Ginger is a treasure in Asian cuisine, where it's cherished for its unique ability to bring a touch of tanginess to dishes. Its distinctive lemony aroma and touch of spiciness can awaken the flavors of favorite recipes.
But ginger’s amazing role in cooking is just the start — the spice is also well-known for its many medicinal benefits. For centuries, ginger has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat colds, stomachaches, nausea, indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea.
In traditional Chinese medicine, sliced or grated ginger is boiled in water as a soup to help fend off early signs of a cold. And it's often the last resort for those who suffer motion sickness when pills won’t work. (A freshly cut ginger slice is either placed in the mouth or on the belly button with a Band-Aid.)
Right into the modern age, ginger is still the go-to herbal remedy for those who believe in natural healing.
And science is now catching up. Here are some of the research-backed revelations about the powerful benefits of this exotic spice:
1. It's anti-inflammatory.
Ginger contains dozens of the most potent natural inflammation-fighting substances, like gingerols. The ability for food to reduce inflammation is important, as inflammation contributes to many chronic conditions including obesity, diabetes, pain, and heart disease.
2. It's anti-aging.
Ginger also has powerful antioxidant effects. It raises levels of the master antioxidant glutathione in the body. And by fighting oxidative stress, ginger helps control the process of aging.
3. It reduces pain from exercise.
One study found that eating ginger before cycling reduced quadriceps muscle pain, likely thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects.
4. It assists with weight loss.
Research shows that ginger tea helps prevent metabolic disorders and reduces the feeling of hunger, meaning it plays a role in weight management.
5. It helps treat anemia.
Ginger and its bioactive components, such as gingerols and shogaols, stimulate the production of blood cells in the body and can improve anemia symptoms.
6. It can help manage diabetes.
One study showed that ginger can improve fasting blood sugar in type 2 diabetes patients. And scientists have discovered that combining honey and ginger reduces oxidative stress as well as the complications of diabetes.
This is especially important, given that the number of people with diabetes across the world is predicted to increase from 171 million in 2000 to 552 million by 2030.
7. It helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Since ancient times, natural compounds of ginger have been appreciated for their use in preventing various age-related ailments, including brain aging and neuro-degeneration. Recent studies have emphasized ginger’s benefits in treating Alzheimer’s disease.
8. It can ease symptoms of osteoarthritis.
In traditional Indonesian medicine, red ginger has been prescribed to relieve arthritis pain.
Now, an unprecedented study has found that topical ginger treatment using either a traditional manually prepared ginger compress or a standardized ginger patch could relieve symptoms for people with chronic osteoarthritis.
9. It can prevent liver disease.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a common liver disease that's quickly turning into an epidemic. Insulin resistance is a major feature in patients with NAFLD.
But research has shown that gingerols, the active component of ginger, could help improve insulin resistance, serving as a natural way to prevent NAFLD.
How to Spice Up Your Life with Ginger
Shop for whole ginger root in the vegetable aisle, looking for ginger that is firm to the touch and not wilted, dried out, or moldy. To use fresh ginger, remove the skin and cut a section of the yellow root. Finely chop the ginger, and it's ready to use.
You can also make fresh ginger tea by adding finely chopped ginger to boiled water, letting it steep for two to three minutes, and then straining out the ginger.