6 reasons why ginger is not only a spice, but a medicine too

Photo: Couleur/ Pixabay

A typical Nepali kitchen cannot operate without ginger. It is used as an essential spice in most of Nepali households. Also in many other parts of the world, ginger rhizomes in any form, be it fresh or dry or pickled or crystalised or powered, are consumed as a spice for adding its pungent cum sweet taste, flavour and strong aroma in any foods and beverages.

Not only used as a prominent spice in many cuisines, but it has also been used as a home remedy. Unani, Chinese, and Ayurvedic medicine systems use ginger for alleviating various ailments like nausea, vomiting, cold and flu, menstrual cramps, digestive problems, and many more for ages.

Ginger consists of an abundance of gingerols, oily phenolic compounds that are proven to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Various healing properties of ginger are accreditated to the presence of gingerols in it. Ginger aka Zingiber officinale falls on the family Zingiberaceae that also includes spices like turmeric and cardamom.

Ginger offers a plethora of health benefits. Here, let’s unfold some of them.


Cures indigestion

Ginger is believed to treat digestive disorders by stimulating a digestive fire to break down the food we consume and easily assimilate nutrients. In a study report titled ‘Effect of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia’, published in 2011, it was concluded that “ginger stimulated gastric emptying and antral contractions in patients with functional dyspepsia”.


Calms nausea and vomiting

Ginger has been recommended and used for relieving nausea (seasickness)  and vomiting since antiquity. This usage of ginger as an antinausea agent is the most common and deep-rooted one.

In a 2018 systematic review that is based on the current evidence on the effect of consumption of ginger in gastrointestinal problems, it was concluded that ginger might be the safest and most effective alternative medicine for alleviating the symptoms of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

Also, studies suggest that it might ease postoperative nausea and vomiting, and nausea induced by chemotherapy.

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Lowers blood sugar level and cholesterols

It is viewed that the consumption of ginger may help in reducing the risk of chronic cardiovascular diseases. A 2015 study concluded that ginger may help in reducing the risk of some chronic complications of diabetes by significantly lowering the levels of fasting blood sugar, haemoglobin A1c, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein B/apolipoprotein A-I and malondialdehyde in type 2 diabetic patients.

Also, a 2019 review mentioned that ginger has shown cardiovascular protective properties by increasing the level of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (the good cholesterol), decreasing the levels of total cholesterols, triglyceride and very low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol and LDL concentrations. It is also found in the same review that ginger can reduce the levels of blood lipids and blood pressure, all acting as armour against coronary heart disease.


Heals cold and flu

Ginger has been traditionally used as a home remedy for easing common cold and flu infections by many people.

In a 2013 research study, it was tested whether the fresh ginger has anti-viral activity against the human respiratory syncytial virus in respiratory tract cells. And, this study concluded that fresh ginger showed efficacy against HRSV-induced plague formation in respiratory tract cell lines.

Photo: Max Pixel


Eases pains and inflammation

Relieving pain and reducing inflammation is one of the traditional uses of ginger. Several studies have proven that ginger can ease various forms of pains including menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea), pain induced by eccentric exercise, and can combat inflammation.

In a meta-analysis, clinical efficacy and safety of oral ginger treatment in osteoarthritis patients were evaluated, and this study concluded that ginger intake by mouth was effective and safe for the treatment of pain and inflammation induced by osteoarthritis.

Also, a review published in 2017 that studied 16 trails showed “compelling evidence for ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties and potential use as a treatment for a variety of inflammatory diseases that plague industrialized nations.”


Lowers cancer risks

A 2014 review reported that ginger has anti-cancer properties and these properties of ginger are credited to the presence of an abundance of 6-gingerols in it.

Also, in a pilot trial conducted in 2013, either 2 gram of ginger or a placebo was given to 20 participants who had an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer for 28 days. And, this study suggested that ginger might ‘reduce proliferation in the normal-appearing colorectal epithelium and increase apoptosis and differentiation relative to proliferation.’ The result of this pilot trial signifies that ginger may help in reducing the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

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