You know that little bundle of ginger that comes with your sushi order? Well, instead of letting it just sit on your plate as you ask for the check, perhaps you should consider eating it next time around.
Outside of it being the perfect palette cleanser in between sushi rolls, it also comes packed with health benefits, all of which is sitting there on your plate, ready for your consumption. So the next time you head in for sushi or a recipe calls for the addition of ginger, don’t skimp.
Feel free to indulge yourself.
The Ginger Plant
If you’ve ever seen ginger at the store, you know it looks like an odd, twisted brown knot with an orange like color with cut or shaved.
This is actually the root of the plant. Ginger spice is the root of a plant, which develops a green stem and grows a yellow/green flower. If you were to grow your own ginger plants, this is what each would look like. Another great plant to look into is watercress after you learn about ginger.
The History of Ginger
The known history of Ginger dates back 5,000 years.
Although likely consumed before this time, no written records of the plant appear before this time.
The plant did originate throughout Southeast Asia, although the creation of the Silk Road and additional trade routes helped spread use of the plant throughout the Mediterranean, so by the 1st Century, it appeared in the Roman Empire (Mother Earth Living, 2011).
Throughout its early history, ginger was seen as something only for the rich. It cost a considerable amount in a trade to obtain a ginger root. By the time it reached Europe, ginger went for a similar value as livestock. This was because not only did it have a desirable, unique taste, but its health benefits made it extremely desirable.
Up until the 1st century, ginger had been used as a health tonic to improve digestion and other internal cramps and stomach aches.
This continued as it made its way to Rome, but when the Roman Empire crumbled, so too did ginger’s use as a health supplement (although the wealthy did continue to use it as a spice for general consumption). Ginger did not begin coming down at price until following the conclusion of the Dark Ages (Indepth Info, 2017).
The ginger plant is originally native to warm climates throughout Asia, including India, China and eventually Japan (although it is believed to have been cultivated and transported to Japan through trade).
Now, ginger grows naturally in most other warm climates, including Africa, the Middle East, and South America. As you can control the temperature inside of your home it is also possible to grow it yourself. Seeds from the plant’s flowers can be used to cultivate and grow additional plants.
Proven Health Benefits of Ginger
Health benefits of ginger can be broken down into three categories: effective, possibly effective and little to no evidence of being effective.
For the possibly effective and no evidence of being effective, some individuals swear by the health benefits, but there simply is not enough scientific backing. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it though.
You may find it works for you, even as a placebo (by convincing your mind you’re getting better, you may begin to feel better).
Do you remember your mom offering you ginger ale when complaining of a stomach ache?
This isn’t because she wanted to fill you up with sugar and carbonation. The ginger used to make the soft drink does reduce discomfort from an upset stomach. While there are other better and healthier ways to deliver ginger to your stomach, ginger ale is just easier to locate (especially when you have a child complaining of an upset stomach and you need something in a pinch).
Now, when possible you should look for a different way to consume ginger (such as a ginger supplement, ginger tea or shaving the ginger root into something you’re eating).
Stomach pains come from varying culprits. If you’re in the early stages of pregnancy and battling morning sickness, ginger can reduce not only an upset stomach but your nausea and vomiting as well. Instead of taking medication, which some doctors recommend avoiding (and even if they say it is alright, you may feel the need to pass on the drug), ginger is all natural so there’s nothing to worry about.
In research published in Obstetrics and Gynecology’s April 2005 edition, researchers found after conducting six double-blind trials with 675 individuals, ginger effectively treated nausea and vomiting while pregnant, without any adverse effects on the outcome of the pregnancy (Obstet Gynecol, 2005)
Ginger can also help with cramping during menstrual periods and nausea after surgery. According to WebMD, ginger oil applied to the wrists an hour before surgery helps prevent the feeling of nausea post surgery in nearly 80 percent of patients (WebMD, 2017).
Vomiting and nausea are common side effects to HIV/AIDS treatments. However, ginger can reduce these symptoms following treatment.
It is recommended to take ginger daily, about 30 minutes before consuming the prescribed medication. It can take up to two weeks before a noticeable difference in the feeling of nausea and vomiting, but there is scientific evidence backing this. Before starting a ginger regimen though, it is important for you to consult with your doctor ahead of time (WebMD, 2017).
Beyond helping in the reduction of stomach issues, studies have found ginger can help reduce the feeling of dizziness, whether from vertigo or from spinning. Some studies have even indicated consuming ginger offers greater benefits than over the counter drugs for motion sickness, although you may react differently to both ginger and medication than someone else (WHFoods Organization, 2017).
Lastly, ginger has been shown to help reduce the level of pain someone suffering from osteoarthritis experiences. Ginger will not completely eliminate the pain, nor should it be used as a medication replacement, but for additional health battling soreness and discomfort from osteoarthritis, ginger consumption is recommended.
What Makes Ginger Effective?
There’s nothing worse than being dragged onto a spiny, twirly ride at the county fair, even though you told everyone you’d get sick, only to become sick following the ride (as you knew would happen).
Despite telling your date or whomever you’re with it would happen, why did you decide to do it?
Well, besides not wanting to look like a party pooper, deep down you thought maybe this time it would be different. Motion sickness has to do with your inner ear as the constant spinning throws off your equilibrium. The dizziness you feel is because the fluid inside of your inner ear makes it difficult for your brain to establish balance. If you want to reduce, or completely prevent dizziness ahead of time, it’s best to see your doctor and ask about ways to drain your inner ear.
However, should you still go on the ride, even though you know bad news is ahead, having ginger supplements on hand can help prevent nausea and vomiting feelings, so you can enjoy the rest of your time at the fair.
But what makes ginger so effective?
How can it reduce nausea, stomach pains, and cramps, all as a natural root?
It is because inside of ginger there is a compound known as gingerols. This is a powerful anti-inflammatory substance and the reason why ginger can reduce pain in everything from an upset stomach to arthritis (WHFoods Organization, 2017).
Potential Health Benefits
Beyond the proven health benefits of extensive medical testing, there are other potential health benefits you need to consider.
One such health benefit includes preventing colon cancer and assisting in the destruction of ovarian cancer. In addition to the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger, the plant also has high levels of antioxidants and some anti-tumor properties.
In research conducted at the University of Minnesota, researchers bred mice without an immune system. They then gave half of the mice a ginger injection and the other half nothing. After radiation exposure, 13 of the control group mice developed tumors while only four of the mice with ginger injections did. With all of this in mind, if you are currently battling cancer it is important to always consult your doctor about adding a supplement to your regimen.
You should also not stop cancer treatment as while ginger may have some health benefits in battling cancer, there is not enough research behind it.
Little to No Evidence Supporting Ginger Effectiveness
While ginger is used for its host of health benefits, it is often falsely attributed for additional health powers it simply does not have. Or at the very least, there is little to no scientific evidence behind the effectiveness.
This includes helping in the treatment of sudden respiratory system failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, migraines and symptoms from a hangover. While most of these conditions do have some information about the potential benefits of ginger, there is either not enough information or an even number of conflicting studies.
You are free to consume a few Moscow Mules the next time you’re out at the bar if you think it might help avoid a hangover but don’t be shocked if it doesn’t really help (especially with all the sugar found in a cocktail made with a ginger soda).
Boost Your Metabolism With Ginger
One of the best ways to drop weight and to increase your energy levels is to boost your metabolism.
There are several ways you can do this naturally (without turning to a processed supplement).
One way is to add different spices and seasoning to your foods. Ginger, in fact, is one of the very best spices you can use to boost your metabolism. In an interview with Dr. Oz, conducted by Pop Sugar, the doctor and television personality says ginger can boost your metabolism by around 20 percent for three hours following consumption. This is due to the high level of antioxidants, capasaicin and gingerols found within the plant (Pop Sugar, 2017).
So, if you add ginger in some shape or form to your diet every three hours throughout the day, you’ll see a 20 percent metabolic boost nearly all day.
There are plenty of ways to increase ginger consumption as well, ranging from health smoothies with ginger, ginger soup and simply sprinkling ginger onto your oatmeal or salad.
The Best Kinds of Ginger to Purchase
So you’re in the grocery store, looking down the supplement section, wondering what in the world you’ve gotten yourself into and how to pick out the best form of ginger. Not to worry. The best form of ginger isn’t in the supplement section at all. It is in the fresh food department. Fresh ginger is always the best option to go. While dried ginger spice can be alright, it doesn’t have the same kind of nutrients as fresh ginger.
But how do you know the ginger is good?
Select a piece of ginger root that is firm to the touch and free of mold.
Not satisfied with the selection of ginger in your local grocery store?
Head to an Asian food market. You’ll find a wider variety here (and it likely will be fresher as it sells faster).
After you purchase the fresh ginger, make sure to store it in the refrigerator. Unpeeled ginger will keep for about three weeks.
Bought too much?
You can keep unpeeled ginger in your freezer for up to six months.
If you have to go with powdered ginger, pick it up at a specialty spice shop. The ginger here will be of a higher quality and fresher. Once you have it back home, store it in an air tight container and keep it in a dark, dry and cool place. You can also keep it in your refrigerator (WHFoods Organization, 2017).
When it comes to improving your health, ginger has a host of benefits. Whether you decide to enjoy a cup of ginger tea, add a ginger supplement to your daily regimen or you consume it in a different way altogether, ginger offers an excellent variety of health benefits. So feel free to indulge yourself the next time you see it offered on the menu.