Ginger … the superfood


Ginger is a popular spice, which is high in gingerol, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  It is among the healthiest (and most delicious) spices and is closely related to Turmeric. It is loaded with nutrients and bioactive compounds that have powerful benefits for your body and brain.  It has a very long history of use in various forms of traditional/alternative medicine. It has been used to help digestion, reduce nausea and help fight the flu and common cold.  It is also used to relieve nausea and vomiting after surgery, and in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Ginger appears to be effective at reducing the day-to-day progression of muscle pain and may reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness.  These effects are believed to be brought about by the anti-inflammatory properties.  Gingerol is the main bioactive compound in ginger, responsible for much of its medicinal properties. It has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Studies show ginger to be effective at reducing symptoms of osteoarthritis, which is a very common health problem.  Another study found that a combination of ginger, mastic, cinnamon and sesame oil, can reduce pain and stiffness in osteoarthritis patients when applied topically.

Ginger has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and improve various heart disease risk factors in patients with type 2 diabetes, although larger studies into this aspect need to be conducted before any recommendations can be made.

Ginger appears to speed up emptying of the stomach, which can be beneficial for people with indigestion and related stomach discomfort.  It was shown after eating soup, ginger reduced the time it took for the stomach to empty from 16 to 12 minutes and in a study of 24 healthy individuals, 1.2 grams of ginger powder before a meal accelerated emptying of the stomach by 50%.

Ginger appears to be very effective against menstrual pain when taken at the beginning of the menstrual period.  One of the traditional uses of ginger is for pain relief, including menstrual pain.  In one study, 150 women were instructed to take 1 gram of ginger powder per day, for the first 3 days of the menstrual period.  Ginger managed to reduce pain as effectively as the drugs mefenamic acid and ibuprofen.

There is some evidence, in both animals and humans, that ginger can lead to significant reductions in LDL cholesterol and blood triglyceride levels.  The foods you eat can have a strong influence on LDL levels.  In a 45-day study of 85 individuals with high cholesterol, 3 grams of ginger powder caused significant reductions in most cholesterol markers.  This is supported by a study in hypothyroid rats, where ginger extract lowered LDL cholesterol to a similar extent as the cholesterol-lowering drug atorvastatin.  Both studies also showed reductions in total cholesterol and blood triglycerides.

Studies suggest that ginger can protect against age-related damage to the brain. It can also improve brain function in elderly women.  Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation can accelerate the aging process.  They are believed to be among the key drivers of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline.  Some studies in animals suggest that the antioxidants and bioactive compounds in ginger can inhibit inflammatory responses that occur in the brain.  There is also some evidence that ginger can enhance brain function directly. In a study of 60 middle-aged women, ginger extract was shown to improve reaction time and working memory.  There are also numerous studies in animals showing that ginger can protect against age-related decline in brain function.

Gingerol, the bioactive substance in fresh ginger, can help lower the risk of infections.  It is believed, ginger extract can inhibit the growth of many different types of bacteria and is effective against the oral bacteria linked to inflammatory diseases in the gums, such as gingivitis and periodontitis.  Fresh ginger may also be effective against the RSV virus, a common cause of respiratory infections.

Ginger can be used fresh, dried, powdered, or as an oil or juice, and is sometimes added to processed foods and it is one of the very few “superfoods” worthy of that term.

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