Food As Medicine: Ginger

Ginger is probably one of the most widely consumed condiments across the world. It’s a staple in many cuisines, ranging from the Caribbean, to India, and throughout Asia. Ginger comes from the plant Zingiber officinale and is in the same plant family (Zingiberaceae ) as Turmeric and Cardamom. The root (rhizome) is harvested and used either fresh or it is dried and then ground into a powder. Ginger has been used to treat ailments for over 4,500 years in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda. Let’s look at why ginger is so good for us.

Gingerol

There are over a hundred active compounds within ginger but the class of compounds with the most anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits are the gingerols; which come from the oily resin within the root.

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What Does The Research Show

Gingerols have been thoroughly evaluated clinically and research supports why you should be consuming ginger on a regular basis. Here are some of the main health benefits from eating ginger.

  • Inflammation: Inflammation is a root cause of many chronic diseases. Ginger’s powerful anti-inflammatory benefits can offer a protective effect.

  • Immune Support: Ginger has both immune boosting and antimicrobial properties. (cold, flu, fungus, bacteria) It also has warming properties that encourage perspiration, act as a decongestant, and can help control a fever. Keep in mind that dried ginger is thought to be more heating than fresh.

  • Pain Management: In addition to lowering inflammation, ginger also acts much like capsaicin (from cayenne) to help block pain. Studies have looked at the benefits of using ginger in patients with arthritis, rheumatism, and painful periods.

  • Heart Health: Ginger, along with other foods like garlic and onions, have anti-clotting properties that make them helpful in supporting healthy heart function. Ginger also supports the heart by its ability to help lower cholesterol.

  • Gut Health: Digestive support may just be ginger’s claim to fame. It is a well known remedy for nausea and vomiting; even nausea caused from chemotherapy. It can also help to relieve gas and constipation. It can improve appetite, reduce heart burn, and even support the improved absorption of essential nutrients.

  • Cancer: As with all anti-inflammatory foods, ginger has the potential to help reduce the risk for cancer. Research has looked specifically at the ability of gingerol to induce cancer cell death in both colorectal and ovarian cancers as well as offer protection in GI cancer.

Ginger Uses

Let’s look at all the ways you can start adding more ginger to your diet.

  • The fresh root is wonderful enjoyed as a Tea — simply steep 1-2 inches of freshly sliced ginger in a cup of hot water. You can also add a bit of honey and fresh lemon juice to taste.

  • It’s been enjoyed for thousands of years as part of the tea Chai. You can enjoy it this way too, just make sure you’re choosing chai teas without added sugar.

  • You can add it fresh or dried to your Smoothies.

  • It’s also delicious included in fresh juices. One of my favorite juice recipes includes fresh ginger; Mean Green Juice.

  • Golden Turmeric Milk — Not only do you get the benefit of ginger in this drink but also that of coconut oil, turmeric, and cinnamon.

  • Ginger is a key ingredient in my Medicinal Honey recipe.

  • Mineral-Rich Broth — I like to include fresh ginger root, along with turmeric, in my broth recipe.

  • Ginger is also a great ingredient added to baked goods or sweet treats. It’s especially nice grated into a fresh fruit salad.

  • Mince or grate fresh ginger in your sauteed veggies or stir-fry.

  • It can even be enjoyed pickled, as you often find it accompanying your sushi.

  • Other yummy recipes on the blog that include ginger — Moroccan Chicken, Harira, Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Soup.

Dosing

Unlike turmeric, ginger and it’s active compounds seem to be absorbed pretty easily into the blood stream. Combining with other foods or nutrients does not seem to be necessary. As with all food as medicine, the goal is really to just start using it more in your cooking and see if you can make ginger a regular part of your diet. If you’re using it for therapeutic effects (pain relief, cancer fighting, anti-nausea, etc) then refer to the following guidelines.

  • For pain & inflammation – 2-3 g per day, divided over the day

  • For nausea – 500 mg in the morning and night; more as needed during the day (500 mg every 4 hours)

  • For cold/flu relief – 1-3 cups of fresh ginger root tea or medicinal honey per day

It is recommended to not exceed over 4 grams of ginger per day because of an increased risk for heartburn and because it might interfere with blood thinning medications. If you are not taking blood thinners and don’t notice a problem with heartburn, then it would be fine to consume more.

  • 1 Tbsp of powdered ginger = 5.2 grams

  • 1 Tbsp of fresh grated ginger = 6 grams

  • 1 tsp of powdered ginger = 1.8 grams

Take Home Message

Ginger is one of the most well loved culinary spices throughout the entire world. And for good reason. It adds exceptional flavor and provides proven health benefits. Whether you’re looking for an immune boost, digestive support, pain relief, or just some good old fashioned inflammation lowering, ginger should absolutely be part of your diet. For more Food As Medicine posts, along with other great inspiration and recipes, delivered straight to your Inbox every week, Join The Tribe.

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