What’s So Great About Ginger

What’s So Great About Ginger

As a trainer and nutrition advisor, one of my favourite websites is www.precisionnutrition.com (shameless plug but really, so much good scientific info. I will wait for the sponsorship cheques to start rolling in now!). So when I was researching this post on ginger I thought to check out what the experts over at Precision had to say, natch. They say that ayurvedic texts credit ginger as a “universal great medicine.” An old Indian proverb says that “everything good is found in ginger” and traditional Chinese medicine says that ginger “restores devastated yang” and “expels cold.” Well, I don’t know about you, but my yang has been feeling on the brink of devastation for a while now so let’s delve a little deeper, shall we?

According to the National Institute of Health’s Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, ginger (scientific name zingiber officinale) is “a tropical plant with an aromatic underground stem.” While ginger does actually flower, it’s that underground stem we are familiar with in the form of the gnarly looking root used in everything from tea and stir fry to cookies and supplements. While it may still be classified as alternative, even Western Medicine recognizes the value of ginger as a complement to more traditional treatment.

Many of us know ginger can be effective in combating nausea. (Maybe you’re one of the many women who spent 9 pregnant months with a ginger flavoured Preggie Pop close at hand.) Ginger has also been proven to help with general digestive stress and the settling of a not so settled stomach. (Dr. Mom was right with the saltines and ginger ale.)

Ginger also has parasite clearing abilities. While the mechanisms are not entirely clear, here’s what I was able to unearth about why ginger works.

Ginger apparently promotes the secretion of digestive enzymes in the stomach, helping to neutralize stomach acids. Then the “phenols in the ginger help to relax the stomach muscles and sedate the tissues of the stomach, thereby calming nausea and pain.” Phenols also help to speed transit time through the intestines, clearing food and potential toxins. And while research findings are often mixed, most come down on the side of ginger beating out the placebo every time.

Beyond the nausea relief, ginger is a powerful antioxidant and we all know what that means….cancer free and you live to 120 years of age!!! No?  Okay, but check this out. Dr. Leo Galland MD wrote a piece last year in the Huffington Post outlining his article that appeared in the scientific journal Nutrition in Clinical Practice. He noted that “fragrant herbs and spices such as ginger are some of the most powerful weapons we have to help combat inflammation from a nutritional perspective,” and he touts ginger’s role in combating everything from Alzheimer’s, arthritis and heart disease to, you guessed it, cancer. As more and more compelling research links all of those diseases (and indeed all disease) to inflammation in the body, the anti-inflammatory properties of heavy hitters like ginger are making these pantry basics more like medicine every day.

If you’re like a fussy little eater I know (ok, it’s me!) and think ginger tastes suspiciously like dish soap, a little goes a long way. Try powdered instead of slices or slivers to avoid a surprise mouthful. You can also hide it in a yummy cookie versus chugging ginger tea. Or You can always go old school and lay on the sofa with a glass of ginger ale while watching the Price is Right .(Make sure your ginger ale contains the real deal. Factory produced ginger-ish flavor is not your friend.)

Quick note: studies indicate that ginger is most effective for pregnant women when used short term (no longer that 4 consecutive days) and women should always check with their doctors before supplementing with anything during pregnancy.

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