The root of the ginger plant in fresh and powder form has been used to cook with and for its healing properties since ancient times.
Numerous health benefits have been associated with the ginger plant since the beginning of time. In recent years, scientific research has proven some of these and disproved others, but this so-called superfood still requires further investigation.
The ginger plant is part of the Zingiberaceae family, which cardamom and turmeric also belong to. Besides, this plant is also known by its scientific name Zingiber officinale.
Its rhizome (subterranean stem) is used as an appetizer, spice, and flavoring in Asian and Western cuisine. Likewise, in traditional medicine from many different cultures, it is considered therapeutic in a variety of ways.
The inside of the root has a brown outer covering, although depending on the variety this can also be yellow, red, or white.
Ginger root is native to the tropical jungles of South East Asia. To be more specific, people believe that it most likely originated in India, and then was exported to Europe in the first century AD. Currently, India produces the most, followed by China.
This plant is valued in Asian cuisine for its aroma and flavor which is strong and spicy. In Asia, this root has been used for a very long time both as a condiment and appetizer, usually in the form of pickled or candied ginger.
In countries throughout the continent ginger root is added to dishes with fish, seafood, tofu, soup, salad, noodles, dried fruits, and lamb, just to name a few.
Lemon ginger tea often with honey added is a natural remedy for colds that are also quite common. Besides, ginger beer and even coffee are common products on the market.
In the West, ginger powder is used to give sweets like cookies, cakes, and candies flavor.
Scientific research has revealed that ginger could relieve the symptoms of specific ailments. However, it's a good idea to exercise caution when analyzing these studies since many of them are financed directly by companies that benefit directly from product sales.
The root of the ginger plant is frequently used to reduce morning sickness in pregnant women. Eating this food seems quite safe during pregnancy, although in the lactation period, it's unclear.
People with HIV or AIDS can benefit from consuming this root 30 minutes before taking antiretroviral drugs to reduce the risk of nausea and vomiting.
Some studies suggest that this plant could be capable of reducing your chances of vomiting after surgery, although this is less clear.
Studies confirm that eating ginger during the first three days of the menstrual cycle can be as effective as ibuprofen as a pain reliever, that in this case is called 'dysmenorrhoea.'
The ability to reduce joint pain caused by osteoarthritis and stiffness are on the list of the health benefits of ginger. Specifically, some studies suggest that it can be effective when it comes to arthritic knee pain. In any case, its effects are weaker than other common pharmaceutical painkillers.
Another benefit of this root is its ability to ease symptoms like dizziness and vertigo, also related to nausea.
Eating ginger root seems to stimulate saliva production, which is why it can help those that suffer from dry mouth or that have trouble swallowing. However, according to studies, this is only effective in people with severe problems.
Although this research is still in its first phases, the possible antidiabetic properties of this plant are currently under investigation.
A 2015 study observed blood sugar levels reduced up to 12% in those that consumed between 2 and 3 grams of ginger powder daily.
But, don't forget that these are just preliminary studies and further investigation is needed to make these affirmations more confidently.
Chronic indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is characterized by discomfort and recurring pain in the upper part of the stomach which could occur because the stomach is unable to empty correctly.
On this note, ginger root could speed up the stomach emptying process for those that experience chronic indigestion, which is why this spice could be effective in conjunction with other treatment.
High lipoprotein levels (bad cholesterol or LDL) is related to an increased risk for heart disease, and these levels are usually directly related to the type of foods that we eat.
One study observed that people that consumed around 3 grams of ginger daily experienced a significant reduction of cholesterol markers.
Besides, this data is backed up by research on animals that also experienced lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels overall.
Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are the main factors that speed up the cerebral aging process, which is directly related to the appearance of some neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease.
Some studies suggest that the ginger plant's anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties could inhibit the brain's inflammatory response.
Besides, there's evidence that suggests that consuming this root has a direct effect on improving brain performance since it could improve reaction times and working memory.
Finally, studies on how gingerol, the main bioactive substance in fresh ginger root, can help to reduce the risk of infection.
To be more specific, it can halt the growth of many types of bacteria -especially oral bacteria related to inflammatory gum diseases like gingivitis or periodontitis.
Although this spicy root is generally safe for consumption, there are some possible side effects such as allergic reactions or if eaten with certain pharmaceutical products.
To be more specific, ginger can reduce the effectiveness of diabetes medications, blood thinners (like warfarin, aspirin, and diclofenac) and nifedipine, a drug used to treat heart conditions.
Allergic reactions to this plant usually appear in the form of skin irritation or rashes. Also, it could make symptoms of heart disease or gastrointestinal problems like ulcers or irritable bowel syndrome worse.
Other common side effects include nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, gas, and bloating.