Integral to the Asian cuisine, the ginger root has successfully made its way into the American kitchen.
Most of us associate it with warm memories of digging into gingerbread or having ginger tea to soothe ourselves in the flu season. Unknowingly we have been reaping the benefits of this rhizome which has been a superfood in Asian countries for a long time.
It’s high time that we made ginger a part of our daily cooking like any other herb available on the market. Before that, we wanted to introduce you to the innumerable health benefits of this commonly found but often neglected ingredient. Moreover, you should look out for the nourishing recipes which are helpful in taking care of your overall well-being.
So, without further ado, let’s get started!
What Is Ginger?
Before we tell you about the health benefits, it’s important to know a bit more about ginger. Ginger root or Zingiber officinale is a rhizome that belongs to the same family as turmeric. That’s why you may often get confused between the two when they are kept side by side in the grocery store.
The use of ginger originates in Southeast Asia, where it has been used as far back as 500 BC. You’ll find extensive mention of ginger in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine in the form of various treatments that may heal your body.
Moreover, the familiar pungent taste of ginger is due to gingerol, a volatile oil that’s specifically found in fresh ginger. It’s considered a relative of piperine and capsaicin, which also activates our spice receptors instantly, just like gingerol.
What you get in a grocery store is the rhizome of the ginger plant, the stems and leaves of which can grow up to three feet. After harvesting the ginger, it’s washed and sun-dried for a while to kill off any bacteria or germs.
At times, it can be dried completely to get rid of all moisture and turned into a powder to use in medicinal concoctions. These days grocery stores carry varieties of ginger, including ground, fresh, pickled, and even candied.
When it comes to getting whole ginger, most grocery stores stock both young and mature roots. The young variants have pale, thin skin, which can be easily peeled or kept on as per your preference. In comparison, mature ginger roots have a thicker brown skin that needs to be peeled before chopping or grinding to use in cooking.
Sometimes you may find a blue ring while cutting ginger; don’t be alarmed, as it’s just a Hawaiian variety known for its juiciness and bold flavor.
The Health Benefits of Ginger Root
Now that you know about what makes up the ginger root, it’s time to learn about its health benefits. We have been aware of the medicinal properties of ginger for quite some time. Around 5000 years ago, it was found that this juicy and pungent root can be good for your overall health. So, let’s have a look at some of the benefits to expect from the ginger root.
1. Digestive Health
In Ayurveda, a key use for ginger is to heal digestive ailments. According to the traditional healing method, it’s believed that the properties of ginger help to light up the digestive fire. The pungent secretions of ginger may promote the production of enzymes for breaking down food easily. Proponents of Ayurveda believe that ginger can be used in all three stages of gastrointestinal function, including digestion, absorption, and elimination.
Several studies in modern medical science also show that ginger does have a positive effect on our digestion. Apart from helping in proper digestion, ingesting ginger can accelerate the process by letting the food move faster down the GI tract.
Plus, adding a bit of ginger to your regular diet may provide relief from symptoms related to indigestion, ulcers, bloating, constipation, and IBS. Those with severe indigestion or dyspepsia are especially advised to consume ginger before every meal to aid in quicker digestion.
2. Respiratory Health
Another notable healing property of ginger is to do with our respiratory system. It’s said to work for easing symptoms of asthma, cough, colds, and bronchitis to help you breathe better. That’s why you might often be served a warm cup of ginger tea when you’re down with a cold. The sharpness of ginger can even be effective in breaking down mucus formation to free your throat and lungs.
Moreover, gingerol found in the ginger root is said to be filled with healthy antioxidants that protect our body from diseases and facilitate better immunity. Ginger is also said to have antifungal and antimicrobial qualities that can fight several disease-causing germs, bacteria, or viruses for improved health.
3. Cardiovascular Health
Cardiovascular disease can unforeseeably become a part of anyone’s life. Once the chronic ailment starts to take hold of your body, leading a healthy life can soon become hard. Including ginger in your daily diet might be an excellent solution as raw ginger is said to thin blood, thereby preventing clots and reducing the risk of strokes.
It can also help keep your blood pressure level low, which is a common concern for many people, including those in their twenties. Moreover, regular ginger consumption has been seen to positively reduce the chances of getting a heart attack.
With time, you would be able to see improvements in your cholesterol levels, preventing blockages in arteries due to the buildup of fat and LDL. A recent study has shown that taking a small dose of 5 mg ginger supplement daily for three months may decrease LDL cholesterol by several points.
Another benefit noted from taking ginger is better overall blood circulation which may be beneficial to maintaining the performance of your body. That’s why in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, regular intake of ginger has been advised for those with complaints of cold hands and feet.
One of the best properties of ginger is its ability to relieve discomfort caused by nausea. It can help deal with pregnancy-related nausea and general nausea, migraines, as well as motion sickness.
If you’re in the early months of pregnancy and experiencing regular morning sickness, try taking ginger supplements after consulting your physician. Even the American Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology has mentioned its importance for reducing nausea in pregnant women.
On top of that, some doctors believe that the intake of ginger can suppress nausea induced by chemotherapy. Hence, it might be a probable replacement for anti-nausea medications which often give rise to side effects.
5. Targeting Inflammation
Have you been suffering from chronic pain for a while? If so, you should know one of the lesser-known health benefits of ginger, which deals with its anti-inflammatory properties. Regular intake of ginger supplements or including ginger root in food may help reduce the overall inflammation in your body.
This can prove beneficial in easing symptoms of autoimmune diseases, chronic inflammation, inflammatory digestive issues, rheumatoid arthritis, and more general joint or muscle pain. People dealing with osteoarthritis, especially those with knee pain, can get help by applying ginger-infused gels or oils topically for pain relief and anti-inflammatory effects.
6. Menstrual Pain Or Cramps
Dysmenorrhea or menstrual pain is one of the common health problems shared by millions of women around the globe. While the pain level varies greatly, many have to depend on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to make it manageable.
Ginger supplementation can be beneficial in this managing pain due to its anti-inflammatory properties. All you need to do is take around 250 mg of ginger extract or power by mouth during the painful days of your menstrual cycle. You may even use it in conjunction with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug like mefenamic acid to boost the pain relief effects.
7. Lowering Blood Sugar Levels
Diabetes is one of the chronic diseases that has become a common threat in most households. The rate of Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance is rising worldwide. Once diagnosed, a person may need to spend the rest of their life depending on medicines to control their blood sugar levels.
Recent studies have shown that ginger might have anti-diabetic properties that may lower blood sugar and reduce the increased risk of developing diabetes. A daily intake of a few grams of ginger appears to have significantly improved the fasting blood sugar and HbA1c markers by almost 10%.
8. Cancer Prevention
The properties of ginger have long been studied to check if it can work as an alternative medicine for different types of cancer. While it may not entirely prevent cancer, gingerol present in raw ginger may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, and liver cancer.
Some studies indicate that ginger helps inhibit the growth of cancer cells, making it a compelling alternative cancer treatment. However, before consuming high doses of ginger, it’s always recommended to have a chat with your doctor for better guidance.
9. Weight Loss
According to Ayurveda, some key health benefits of ginger are boosted digestion and metabolism along with increased nutrition absorption. Having a higher body weight may bring forth the risk of several problems like diabetes, inflammation, chronic indigestion, and even heart disease. However, regular ginger consumption has been known to aid weight loss and significantly lower the body mass index (BMI) and blood insulin levels.
To walk in the paths of Ayurveda, you can regularly consume a bit of fresh ginger before taking your food. Its high potency is said to stimulate digestion, decrease inflammation, and push your body into burning more calories than usual.
10. Anti-Bacterial Defense
You may know this already, but ginger is a common kitchen herb with many protective effects, one of them being its ability to fight bacteria. Regular intake of fresh ginger or ginger extract can inhibit the growth of bacteria in your body, preventing diseases. Eating raw ginger can even improve your oral health by reducing the possibility of developing gingivitis and periodontitis.
Other than that, ginger might also be beneficial in warding off common bacterias that cause recurring respiratory infections. It can even recover your gut flora to enhance the performance of your digestive tract in breaking down food. This in turn can give you better skin that is free from acne breakouts, excessive sebum production, or pigmentation.
Different Ways To Use Ginger
By now, you may have understood that there’s no single way of using a medicinal and kitchen herb like ginger. Everyone has their way of using this beneficial rhizome, but here we will list some of the most prevalent ways. So, let’s check them out.
1. Eat It Raw
Be it Ayurveda or traditional Chinese medicine, raw, and fresh ginger is always lauded for the presence of gingerol. Try to buy fresh and young ginger roots as they have a mild taste that isn’t too jarring for a beginner. All you’ll need to do is peel the skin, make slices and eat it before your meal.
Alternatively, you can make it more appetizing by adding grated ginger to your favorite stir-fries or vegetable salads. We also recommend adding ginger to curries to increase your daily intake.
As you might have noticed, we don’t advise buying peeled or crushed garlic. Instead, it’s preferable to buy a fresh ginger root and peel it yourself. Even though the process may seem a bit intimidating at first, don’t worry, as it’s pretty easy to peel the skin.
The easiest way is to take a spoon and scrape off the skin to expose the inner flesh of the ginger. Then, slice or grate the ginger to have it raw as per your liking.
2. Drink It Raw
Another popular way to consume ginger daily is by adding it to a drink. You can simply add grated ginger to a savory smoothie, tea, or hot soup. Other than that, people like to cut a few slices of ginger and soak them in warm water for four to five minutes before consumption. This concoction is especially helpful in reducing oral bacteria, relieving nausea, and improving digestion.
3. Use Dry Ginger
On visiting an Indian or Chinese grocery store, you’ll often come across dried ginger. It’s an ingenious way of preserving the beneficial properties of ginger for long-term use. The most common variants include whole dried ginger root or ginger powder. You can get the powder to add flavors to your curries or drink it plain with lukewarm water.
Furthermore, you can purchase fresh ginger roots, dehydrate them, and grind them into a fine powder. Then, fill capsules with ginger powder to create your homemade supplements. Taking two to three ginger capsules daily can help improve digestion, reduce inflammation, and relieve an upset stomach.
Ginger Tea And Juice Recipes
Don’t like the idea of consuming raw ginger? There’s no need to worry, as ginger is quite versatile, and you can add a bit to different juices or drinks. So, let’s check out some of the popular recipes.
A. Ginger Carrot Beet Juice
The best way to get the benefit of antioxidant properties is to include fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs in your diet. Apart from ginger, this juice contains the goodness of beets, a vegetable high in magnesium and Vitamin C that can boost your immune system. Plus, adding carrots turns this juice into a superfood blend as it can improve your brain function and lower blood sugar.
- Two medium-sized peeled carrots
- Two peeled beets cut into wedges
- Two one-inch pieces of peeled ginger
- Few kale leaves
- Two medium-sized peeled apples cut into sections
Take out the juices from the vegetables using a juicer, refrigerate, and serve it cold. To retain the fibers of the fruits and vegetables, you can also blend them to form a smoothie. You won’t need to add any sugar as the sweetness of the carrot and beets shines through while the ginger gives a spicy twist. This recipe will give you approximately four servings.
B. Lemon Apple Ginger Juice
It’s always good to have a refreshing drink with your lunch during the summer. Rather than having store-bought juices, try this lemon, apple, and ginger drink to give your immune system a much-needed boost. We have kept the recipe simple so that both children and adults can enjoy it.
- Twelve medium-sized peeled carrots
- Twelve medium-sized peeled and sliced apples
- One-and-a-half inch sized peeled ginger
- Lemon juice
Take out the juice of carrots, apples, and ginger, or blend them into a rich smoothie. Serve it in a glass with crushed ice and top it with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Our recipe makes six glasses of juice, so you can refrigerate it to enjoy the juice throughout the week.
C. Ginger Tea
This age-old recipe can never go wrong as it helps relieve nausea and pain and provides relief to your sore throat. It can even help you in overcoming an upset stomach. You can also enjoy it at night before bedtime to relieve the stress of the whole day.
- One cup of boiling water
- Four small slices of fresh ginger
- A couple of fresh mint leaves
- Half teaspoon of honey
- One green tea bag (optional)
To make this tea, you can place the slices of ginger in a cup and pour hot water over them. Let them steep for four to five minutes, and take out the slices of ginger. Then, add mint leaves and honey to the liquid before consuming it while the tea is warm. You can drink it as herbal tea or add a green tea bag to get some caffeine.
D. Masala Chai (Milk Tea With Spices)
Have you been feeling under the weather lately? If so, try making this traditional Indian tea that’s loaded with the goodness of spices to warm up your body. And it’s the perfect drink to enjoy on a cold evening or during flu season to open up blocked noses or relieve choked throats.
- Two cups water
- Two cups of dairy or nut milk
- One tablespoon black tea
- One tablespoon of fresh ginger
- One teaspoon of green cardamom seeds
- One-eighth teaspoon of cinnamon powder
- Four whole cloves
- Five to six black peppercorns
Pour the milk and water into a saucepan to bring it to a boil. Then, add the tea leaves and let the mixture boil for a minute more till it gets a slight tinge of color. Turn off the heat, mix in all the spices, including ginger, and let it steep for five minutes. Strain the tea and enjoy it with a bit of honey or jaggery.
As a side note, don’t let the tea leaves boil in the milk-water mixture for too long, or it may get bitter due to the release of excessive tannins. This recipe will give you four cups of tea to enjoy with your friends or family.
That’s everything we had to tell you about the various benefits of ginger root. We hope that this informative guide will help you make ginger a part of your daily life.
Remember to have fresh ginger in your pantry and use it for cooking to get its benefits and the pleasure of enjoying the unique taste. You can also freeze fresh ginger root, dehydrate it, or soak an inch of it in alcohol to enjoy the rhizome in different ways.
Having said that, if you’re thinking about taking ginger supplements or an aqueous ginger extract, make sure to run it by your doctor.
Usually, there are no side effects of ginger, but in some instances, people may take time to get used to it like any other spice. So, try to slowly include more ginger into your diet to get its benefits.
Until next time, goodbye, and take care!