Ginger has been revered for thousands of years in traditional Asian and Arabic medicine and today, scientific studies continue to find health benefits ranging from stress relief to improved digestion.
The fiery root contains essential oils – such as gingerols and shogaols – is a good source of magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6, copper and manganese, and is rich in antioxidants.
We bring you ten health benefits linked to the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officiale, which was praised by Confucius and became a trending food fad of the Roman Empire:
In one study of 80 new sailors who were prone to motion sickness, those who took powdered ginger had less vomiting and cold sweats than those who took a placebo, said the University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Medicine.
Natural pain relief:
Ginger can reduce symptoms of menstrual pain, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. One study showed that taking a ginger extract at the beginning of the menstrual period reduced pain symptoms in 62 per cent of women.
A study at the University of Sydney found that the active ingredients in ginger directly affected pain pathways and recduced inflammation.
Natural arthritis relief:
Taking ginger can reduce pain in people suffering from osteoarthritis. One study found that taking a ginger extract reduced arthritic pain in the knee after three months of treatment.
Research also showed that a ginger extract could reduce pain and stiffness upon standing and after walking.
“Ginger contains potent gingerol, which helps cleanse the harmful chemicals that our bodies produce when we’re worried, so ginger can help psychological stress,” Dietician Alice Mackintosh told the Daily Mail.
Ginger extract showed “significant antidepressant activity” in a study that was published in the International Research Journal of Pharmacy.
Studies show that ginger inhibits several genes that contribute to inflammation, which causes or contributes to a range of health problems including cardiovascular disease, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.
Ginger was more effective than antibiotic drugs in fighting two bacterial staph infections, according to a study published in the Journal of Microbiology and Antimicrobials.
Cold and flu prevention and treatment:
Ginger contains almost a dozen anti-viral compounds and scientists have identified several that can fight the most common cold virus, the rhinoviruses. Other compounds in ginger – gingerols and shogaols – help relieve cold symptoms because they reduce pain and fever and suppress coughing.
“Stomach acid is crucial to human digestion and when we’re stressed its production can break down. Ginger stimulates the taste buds, triggering digestive secretions,” said Mackintosh.
“Hot water with a slice of lemon and chopped ginger is an excellent way to stimulate digestion.”
A study published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that ginger stimulates digestion by speeding up the movement of food from the stomach.
Ginger can help to manage blood sugar levels in long-term diabetic patients, according to research conducted recently at Sydney University.
Professor of pharmaceutical chemistry Basil Roufogalis, who led a study that was published in the natural health journal Planta Medica, said ginger extracts increased the uptake of glucose into muscle cells independently of insulin.
Gingerols prevent platelets from sticking together, which helps to thin the blood and prevent clotting in the arteries.
Fire it up:
Choose fresh ginger root over the dried form – it tastes better and has higher levels of gingerol and anti-inflammatory compounds. Unpeeled ginger can be stored for up to three weeks in the fridge and up to six months in the freezer.
Adults should not eat more than four grams of ginger per day and pregnant woman should limit their intake to one gram a day, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Ginger should not be given to children under two, it said.
Ginger tea is, of course, widely available in stores but this home-made fresh ginger tea takes only a minute or two:
Peel a small section of a fresh ginger root, grate about a quarter of a teaspoon into a cup, add boiling water and a sweetener of your choice.
Bonum appetitionem, as the Romans (probably) used to say.