It’s winter in New England, which means we are all trying to stay warm; it is a great time to eat warming foods like soups and baked goods, and to utilize that crockpot! One food that always brings warmth to mind is ginger. This perennial herb’s scientific name is Zingiber Officinale, and for both medicinal and culinary uses this rhizome is harvested and used fresh, sun-dried and sometimes ground up into powder.
The oily resin from the roots contains several compounds that exert effects on cells within our bodies. One in particular, gingerole, which lends to the familiar pungency and spice of ginger, is believed to provide several beneficial health effects.
1) One of the most common medicinal uses of ginger is with helping with nausea and an upset stomach. Studies have shown that ginger is rapidly absorbed into the stomach lining, and appears to accumulate in the GI tract, which may explain its purported affects on that area. Several controlled clinical trials have shown that ginger is safe to use during pregnancy, as well.
2) Ginger contains a high level of antioxidants, which may come as a surprise to many—it did to me! Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals, which can be harmful to cells.
3) Ginger is often used for its anti-inflammatory effects and reduction of swelling and pain. This is caused by inhibiting the growth of an enzyme that plays a role in promoting inflammation in the cells.
4) Ginger appears to decrease cholesterol and may help to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
5) There is also recent interest in ginger as an anti-cancer agent, specifically in relationship to colon cancer.
Ginger is truly both delicious and useful in supporting your health! It also shines in both sweet and savory dishes. So, I say, sprinkle ginger into your soups, add it to your hot cocoa, or enjoy a warm cup of ginger tea on a regular basis to reap some of ginger’s warming and healing powers.
Though many studies on the various health benefits of ginger are showing positive results, there is still no consensus on recommended doses for therapeutic use. Studies have repeatedly shown that using ginger appears to be safe and effective.