The benefits of ginger
Originally from Southeast Asia, ginder it has been used as an ingredient in traditional chinese medicine more than 2,000 years and has been gradually incorporated into cuisine across the world. Currently, the main producer of ginger is Jamaica followed by China, India, Nepal, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nigeria or Australia.
Ginger offers effective relief for a number of medical issues, including digestive problems or menstrual pain. It has proven anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant properties, plus it can help to improve blood circulation around the body. Did you know? Ginger also acts as a natural aphrodisiac.
The culinary significance of ginger is also notable. Ginger is now a firm staple in kitchens across the world. Its rich spicy flavour and aroma makes ginger a perfect ingredient to grind and use as a spice, grate or to include in sauces. Another common use is in tea, usually accompanied by honey and lemon. It’s low in calories, so offers a great flavour addition to dishes, if you’re looking for a healthy option.
Let’s find out more about this useful little root.
Ginger, or ‘Zingiber officinale’ as it’s scientifically known, is a flowering plant, whose ‘rhizome’, or ginger root, is widely used as a spice and in traditional medicines.
Ginger, also known as kion or quion, has been used in traditional Asian medicine for over 2,000 years and is popular all over the world today, for both its healing properties and culinary uses. It’s sweet, zesty yet spicy and warm flavour, is nothing quite like any other.
Ginger is commonly used to help soothe an upset stomach and nausea. Its compounds are said to help stimulate the production of saliva and bile, along with reducing gastric contractions, which can lead to excessive gas. It is also believed to soothe the intestinal tract.
Chewing raw ginger or drinking ginger tea is a frequently used home remedy to help relieve symptoms of nausea. Eating ginger can reduce the urge to vomit, even if consumed in supplement form.
A study from the University of Georgia suggests that ginger supplements can reduce exercise-induced muscle pain. The study, published in the Journal of Pain, involved 74 participants who were given ginger supplements to take consecutively for 11 days. An analysis made through asking participants to perform different muscle movements before during and after the experiment period, found that pain levels were reduced by 25%.
Another study has highlighted the potential benefits of ginger for menstrual cramps. Ginger has been found to reduce the symptoms of dysmenorrhea (severe pain during a menstrual cycle). 83% of women involved is this study who were given ginger supplements saw pain reduction compared to 47% of those who received a placebo.
Ginger has been used for centuries to reduce inflammation and treat inflammatory conditions. A study published in the journal, Cancer Prevention Research, found that ginger supplements may reduce inflammation specifically in the colon. Participants were given ginger supplements over a period of a month, which was found to reduce colon inflammation. Researchers found that the reduction in inflammation in the colon, helps to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Ginger has also proven to be a promising remedy in clinical trials to treat inflammation associated with osteoarthritis.
Poor circulation is a common problem caused by a number of different conditions. Peripheral artery disease (PAD), diabetes, obesity, smoking and Raynaud’s disease are some of the many causes of poor circulation. In both human and animal studies it has been found that ginger can help reduce blood pressure, which in turn helps blood flow and improve circulation.
Ginger’s aroma and general scent is believed to have aphrodisiac properties due to its ability to stimulate the circulatory system. Ginger is said to increase sensitivity in the erogenous zones (sensitive areas that cause sexual arousal) on the body. Also, seeing as ginger is an anti-inflammatory, it helps to relax muscles and reduce general body tension.
Ginger has a whole range of positive properties for the body. It is believed to speed up the metabolism, help to prevent heart disease, soothe migraines, act as a muscle relaxant, help to reduce congestion and strengthen the body's immune system.
When it's cold, drinking ginger tea (you might like to add honey) is a good way to keep warm. Ginger is a diaphoretic, which means it promotes sweating, therefore ginger literally ‘warms’ the body.
Ginger originated in Southeast Asia. Now a commonly used spice, 5,000 years ago it was considered a luxury. The ginger root can be consumed fresh, powdered, dried as a spice, in the form of oil or even as juice. Ginger belongs to the cardamom and turmeric family, and can be found growing in India, Jamaica, Fiji, Indonesia and Australia.
Since ginger is rarely consumed in large amounts, it does not add significant calories, carbohydrates, protein or fibre to the diet. It does however, contain numerous anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, such as gingerols, beta-carotene, capsaicin, caffeic acid, curcumin and salicylate - which are all really beneficial to the body.
100g of ginger contains:
Carbohydrates - 17.77 g
Dietary fibre - 2 g
Protein - 1.82 g
Sugars - 1.7 g
Sodium - 13 mg
Vitamin B6 - 0.16 mg
Calcium - 16 mg
Iron - 0.6 mg
Vitamin C - 5 mg
Potassium - 415 mg
Magnesium - 43 mg
Phosphorus - 34 mg
Zinc - 0.34 mg
Folate - 11 mg
Riboflavin - 0.034 mg
Niacin - 0.75 mg
Iron - 0.6 mg
When buying fresh ginger, the best option to choose is pieces with smooth skin (no wrinkles) and a spicy aroma. Ginger should be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge or freezer. It is also important to peel fresh ginger before you consume it. If you prefer not to buy fresh ginger, you also have the option of ground ginger, which can be found the herbs and spices section of most supermarkets.
Ginger is a great addition to many dishes and works well with a range of different products. It particularly complements seafood, oranges, melon, squash and apples, to name a few. Ginger is widely used in Asian cuisine and is often found in sauces or as an accompaniment to dishes.
In Japan it is typical to accompany sushi, and other dishes containing raw fish with pickled ginger, or gari as it more commonly referred to. Gari is usually served in paper thin sheets, which can be white or pink. It has a strong, acidic taste, with a spicy and aromatic touch. It’s actually used as a palate cleanser, despite its strong flavour. Once consumed, it leaves a sense of freshness in the mouth, preparing the palate for the next dish.
A stable sweet treat at Christmas, ginger biscuits are an interesting and delicious way to introduce this important root into the diet. Perhaps not the healthiest option available, however the sweet flavour of the biscuit combined with its intense spice - is a good option to encourage children to eat ginger. Making ginger biscuits can also be a great and creative way to spend a winter afternoon.
Natural ginger is safe for most people and has little known side effects. Minor side effects of consuming ginger could be gas, bloating or heartburn. Ginger may help to lower blood pressure, so it is possible to experience lightheadedness as another side effect. Ginger also contains salicylates, the chemical in aspirin that acts as a blood thinner. This can cause problems for people with bleeding disorders.