Typically known as a culinary spice in Asian dishes, sauces, and marinades, Ginger has been used by many cultures for centuries to relieve symptoms and prevent illness. Some known remedies go back 4000 years!
Natural Health Benefits
Today, we use it in our soups, green juices and smoothies for the same reasons and to jazz up their flavor. The gingerols from the stem of the ginger root are the active compounds which have documented benefits such as:
Relief of Nausea and Digestive Distress
If you find yourself with an upset stomach, you can consume ginger to feel better. Perhaps it was ginger tea, ginger ale or a ginger candy that eased your nausea? Your gut has serotonin receptors that ginger stimulates to calm inflammation and improve nutrient absorption. Two chemicals from the root, gingerols and shogaols, relax the intestinal track, which also provides relief from colic, stomach cramps, diarrhea, heartburn and gas. They can also prevent nausea from motion sickness, morning sickness and chemotherapy. As a mild stimulant, Ginger can also improve blood flow, which helps with vertigo.
Inflammation is part of our natural immune system response that protects the body from infections, wounds and damage to tissues. Sometimes the body confuses foods and chemicals as invaders, which also trigger an immune response. Over time, chronic inflammation creates oxidative stress and free radicals which damage our cells and causes several diseases and conditions, including some cancers.
Ginger is a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which reduces cell damage and inflammation, which in turn reduces illness, helps control diabetes, joint and muscle pain and also protects the brain.
Helps Prevent Ulcers
Ulcers can be very painful! Essentially, they are sores that develop in the inside lining of the stomach, which can sometimes bleed. Ulcers are often triggered by stress and certain foods like chocolate, alcohol and spicy foods. The main causes of an ulcer are Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection and long-term use of aspirin and nonsteroidal drugs (NSAIDs) which both cause inflammation of the stomach’s inner layer. A 2013 study showed that ginger extract and gingerols protected against gastric lining damage and the development of H. pylori.
Reduces Menstrual Cramping
Every month when a woman has her menstrual cycle, her body experiences a spike in prostaglandins, pro-inflammatory chemicals that trigger the muscle contractions that help shed the lining of the uterus. These contractions are typically referred to as cramps and they can be very painful! Luckily, compounds found in ginger help reduce the inflammation from these natural chemicals to reduce menstrual pain. There’s even evidence that Ginger may help control heavy menstrual bleeding. In a clinical trial published in 2015, researchers found that levels of menstrual blood loss dramatically declined among the 92 study participants who received ginger for 3 months. There are some delicious and soothing ginger tea blends for women to enjoy each month.
Provide Relief for Migraines
More than 38 million people suffer from migraine headaches each year. They are disabling headaches that are typically accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sounds as well as blurred vision. The typical person loses 2.5 days of work when they have a migraine episode which can be triggered by any number of things including:
- emotional stress
- sensory overload
- hormonal shifts
- natural histamine reactions to certain foods
When Histamine is released, it dilates blood vessels and causes the vessel walls to react abnormally causing a cascade of migraine symptoms. There are over 200 substances in Ginger oil that have anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties, which can relieve or prevent migraine symptoms and pain.
Inhibits Tumor Growth
Stem cells are the villain in terms of creating tumor-forming cells. 6-shogaol, a pungent compound in Ginger, could be up to 10,000 times more effective in targeting cancer stem cells than chemotherapy! Other compounds like zingerone and paradols slow the progression of tumor growth by scavenging free radicals that damage cells and stimulate antioxidants that protect cells from damage. They also speed up the death of cancerous cells to allow healthy cells to grow in their place.
Along with healthy food choices and exercise, ginger has been shown to boost your metabolism. An International Journal of Obesity studies states that consuming foods that have the thermogenic effect, which increases the temperature of the body, help increase your energy, ability to burn fat and lose weight. Ginger even helps improve blood sugar and leptin levels, the hormone that controls when you feel full and satisfied after you eat a meal. While this doesn’t mean that ginger stands alone in its ability to support weight loss, along with healthy eating and regular exercise, it does help with the process.
As the world and our healthcare system become more complicated, it’s refreshing to get back to our roots and receive guidance from our ancestors who relied on the natural healing properties of what the land had to offer. Now, we can find Ginger at most specialty markets and grocery stores making our healing that much easier. Ginger comes in many forms including:
- Tea bags
- Ground root
- Liquid Extract
- Essential oil
While each person is different, Ginger may cause mild side effects including diarrhea and heartburn. Since Ginger can act as a blood thinner, you should speak to your doctor before taking ginger and stop using it two weeks before a scheduled surgery.