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The Health Benefits of Ginger Root

Aug 6, 2008
Ginger is one of the most widely used herbs in the world. We use the root of a plant native to Asia but today cultivated in the West Indies, Jamaica, and Africa. Francisco de Mendosa introduced ginger to Spain in the early 1500's (and from there to the new world) but its value was known in the far east long before that.

Ginger is technically a tuber that creeps and grows underground. The stalk grows to be at least two feet tall. When it dies in the fall, the tuber is dug up, dried, and ground into the herb powder most commonly known. Uncoated or white ginger was washed and scraped to prevent sprouting. Some like the whiteness and thus it has been bleached or limed to achieve greater whiteness. This results in a loss of nutritional value. Coated or black ginger means the root was not peeled but immediately scalded after harvesting.

Ginger's valuable nutrients include sulphur, resin, volatile oil (up to 3%), acrid soft lignin, starch, vegeto matter, gum, asmazone, potassium acetate, and acetic acid.

Ginger has been used in traditional Asian medicine to treat nausea. Pregnant women report relief from morning sickness after consuming small amounts of ginger root, ginger tea, and ginger ale. When given in large doses, ginger also relieves chemotherapy related nausea. Many find ginger more effective in relieving motion sickness than Dramamine. It will also stimulate appetite, fight body odor, and promote perspiration.

Ginger also helps treat joint pain by stimulating blood circulation, so it is used to treat illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis and Raynaud?s syndrome. Externally ginger causes redness of the skin.

Ginger relieves gastrointestinal distress and is often used to treat flatulence, indigestion, diarrhea, and menstrual cramps. It works by mimicking certain digestive enzymes the body uses to process protein in the body.

Ginger is good for the heart as well. Just five grams of dried ginger per day slows the production of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides in the liver. Ginger also hinders platelets from sticking together, thus decreasing the risk of stroke or heart attack.

Many like its flavor and aroma and like to use it in cooking as a seasoning or a tea. One online recipe for gingersnap cookies calls for one teaspoon of ginger powder. It is also a popular treatment for cold symptoms for it is said to loosen phlegm and spread a warm feeling throughout the body thus fighting chills.

Besides the powder and root, ginger may be purchased in capsules, pickles, extracts, and prepared teas that can be made into compresses. Some eat ginger root raw, but if you do, avoid small, wrinkled, or soft tubers. To make a tea, steep ginger in hot water, or just sprinkle it on dishes. The recommended dosage is one third of an ounce of fresh ginger root per day. By steeping the root in hot syrup preserved ginger may be made. You can store ginger root dry in your refrigerator for short periods or freeze it for up to three months.

If you are pregnant, it would be wise to restrict your use of ginger because it may stimulate uterine contractions. People taking beta-blockers, insulin, blood thinners, barbiturates, or diabetes medications should consult their doctor before using ginger because it may conflict with some of these medications. Ginger may also reduce the absorption of dietary iron and fat-soluble vitamins, and actually upset the stomach in higher doses. Also, ginger helps thin the blood. Therefore avoid taking it two weeks prior to surgery.
About the Author
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