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What is ginger?
Ginger belongs to the same family as turmeric and cardamom. Native to South-east Asia, India and China, ginger is an integral component of the region’s diet, and is valued for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties.
Although we may be more familiar with recipe favourites like gingerbread or ginger biscuits, ginger is more than just a flavouring – it's been used for its medicinal properties throughout the ages.
Nutritional benefits of fresh ginger:
10g serving of fresh ginger provides:
- 4 kcals / 9 kJ
- 2g protein
- 1g fat
- 8g carbohydrate
- 2g fibre
- 42mg potassium
What are the 5 top health benefits of ginger?
1. May alleviate the symptoms of a cold
Ginger tea is a great choice at the onset of a cold. Being diaphoretic, it encourages perspiration and can therefore be used to treat feverish conditions such as influenza or cold. The fresh root (as opposed to dried powder) also appears to have antiviral effects.
2. May soothe mild nausea and morning sickness
Ginger root has also been anecdotally reported to reduce the symptoms associated with motion sickness, including dizziness, nausea, vomiting and cold sweats. This could extend to people undergoing surgery and chemotherapy-related nausea, though further studies are required. Ginger has most widely been used to treat the nausea and vomiting associated with mild pregnancy sickness. However, check with your GP or midwife to ensure it is appropriate for you.
3. May relieve pain
Many of the curative properties of ginger relate to its potent anti-inflammatory qualities. These effects appear to be relevant for topical use, with studies supporting the use of a ginger compress for relieving osteoarthritis symptoms. Topical applications may also stimulate circulation and soothe burns.
The root, the part of the plant most widely used in alternative forms of medicine, is rich in volatile oils that contain active components such as gingerol. This potent anti-inflammatory compound is believed to explain why people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis who consume ginger regularly experience reductions in their pain levels and improvements in their mobility.
4. May calm the digestive system
Ginger has a long reputation as a carminative, a substance that promotes the elimination of excess gas from the digestive system, and is known to sooth the intestinal tract. Colic and dyspepsia respond particularly well to ginger.
5. May support heart health
A number of animal studies suggest ginger may help manage cholesterol levels, reduce damage to the arteries and lower high blood pressure – all of which benefits the heart and cardiovascular system.
Is ginger safe for everyone?
Although regarded as safe for a broad range of complaints, ginger is a potent herb that acts pharmacologically, so it may be unsuitable for some people, including:
- People with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones
- Those who frequently experience heartburn or acid reflux
- Those with low blood pressure or on blood pressure medications. These individuals should consume ginger in moderation because of its potential blood-pressure-lowering effects
If you’re unsure or concerned whether it is safe for you to consume ginger, consult your GP for guidance.
This article was reviewed on 11 February 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
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