In the Western world, we mostly know ginger as a sweet food. We think of gingerbread and ginger snaps, but it is also delicious in savory dishes like vegetable stir-fries and curry pastes. We consume the underground rhizome (horizontal stem) of the plant, which can be used either fresh (for its tangiest flavor!) or dried and ground into a powder.
Ginger has been around for thousands of years, used to both add flavor to our food and help our bodies maintain good health. Researches have found traces of ginger dating back over 5000 years in China and India. Later, it was exported to Rome, where, during the 13th and 14th centuries, it was the most commonly traded spice, along with black pepper and cinnamon. It was considered so precious that by the 16th century a pound of ginger was worth a whole sheep!
Ginger has been widely used in Ayurvedic medicine in India to ease digestion and alleviate nausea. Ayurdevic medicine originated in India about 5000 years ago, when it is believed that the Hindu gods brought it to humans. This type of medicine seeks to maintain the body’s overall health by promoting a healthy and balanced lifestyle. In today’s world, living a healthy lifestyle can sometimes be difficult, but adding more ginger to your diet is a great way to start since it brings many health benefits to your body.
Today, scientific studies show that ancient practices to use ginger to help alleviate nausea symptoms was right. Studies have shown that ginger can be an efficient way to prevent the uncomfortable and unpleasant nausea sometimes occurring after having undergone surgery1. In addition, ginger has also been shown to help with morning sickness during pregnancy2. This can be explained by the fact that ginger blocks serotonin receptors in the stomach that cause nausea when serotonin is bound to them.
In addition, ginger has anti-inflammatory properties3. This is important because chronic inflammation causes many diseases such as cancer, autoimmune disorders and infectious diseases4. Inflammation is a healthy response of our bodies to protect us from foreign organisms such as bacteria and viruses. However, issues arise when inflammation occurs when there are no foreign bodies to fight off. The body’s protective immune system then causes damage to its own tissues. Consuming ginger will help your body to maintain inflammation only as a useful response to foreign organisms and prevent developing chronic inflammation.
Full of antioxidants, ginger can help prevent oxidative stress. This has numerous benefits for your body. For instance, oxidative stress plays a significant role in the development of cancer. Ginger scavenges the free radicals that cause oxidative stress and increases the activity levels of antioxidant enzymes, making it a great way to help your body stay healthy and cancer free5.
Both oxidative stress and inflammation are at the origin of many chronic diseases, which means that consuming ginger is a great way to help your body stay free of diabetes, hypertension or coronary heart disease, for example 6.
Plan Of Action
If you are looking to live a healthy lifestyle and steer your body towards better overall health, ginger is your friend. You don’t have to go gingerly on ginger: you can brew it in tea with some honey, add it to your favorite vegetables, or have it in some spiced oats for breakfast. It’ll add a lovely flavor to your dishes and boost your immune system considerably!
Lisa Darmet is a freelance writer, whose passions include, not only eating but also food and cooking and their connections to health, culture and society. She is a graduate of Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, USA with a specialty in “Cultivating Resiliency and Food Justice Through Community”. She is truly a citizen of the world and continues to explore cultures through world travel.