Ginger, a common ingredient in Indian and Asian cuisine, holds the secret to a surprising number of health benefits. Adding this superfood to your diet could be a game changer.
Originally native to southeast Asia, ginger was first grown domestically around 3500 years ago. It is a flowering plant, of which only the root is consumed, and is in the same family as turmeric and cardamom.
Described as having a sweet peppery taste, ginger is traditionally used as a spice in food but can also be enjoyed in drinks such as ginger tea or ginger ale. It is also available in a dried powdered form and in capsules from health-food stores.
Interestingly, the chemical compound that gives ginger its flavour and kick is gingerol, which belongs to the same family of chemical compounds as capsaicin (the active ingredient in chilli peppers) and piperine (responsible for the taste of black pepper).
Ginger is a staple of many curry and stir-fry dishes, and has been used in traditional and natural medicines since at least the time of Confucius, who was said to have eaten the spice with every meal to prevent scurvy.
While not getting scurvy is definitely a positive, ginger has a range of other health benefits that may be somewhat more relevant to you. Ginger is an effective anti-inflammatory agent, is packed with antioxidants and can even jump-start your metabolism. But here are some health benefits of ginger you may not know about.
Preventing Alzheimer’s disease and improving brain function
It’s ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties that make it useful in preventing age-related cognitive issues. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are both believed to be linked to chronic inflammation in the brain.
It’s not just Alzheimer’s either. Last year, a team of Iranian researchers found that ginger had therapeutic properties that could alleviate diseases affecting the nervous system such as brain tumours, stroke, neurosis, depression, insomnia, psychiatric disorders, and dementia.
“Ginger has the potential to be used … to prevent multiple diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive impairments, and memory dysfunction,” the researchers found.
An earlier study found that ginger could also improve your cognitive function directly. Researchers discovered that giving daily doses of ginger to healthy middle-aged women greatly improved reaction time and working memory.
Curing nausea and vomiting
Ginger soothes an upset tummy by stimulating saliva and bile production, which in turn helps food and drink move through your gastrointestinal tract. Ginger’s anti-inflammatory effects also reduce inflammation in the gut such as that seen in irritable bowel sufferers.
Studies have shown that ginger is effective in treating nausea resulting from motion sickness, chemotherapy, various gastrointestinal disorders and pregnancy-related morning sickness.
Another health benefit is ginger’s ability to lower your blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that eating or drinking ginger (at a rate of 500mg/kg) can significantly lower serum glucose, cholesterol and triacylglycerol levels – all key markers of diabetes.
Osteoarthritis pain relief
Once again, it’s ginger’s amazing anti-inflammatory properties on show here. Reducing inflammation in the joints in turn reduces the pain associated with osteoarthritis. Ginger seems to be particularly effective at soothing osteoarthritis of the knee.
A study conducted earlier this year into using ginger to treat arthritis pain found that it was so effective, it may one day be used as a natural substitute for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), the use of which can be dangerous.
Do you like ginger? Would you consider adding it to your diet after reading this? Let us know in the comments section below.
Also read: Edible garden weeds with health benefits
Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.