Because ginger is a natural medicine, it is also considered safe to be taken by pregnant women in relieving nausea and vomiting due to morning sickness. Doctors suggest taking no more than one gram of ginger a day. It may also be helpful in relieving nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy and for people who just had an operation.

Pain Reduction. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, and as such, it is recognized to be a powerful painkiller. Powdered ginger is effective in relieving menstrual cramps. You can also add a few tablespoons of powdered ginger to your hot bath. This will relieve sore muscles and body pain. One study has shown that consuming a daily dose of ginger supplement helped reduce muscle pain caused by exercise. Ginger oil can also be massaged on painful areas to relieve the pain.

It is even effective against migraines, due to its ability to prevent prostaglandins from causing inflammation and pain in the blood vessels.

If you have osteoarthritis, consuming ginger supplements or tea may help you manage the pain better as well.

Colon Cancer Prevention. Because ginger aids in good digestion and has anti-inflammatory properties, ginger has been explored as a possible preventive tool for colorectal cancer. In fact, one study has shown that consuming ginger may slow the growth of these cancer cells.

Another study showed that inflammation markers in the colon were reduced in just a month after administration of ginger root supplements.

Aside from colorectal cancer, it also shows promise in treating ovarian and pancreatic cancer.

Diaphoretic. Ginger has diaphoretic qualities. This means it promotes sweating and keeps the body warm from within. This makes ginger tea a good beverage for cold weather and winter nights. Aside from the ginger, you can also add a slice or a squeeze of lemon and some honey to add flavor.

Cold and Flu Prevention. Many people find ginger lozenges effective in relieving sore throat and coughs. Taking ginger teas is also a good way of preventing the development of flu viruses. Adding ginger powder to a hot bath can also help lower fevers. In Chinese territories, you may often find warm Coke with ginger and lemon during the winter season.

Blood Sugar Control. One research study shows ginger as a promising aid to diabetic patients. Results show a decrease in fasting blood sugar and HbA1c levels.

Heart Disease Prevention. Research also shows that consuming ginger daily caused a reduction of ApoB/ApoA-I ratio, as well as markers for oxidized lipoproteins. Both are monitored in patients who are at a high risk of heart disease. The reduction in cholesterol levels is indicative of the positive effects ginger brings in reducing a person’s risk of heart disease.

Brain Function Enhancer. Ginger has antioxidant and bioactive compounds that can inhibit inflammatory responses in the brain. This combats the oxidative stress and chronic inflammation related to the aging process. As such, ginger can be used to enhance brain function, and prevent Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other age-related cognitive decline.

Antibacterial. Ginger can help lower the risk of infections because it has the capacity to inhibit the growth of various types of bacteria. Its effect against oral infections like gingivitis and periodontitis are noteworthy.