Most of us have heard at least something about ginger, either as a spice or for our health, but most probably don’t know why or how we should be using it.
Ginger has been on record for more than 5,000 years and was one of the first recorded spices. Native to south Asia and brought to the Romans and Greeks by Arab traders, ginger was once considered a luxury costing the equivalent of an entire sheep in the Middle Ages. Belonging to the Zingiberaceae family (along with turmeric and cardamom), ginger (zingiber officinale) is best known as a spice used for adding a warming feeling to the stomach and a pungent taste to many food dishes, but it also has many medicinal uses and health benefits, as well.
In Ayurveda, ginger is considered a universal medicine used for a variety of health issues including stimulating digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid, relieving menstrual cramps, and for easing the pain of sprains, strains or arthritis pain, in addition to a plethora of other ailments. Chinese medicine prescribes dried ginger for certain kinds of asthmatic, lung, and cold conditions. And, in traditional medicine, ginger is considered to be an excellent tonic for nausea, vomiting, gas and diarrhea, and possibly even motion sickness. Ginger is one of the most studied spices for relieving a host of ailments and improving health.
Can a spice also help you lose weight? Ginger’s high fiber content means that foods ingested will be processed more efficiently and move through the gastrointestinal system and out of the body more quickly. In addition, ginger improves digestion by increasing the pH of the stomach, which can stimulate digestive enzymes. But, the big piece of ginger’s helpful weight loss properties lies in its ability to rev up the body’s burners resulting from its thermogenic effect. This increases metabolism, which translates to fat burning.
Not only is ginger a proven fat burner, it’s also effective for curbing the appetite. A study in the journal Metabolism from 2012 showed that giving study participants (men) a tea with 2 grams of dried ginger powder helped with feelings of satiety. The men were given ginger tea with breakfast on alternating days, and hunger was recorded hourly. The study showed that ginger had a significant effect on the feeling of hunger after eating.
Ginger may inhibit cancer cells, as well. A study published in the National Institutes of Health showed promise with prostate cancer cells. “Extensively consumed as a spice in foods and beverages worldwide, ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) is an excellent source of several bioactive phenolics, including non-volatile pungent compounds such as gingerols, paradols, shogaols and gingerones. Ginger has been known to display anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiproliferative activities, indicating its promising role as a chemopreventive agent. Here, we show that whole ginger extract (GE) exerts significant growth-inhibitory and death-inductory effects in a spectrum of prostate cancer cells.”
Ginger comes in a variety of forms: tinctures, powders, whole rhizome (root), essential oils, pickled, and in supplement form (pills or capsules), and the FDA has registered the spice as GRAS (generally recognized as safe). Since it also has the ability to reduce blood platelet build-up as effectively as aspirin, speak with your doctor before adding ginger to your stable of natural remedies if you take medications for blood thinning or other maladies.