[Written by Peter Nielsen].
Ginger has long been used in traditional American cooking, from the wild ginger native Americans added to pumpkin and corn pudding to gingerbread, gingersnaps and Detroit’s famous ginger ale. Ginger can also be found in a wide array of other national cuisines, Thai, Chinese, Lebanese, Moroccan, Italian and many, many more! The great thing about ginger is it not only can serve many purposes as a spice, it has many health benefits.
Traditional Chinese, eastern Indian and native American health practices have used ginger extensively for the treatment of nausea, motion sickness, colds, joint pain, and circulatory problems. Indian Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine use ginger as a warming and stimulating herb to the body’s temperature, thus helping fight infection. Folk medicine has long prescribed ginger to promote circulation and act as a stimulant. Recent interest in Western scientific research has substantiated many of the traditional applications for this root. Gingerol, the active part of fresh ginger, is related to capsaicin and piperine, the compounds that give chili and black pepper their spicy flavor, and are also the active medicinal components in ginger. They contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, which some studies have indicated relieve the pain of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. An animal study at the University of Minnesota suggests that gingerols may even inhibit the growth of colorectal cancer cells. The number of health benefits that is stunning:
- Cancer Treatment and Prevention: A preliminary study conducted at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center indicates that an application of ginger powder induces cell death in all ovarian cancer cells, while research at the University of Minnesota’s Hormel Institute found that gingerol prevented mice from developing colorectal carcinomas when compared to a control group
- Morning Sickness Relief: A review of several studies has concluded that ginger is just as effective as vitamin B6 in the treatment of morning sickness. A review of six controlled trials with a total of 675 participants confirmed that ginger is effective in relieving the severity of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Ginger is also safe, without significant side effects, and only a small dose is required.
- Motion Sickness Prevention: Recent studies have indicated that ginger is highly effective in preventing the symptoms of motion sickness, reducing symptoms associated with motion sickness including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweating.
- Reduction of Pain and Inflammation: Another study showed that ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and is a powerful natural painkiller. These anti-inflammatory properties of gingerol 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. Two clinical studies involving patients who responded to conventional drugs and those who didn’t, found that 75% of arthritis patients and 100% of patients with muscular discomfort experienced relief of pain and/or swelling.
- Heartburn Relief: The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger minimize stomach acid, offering natural heartburn relief.
- Cold and Flu Prevention and Treatment: Ginger can help promote healthy sweating, which is important for detoxification. As an anti-inflammatory, it also offers relief to sufferers of stomach flu.
- Prevention of Diabetic Kidney Failure: A recent study of diabetic rats found that rats given ginger had a reduced incidence of nephropathy, or diabetic kidney damage. Additional findings included heightened antioxidant capacity in the ginger-supplemented rats.
Ginger is in season from March through September, and is sold in the produce section of markets. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks if left unpeeled. Stored unpeeled in the freezer, it will keep for up to six months. Dried ginger powder should be kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place. This is all good news, but don’t forget, always check with your physician before undertaking any new nutritional or fitness regimen.
Add a little spice to your life … it’s really good for you!
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