Ginger is the rhizome, or root, of the Zingiber officinale plant. Indigenous to Asia, it grows in tropical places including Haiti, India, Jamaica and Nigeria. Ginger has long been an important medicinal herb in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, and it is commonly used in cooking. It has a high concentration of volatile oils, which give it a distinctive aromatic, spicy scent and flavor.
Therapeutic Properties and Health Benefits of Ginger
Ginger is a very warming herb, and is useful as a diaphoretic, an agent that induces sweating. Warming diaphoretics are used at the early stages of colds and flus, for symptoms of low fever and chills with little sweating.
Widely recognized as an effective treatment for nausea, ginger is used as a preventative for seasickness and motion sickness, as well as a treatment of nausea due to chemotherapy and following surgery. Ginger can also be used to relieve symptoms of morning sickness in pregnancy, although taking greater than 2 grams (about 1 teaspoon) of dried ginger per day while pregnant is not recommended.
Ginger is well known as an excellent digestive aid. It stimulates the appetite and improves digestion of proteins and fats. It enhances the peristaltic motion of the intestines, thereby helping to move food through the digestive tract more efficiently. Ginger also relieves diarrhea, acts as a carminative to alleviate symptoms of gas and bloating, and inhibits gastrointestinal ulcers. Drinking a cup of tea made from a few slices of fresh ginger steeped in boiling water after a meal will help to provide relieve from indigestion and heartburn.
Phytochemicals found in ginger, such as the proteolytic enzyme zingibain, have anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to ease swelling and pain in those suffering from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Ginger provides a wide range of health benefits for the circulatory system. Its ability to inhibit platelet aggregation makes it useful to prevent the formation of blood clots. Ginger’s antioxidant activity inhibits fats in the blood from forming plaques on the walls of arteries, making it beneficial for helping to prevent coronary artery disease (atherosclerosis). Ginger also aids in lowering blood cholesterol levels and in addition, acts as a cardiotonic to enhance the contractile strength of the heart, and it helps to lower blood pressure.
The fresh juice of ginger can be used to treat minor burns; combined with honey it makes an effective treatment for sore throat. Ginger tea is useful as a gargle for sore throat, and it has anti-microbial properties.
Cautions and Contraindications
Since ginger inhibits platelet aggregation, it should be avoided by those taking blood thinning drugs. This information is for educational purposes only. If you have a health problem, see a qualified health care provider.
Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press, 2003.
Duke, James A. The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook. St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2000.