It was from the Sanskrit word ‘shringavera’ (meaning ‘horn body’) that the Latin name Zingiber was derived. When Ginger was introduced into England it became known as ‘gingifer’ and it is from this word that the name we call it today evolved. Ginger grows best in tropical and sub tropical regions. The ‘rhizome’ (root) is used in cooking and medicine.
The warmth of ginger means that it can easily be seen as an aid for the blood circulation. It is also an anti-oxidant.
History of Ginger
More than 5000 years ago the ancient Chinese and Indians looked upon Ginger as the ‘universal medicine’. It has received praise from Confucius and Pliny for helping blood circulation. Nostradamus wrote recipes for Ginger preserved in honey and the Koran mentions a fountain of Ginger-flavoured water.
The ancient Greeks ate ginger wrapped inside bread after meals to help digestion and circulation and the early English made a soothing ginger beer to aid the stomach.
Uses of Ginger
Ginger is today an ingredient in more than 50 percent of traditional herbal remedies. Its properties as an anti-oxidant and circulatory stimulant means that it has been used to treat many conditions, including nausea, indigestion, fever, and infection.
Ginger contains high amounts of iron and calcium, in addition to its major constituents – gingerol and paradol. Gingerol is a powerful antioxidant – clearing up the free radicals that can do so much harm within the body – and it is anti-inflammatory.
Recent studies to test the validity of medicinal claims have proved positive in a number of areas. In particular, Ginger has been found to have the ability to stop nausea and vomiting, prevent coronary artery disease, and heal (and prevent) arthritic conditions and stomach ulcers. Its powerful blood circulation effects are at the root of many of its observed benefits. Ginger was also shown to be effective against tumour growth, migraines and rheumatism.
Nausea and motion sickness
Results of scientific tests, noted in the Lancet in 1982, show that “The powdered rhizome of Zingiber officinale has been found to be more effective than dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) in reducing motion sickness in individuals highly susceptible to this malady.
More medical reports show that Ginger is effective in easing morning sickness in pregnant women and post-operative nausea in patients recovering from surgery.
Another trial studied 80 naval cadets, unaccustomed to sailing in heavy seas. Out on the open sea it was reported that “ginger root reduced the tendency to vomiting and cold sweating significantly better than the placebo did”.
Ginger is a great aid to digestion. It increases digestive movement through the stomach and duodenum, and has also been shown to stimulate several valuable digestive enzymes in the pancreas.
In India and China it has long been the custom to drink a tea brewed from fresh Ginger, as an aid to digestion after a meal. The enzymes in Ginger break down protein efficiently and rapidly, leaving the digestive system free of any discomfort.
Ginger and the muscles and joints
Ginger has been undergoing trials in Denmark to discover the herb’s anti-inflammatory potential in the treatment of arthritis. Over 75% of those involved in the trials said they experienced relief in pain and swelling. This is because of ginger’s anti-inflammatory effects as well as its benefit for blood circulation.
In June 1999 a new drug called Zinaxin was launched in the UK to treat arthritis. It was a dietary supplement based on highly concentrated extracts of Ginger. Danish scientists developed the drug after extensive research into the effects of hundreds of natural substances, finding that Ginger was the most effective.
Numerous studies have confirmed the fact that Ginger can work as effectively as aspirin to help clear the build up in clogged arteries. As well as this, Ginger has been found to strengthen the cardiac muscle and lower serum cholesterol levels.
Ginger’s anti-bacterial properties are recognised by the Japanese who use it as an antidote to fish poisoning, especially from sushi. Ginger has been found to kill the anisakis lavae (a parasite that infects fish and marine animals and can be harmful to humans if ingested).
Ginger protects against stomach ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori and is effective against the growth of many bacteria including E Coli, and Salmonella. At the same time it actually helps the growth of the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus.
The International Journal of Obesity reported in October 1992 that Ginger burns calories and so aids weight loss.
The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in America include Ginger on their GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list. However, because Ginger can thin the blood it should not be used in significant doses alongside anticoagulant drugs such as warfarin unless your doctor approves.
Although it is said that Ginger can be a great relief for women suffering morning sickness, pharmacists are generally advised to counsel against its use during pregnancy.
Ginger as an essential oil should be used with caution as it may irritate sensitive skin.
Ginger has undergone numerous testing and research in recent years and has proved itself to be an extremely valuable herb in many areas.
Used mainly for digestive comfort and relief from nausea, it can also improve circulation, relieve pain and swelling in osteo-arthritis, and kill harmful bacteria while promoting the good.
Don’t forget to include Ginger regularly in your diet – a full-flavoured way to great health!