For thousands of years, ginger, a flowering plant native to China, has been used for medicinal purposes. Its rhizome (underground stem) can be juiced, eaten raw, cooked and transformed into an oil extract, spice or powder. Pickled ginger is often used as a palate cleanser, as any sushi enthusiast knows.
The main bioactive compound in ginger is called gingerol, which is said to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Gingerol works to help alleviate nausea (sea sickness, morning sickness and general upset stomachs) and acts as a good digestive since it helps speed up the emptying of the stomach.
Each morning, I start the day with fresh grated ginger soaked in lime juice with a pinch of salt for my morning digestive to help clear the stomach. (You can read about various tonics I use here.)
Ginger’s active ingredients include gingerol, shogaol,paradol and zingerone, which may help reduce joint and muscle pain naturally. Gingerol also fights bad bacteria and can be a good way to support gum health and keep gingivitis at bay. And for women suffering from menstrual cramps, a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine revealed that ginger can help lessen cramps and pain as well as ibuprofen. Worth a try, indeed, as ibuprofen is harsh on the stomach lining.
Ginger tea is also an excellent remedy when you’re feeling a little under the weather. Another tasty drink to add to your repertoire can be made with ginger, cinnamon, maple syrup and lemon. This immunity booster is perfect during the holiday season when the germs are flying around and everyone seems to get sick.
Maple Ginger Tea
Combine 2 cups of water with 1 inch of grated ginger root, two cinnamon sticks, half a juiced lemon, the rind of that lemon (cut into strips) and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. Bring to a boil and then let it simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the cinnamon, lemon peel and ginger, and then enjoy the tea.
You can also add ginger to your smoothies, stir fries, soups, curries and more. When purchasing ginger, look for roots with smooth shiny skin and a spicy aroma. The skin should peel off easily, even with your fingernail. Ginger will last longer if you store it in the fridge, unpeeled in a container in the crisper drawer.
Adding ginger into your diet has multiple therapeutic benefits, so what are you waiting for? But please always check with your doctor about taking ginger if you are pregnant or on blood-thinning medications or taking other blood-thinning herbs, as ginger may have an impact on how these drugs work.
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Journalist Ann Wycoff has written about wellness, fitness, longevity, travel, spas, food and wine for the past 20 years for magazines like Shape, Fitness, Spa, Outside, Travel + Leisure, Coastal Living, Redbook, Modern Luxury, San Diego Magazine, Redbook, Marin Magazine and more. She lives in Encinitas, California.