Ginger is one spice that I recommend keeping on hand in your kitchen at all times. It is a lifesaver for me. If you are prone, like I am to an unsettled stomach, you will be amazed at the relief a small amount of ginger offers. It is a wonderful addition to your cooking and has endless health benefits.
The medicinal uses of ginger have been known for at least 2,000 years in cultures all around the world. Although it originated in Asia, ginger is valued in India, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean, among other regions.
The most commonly used medicinal part of the plant is the rhizome, the root-like stem that grows underground. It’s a rich source of antioxidants including gingerols, shogaols, zingerones, and more. Ginger actually has broad-spectrum antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-parasitic properties, to name several of its more than 40 pharmacological actions.
Ginger is anti-inflammatory, which makes it great for pain relief. In 2001, research showed that ginger oil helped reduce knee pain in people with osteoarthritis. In 2013, a study also found that women athletes taking three grams of ginger or cinnamon daily (that’s less than one teaspoon) had a significant decrease in muscle soreness. Ginger has been found to be as effective as ibuprofen in relieving pain from menstrual cramps in women.
Along with help for muscle and joint pain, ginger has been found to reduce the severity of migraine headaches as well as the migraine medication Sumatriptan with fewer side effects.
Another recent study, which was presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference, found that adding ginger compounds to isoproterenol, a type of asthma medication called a beta-agonist, enhanced its bronchodilating effects. Because ginger enhances bronchodilation, it may provide a much safer alternative, or at least complement, to current asthma medications on the market.
Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition has demonstrated the in vitro and in vivo anticancer activity of ginger, suggesting it may be effective in the management of prostate cancer.
Other research shows it has anti-tumor activity that may help defeat difficult-to-treat types of cancer, including lung, ovarian, colon, breast, skin, and pancreatic. Furthermore, because ginger helps prevent the toxic effects of many substances (including cancer drugs), it may be useful to take in addition to conventional cancer treatments.
Ginger appears to be useful both preventively and therapeutically via effects on insulin release and action, and improved carbohydrate and lipid metabolism.
After consuming three grams of dry ginger powder for 30 days, a research report indicated that diabetic participants had a significant reduction in blood glucose, triglyceride, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol. It’s thought that ginger has a positive effect on diabetes because it:
- Inhibits enzymes in carbohydrate metabolism
- Increases insulin release and sensitivity
- Improves lipid profiles
Ginger also has also been established to have a protective effect against diabetes complications, including offering protection to the diabetic’s liver, kidneys, central nervous system, and eyes.
If you struggle with motion sickness or nausea (from pregnancy or chemotherapy, for example), ginger should be a staple in your diet. Research shows:
- Taking one gram of ginger daily may help reduce nausea and vomiting in pregnant women, and ginger has been shown to work better than a placebo in relieving morning sickness
- Daily ginger supplementation reduces the severity of chemotherapy-induced nausea
- Ginger may help reduce vomiting and other symptoms of motion sickness
Ginger is also a must-have if you struggle with indigestion, and it does more than simply relieve pain. Ginger helps to stimulate the emptying of your stomach without any negative effects, and it’s an antispasmodic agent, which may explain its beneficial effects on your intestinal tract. Additionally, ginger inhibits H. pylori, which may help prevent ulcers, while also protecting gastric mucosa.
Ginger is a metabolism boosting substance that may temporarily increase thermogenesis in your body, where your body burns stored up fat to create heat, with beneficial impacts on overall metabolism and fat storage. Research suggests that consuming thermogenic ingredients like ginger may boost your metabolism by up to 5 percent, and increase fat burning by up to 16 percent.
Ginger may help counteract the decrease in metabolic rate that often happens during weight loss.
Additional research shows that ginger might be useful for:
- Improving cognitive function in middle-aged women
- Enhancing fat digestion and absorption
- Relieving arthritis pain as well as Indomethacin, an anti-inflammatory drug commonly used to treat it
- Reducing damage and memory loss associated with small strokes
- Protecting against respiratory viruses
- Protecting against environmental toxins like parabens
- Preventing and treating nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
- Reducing vertigo
- Protecting against the DNA-damaging effects of radiation exposure
- Helping prevent heart attacks
- Fighting bacterial diarrhea
- Protecting against drug-resistant bacterial and fungal infections
How to Buy
Look for organic ginger with shiny, taut skin. The ginger skin should be thin and never thick and fibrous. You should be able to easily nick the skin with your nail.
Ginger should be pungent and spicy smelling.
Avoid ginger that has any soft spots. If it is soft, it has been on display too long.
Ginger is sold in big hands but you do not have to buy the whole thing. Snap off what you need. It should break easily and if it doesn’t, it probably isn’t fresh.
How to Store
If you use ginger pretty frequently (two to three times a week), store it in the crisper drawer of your fridge. If ginger doesn’t show up as often in your cooking, store it in the freezer and grate it whenever you need it.
To freeze ginger, mince or grate it. I don’t always remove the skin, which easily comes off with the edge of a teaspoon or a paring knife, before freezing. Spread or scoop the ginger onto a parchment-lined tray. I like making teaspoon-sized portions. Freeze until solid and transfer to an airtight container. It should keep for about six months.
For most stovetop cooking and smoothies, you can just throw the frozen ginger directly into your dish. For baked goods or raw dressings, let the ginger thaw first; it only takes a few minutes if the chunks are small enough.
How to Cook
Ginger tea is one of the simplest ways to use it. Chop off a couple of inches of ginger root and let it steep in hot water for fresh ginger tea. You can also peel the root using a paring knife or the edge of a teaspoon and then slice it thinly (or grate it or mince it) to add to tea or cooked dishes.
Add fresh ginger and other warming spices, like cinnamon, to a cup of tea in the morning, evening, or after a meal. Try mixing a teaspoon of organic powdered ginger into a gallon of iced tea.
Add ginger to stir fries or your favorite soups.