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Ginger Health Benefits, Nutritional Value and Uses

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What is Ginger?

This spicy root is actually an underground rhizome of small herb plant belonging to the Zingiberaceae family, of the genus Zingiber .Ginger is thought to have originated in the Himalayan foothills of Northern India. Ginger plant grows to about a meter in height and features thin grass like dark-green leaves and small yellow flowers.Its root features knotty finger-like projections that grow downward from the ground surface. The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow, white or red in color, depending upon the variety. It is covered with a brownish skin that may either be thick or thin, depending upon whether the plant was harvested when it was mature or young. The Fresh raw root has a silver gray outer surface and often contains fibrils running through its center, especially in over-mature roots. Ginger has pungent, spicy and aromatic smell that comes from essential oils and phenolic compounds such as gingerols and shogaols in the root.

Health Benefits of Ginger

Digestive Tract Protection: Ginger has also been historically used for flatulence, constipation, bloating, and other digestive complaints. In addition to these gastro-protective effects, researchers have found ginger to be effective for stress related ulcers.

Brain Health: Ginger contains compounds that have demonstrated protective effects for the brain. One of them, known as 6-Shogaol, inhibited the release and expression of redness-causing chemicals known to cause damage to neurons in both in vitro and in vivo models.  The other, 10-gingerol, when sourced from fresh ginger, similarly impacted production of nitric oxide and other chemicals that lead to redness and swelling in the brain.

Reduces joint pain and relieves arthritis: Ginger contains a very potent anti-inflammatory compound called gingerol, which is the substance responsible for alleviating joint and muscle pain. Many patients suffering from osteoarthritis have also reported reduced pain and improved mobility by consuming ginger on a regular basis.Ginger can also reduce inflammation and muscle pain caused by exercise

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Therapy for nausea: Ginger is very good at subsiding various types of nausea and vomiting, including morning sickness in pregnant women, motion sickness in travellers, and even nausea in chemotherapy patients. The herb also helps reduce the dizziness and nausea associated with vertigo.

Soothes migraines and menstrual pain: Research has shown that ginger can provide pain relief from migraine headaches. Ginger works on migraines by blocking prostaglandins, which stimulate muscle contractions, control inflammation in the blood vessels, and impact some hormones. Drinking ginger tea at the onset of a migraine attack stifles prostaglandins to block the unbearable pain, and stop the associated nausea and dizziness.Ginger can also help women effectively reduce the pain associated with dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). Many cultures also pour fresh ginger juice on their skin to treat burns, and topical application of ginger oil has been found to be very effective in treating joint and back pain.

Successful in killing cancer cells: Ginger has also been proven to effectively treat breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer.The use of natural remedies like ginger that are safe and can suppress growth of breast cancer cells is highly desirable. The other advantages of using ginger are that it is easy to administer in capsule form, it has few reported side effects, and it’s a low-cost alternative to conventional drugs.Ginger compounds have also been studied to inhibit other forms of cancer, including rectal cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, melanoma and pancreatic cancer. It’s also interesting to note that beta-elemene – an anti-cancer pharmaceutical – is derived from ginger.

Lowers blood sugar and increases insulin release: Overall, ginger works on diabetes by increasing insulin release and sensitivity, inhibiting enzymes in carbohydrate metabolism, and improving lipid profiles. Ginger also has a very low glycemic index (GI), which means it breaks down slowly to form glucose, and therefore does not trigger a spike in blood sugar levels like high GI foods do.. Ginger can protect a diabetic’s liver, kidneys, and central nervous system, and reduce the risk of cataracts – a common side-effect of the disease.

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Treats cardiovascular conditions: High in potassium, manganese, chromium, magnesium and zinc, and famous for its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger has been used for years to treat heart conditions.

Effective in treating asthma: Ginger compounds have shown positive results in treating respiratory disorders, Asthma is a chronic disease that occurs when the muscles in the lungs’ oxygen channels become inflamed and sensitive to different substances that induce spasms. Part of the reason ginger works is due to its potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and analgesic compounds, which have properties similar to that of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, but without the negative side effects. While asthma can be a deadly disease, some of the medications used to treat asthma can also carry troubling side effects. Therefore, finding alternative, safe remedies like ginger, is a promising discovery in the treatment of this disease.

Reduces coughs and colds: Ginger is a wonderful immune system booster, making it a well-known treatment for colds and flus. And since it helps calm symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection, it also works on coughs, sore throats and bronchitis.Ginger clears the micro-circulatory channels of the body, including the pesky sinuses that flare up during colds. Drinking ginger with lemon and honey is a popular cold and flu remedy that has been handed down for many generations, both in the east and the west.Ginger also has thermogenic properties, so it can warm up the body in the cold and, more importantly, can promote healthy sweating. This type of sweating, which helps to detoxify the body and assist in releasing cold symptoms, has also been shown to fight off bacterial and fungal infections.
Best of all, ginger has concentrated active substances that are easily absorbed by the body, so you don’t have to use very much to receive its beneficial effects.

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Slows down DNA damage: Antioxidants are extremely important as they provide protection against free radicals, which helps reduce the various types of degenerative diseases that come with aging, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and more.While all spices are known to be powerful antioxidants, ginger seems to be extra-potent. It contains 25 different antioxidant properties on its own. This makes it effective at fighting a variety of free radicals, and in different areas of the body.

Uses of Ginger

  • Ginger root slices, boiled in water with lemon or orange juice, and honey, is a popular herbal drink in ayurvedic medicine to relieve common cold, cough, and sore throat.
  • Ginger produces a hot, fragrant kitchen spice.
  • Young ginger rhizomes are juicy and fleshy with a very mild taste. They are often pickled in vinegar or sherry as a snack or cooked as an ingredient in many dishes. They can be steeped in boiling water to make ginger tisane, to which honey is often added; sliced orange or lemon fruit may be added.
  • Ginger can be made into candy, or ginger wine.
  • The juice from ginger roots is often used as a seasoning in Indian recipes and is a common ingredient of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and many South Asian cuisines for flavoring dishes such as seafood, meat, and vegetarian dishes.
  • Fresh ginger can be substituted for ground ginger at a ratio of six to one, although the flavors of fresh and dried ginger are somewhat different. Powdered dry ginger root is typically used as a flavoring for recipes such as gingerbread, cookies, crackers and cakes, ginger ale, and ginger beer.
  • Candied ginger, or crystallized ginger, is the root cooked in sugar until soft, and is a type of confectionery.