Ginger is commonly used in the culinary world as an herb, spice and flavor enhancer in a plethora of dishes, as anyone who has visited Asia (or a local Asian takeout spot) will know. But what about the medicinal uses of ginger? Most of us have a vague idea that ginger can be used to treat some ailments. But aside from steeping it in hot tea to soothe a sore throat, ginger is capable of reducing or even eliminating symptoms of other malaises that may afflict you or someone you know.
Ginger, in its purest form, grows underground in a root-like form called a rhizome and belongs to the Zingiberaceae family along with turmeric, cardamom, and lesser-known galangal. Ginger contains active compounds called gingerols, which are housed in oils extracted from the root. Research has shown that gingerols could contain antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. That’s good news, even if you’re healthy!
Of course, if you’re suffering from any variety of mild annoyances, ginger can probably help you, too. Many studies have proven it effective in reducing the severity of nausea, headaches, and other flu-like symptoms. It’s also helped many people in regulating their digestion, eradicating diarrhea (yes, really), and ridding the body of excess gas.
But what about more serious illnesses? Can ginger actually be effective in fighting those? While it’s true that we don’t quite have enough information yet to answer this affirmatively, some studies have indicated that ginger could help reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure as well as prevent blood from clotting. This would be great news not only for those already suffering from heart disease, but for anyone looking to prevent it. As if that weren’t enough, some researchers have discovered that ginger also appears to help lower blood sugar in diabetics, though as of yet, the reason why is unclear.
Ready to up your ginger consumption yet? Ginger is available in many forms, from the plain root in the produce section of your local supermarket to the powdered variety yprobably have in your spice rack at Christmastime. But it doesn’t end there. You can also buy ginger extract, distilled ginger (made from the oil extracted from the root), powdered ginger in capsule form, pickled ginger (usually adorning your sushi plate) and crystallized ginger, which can be used in baked goods. Some stores even carry chewable ginger candies to freshen your breath.
However you decide to get your ginger fix, you can rest easy knowing it’s been a popular natural cure for everything from A to Z for thousands of years. Hippocrates must have had ginger on the brain when he famously proclaimed: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”
Please note that this article is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.