Zingiber officiale (nerd-speak for ginger) is one of my all time favourite botanicals. I have it almost daily as a tea, with or without a little honey. I love its spicy aroma, the warmth it creates in my belly and even its clean aftertaste. Ginger is used all over the world in multiple cuisines – spicing up curries, stir-fries, gingered candies and cookies – and I bet your grandma uses it for sore throats and colds. We use the rhizome, or root, of the ginger plant in cooking and also in botanical medicine, and though we can prescribe it as a tincture or encapsuled extract it is best taken as a tea or grated into foods. Even better? You may have heard that ginger can help settle an upset tummy or fight off a cold, but ginger has many other incredible health benefits that I bet you never knew. Get those nerd glasses on… and get ready to let Zingiber blow your mind.
8 Benefits of Ginger You Never Knew
1. Antibiotic: the antibiotic actions of ginger are stellar. At least one study compared ginger to first line antibiotics in the treatment of Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus pyreus bacterial infections – the results showed that ginger was not only superior in fighting the infection, but patients who took the ginger had no significant side effects. Ginger has also been shown to be effective in respiratory and periodontal infections.
2. Menstrual Pain: a double blind study compared the effects of ginger with mefenamic acid, ibuprofen and placebo against menstrual pain. Results showed that ginger was as effective as both of the pain medications at reducing pain associated with menstrual cramping.
3. Cancer: many studies have identified the anti-cancer ability of ginger. Many of the cancers that are inhibited by the action of ginger are some of the most difficult to conventionally treat: lung, ovarian, breast, skin carcinoma, prostate and even pancreatic cancer cell populations have been reduced by ginger.
4. Diabetes: it has been shown that ginger may be effective in both preventing and treating diabetes. It has the ability to reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and other fats, as well as potentially reverse some of the complications associated with diabetes including neuropathy (nerve damage).
5. Ulcers: ginger has the ability to fight infections of Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria associated with formation of gastric (stomach) and duodenal (small intestinal) ulcers. Thus, ginger treats active ulcers and can also be used to prevent future recurrences by keeping H. pylori at bay.
6. Heartworm in your canine companion: heartworm, Dirofilaria immitis, is a common infection in dogs. Standard treatments for heartworm are quite risky and can cause neurological damage and circulatory collapse – luckily, ginger injections have been shown to be effective (up to 98%) in fighting these infections with little to no side effects for your pooch.
7. Radiation: one recent study showed that ginger prevented vomiting and taste distortion following radiation poisoning. Another mouse study compared ginger infused water with distilled water, and showed significant improvement in both severity of symptoms and mortality (deaths) associated with radiation exposure. It’s all around us.. from cell phone towers to those darned Smart Meters right outside your home – a cup of ginger tea could help reduce the damage from radiation you can’t control.
8. Memory: cerebral ischemia, another name for reduced blood flow to the brain from a small stroke, has several complications including decline in memory. Small strokes are fairly common in the elderly, and memory loss is traditionally difficult to reverse. Ginger has been shown to significantly reduce damage from the ischemia and alleviate the loss of memory post-mini-stroke.
So there you have it… 8 more reasons to love ginger! Here’s a quick recipe for my favourite cold-and-flu fighting tea, in which ginger is the star:
1″ piece of ginger root, sliced fine or grated
1 tsp raw honey (best place to find top quality honey is at a farmer’s market where you can talk to the bee keepers themselves)
2 slices of lemon
Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the above ingredients. Leave to steep for 5-10 minutes, covered. Sip slowly, inhaling the warming aroma of ginger and picturing the Mike-Tyson-like ability of this fabulous herb to knock out your current infection. Drink 4-6 cups per day.
Off to make myself some tea..