GINGER: THE HEALING SPICE

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Ginger is a perennial plant believed to have been discovered in South-eastern Asia and spread to other parts of the world as maritime trade developed. The plant itself grows to a height of one metre, but the most useful part is the plant’s rhizome (underground stem). According to AgriFutures Australia, the country produces about 8,000 tonnes of ginger every year. Today ginger is available in most health food stores. It may also be bought raw and incorporated into our diet to realise the rhizome’s many health benefits.

Discovery of gingers health benefits

Much before modern science could develop and validate the many health benefits of ginger through its research; ginger had already found a place as a distinguished ingredient in the ancient Indian medicine system of Ayurveda. It can help in treating nausea, appetite loss and vomiting, especially after surgery.

Today, research corroborates these health benefits and much more. The main component of ginger (the rhizome), which gives it medicinal properties, is gingerols, shogaol, and paradols. Together these components provide ginger with its anti-oxidative properties, anti-inflammatory properties and anti-cancer properties. They are also the reason for the strong smell and pungent taste of the rhizome in its raw form. However, health food stores have ginger incorporated products such as pickles, candies, beer, and chews etc. which make them more palatable. 

Anti-oxidative properties 

Free radicals (oxygen-containing molecules) are produced in our bodies naturally for oxidation, the process that gives the body its energy; however, when they are over required quantities, they result in oxidative stress. This could lead to chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and accelerated ageing, among other things. A cup of ginger tea a day could help contain free radicals’ free reign, thereby restoring the human body’s imbalances. Dry ginger tea combined with cinnamon and cardamom is also a favourite home remedy for relief from cold.

Anti-inflammatory properties

Inflammation is swelling, redness and pain occurring in various parts of our body as a reaction to pathogens, damaged cells or irritants. Ginger suppresses the biosynthesis of compounds that lead to inflammation. It is known to be quite effective in the relief of joint pains as well. Essential oils containing ginger are also available in health food stores. A hot bath with a few drops of essential oils could be the answer to stubborn soreness that one has to battle every once in a while.

Anti-cancer effects

According to the International Journal of Preventive Medicines, ginger’s anti-cancer effects have been proven, especially in colorectal and gastric cancers. Ginger activates enzymes and biomolecules that inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. Ginger is also very useful in maintaining a healthy gut, settling stomach upsets and aiding in indigestion.

Anti-diabetic effects 

Modern research is ongoing in the field of anti-diabetic effects of ginger. However, certain studies conducted in rats have shown significant and promising results that help explain lowering blood sugar, total cholesterol etc. in hyperglycemic (high blood sugar) rats.

Some of the other bodily ailments for which ginger is can act as a remedy in Ayurveda include flatulence, diarrhoea, weight loss and food poisoning. The health benefits of ginger are well established; therefore, we must incorporate this ginger in our everyday life and reap the benefits of a spice potent with healing powers.

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