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Variety is the Spice of Life: The health benefits of the spices


Ginger:  here’s to your health

Imagine going to your doctor with joint pain and leaving with a prescription for ginger. Before the advent of synthetic drugs, that might have happened. Herbs and spices have a long history as folk medicine, and not without merit

The health benefits of ginger have been known for over 2000 years.  A perennial herb native to China and India, ginger root has been used for centuries in Asian cooking and medications. Ancient peoples used ginger root to cure everything from menstrual cramps to seasickness to food poisoning to body odor. The roots of the plant, called rhizomes, are where the benefits of ginger root lie.

In traditional Chinese medicine, ginger is used to calm upset stomachs, soothe nausea and stop diarrhea. Other traditional health practitioners also understood the health benefits of ginger? It has been widely used in Europe to help relieve menstrual cramps, treat the symptoms of the common cold and ease headaches. One of the newest reports of the health benefits of ginger is that it may stop cancer from growing and spreading.

India’s form of ancient medicine, otherwise known as Ayurvedic medicine, lists ginger as one of the best foods you can eat, especially when you have a cold.  Ayurvedic medicine works on a system of balancing the body’s internal energies by looking at the different heats and colds that go on inside us. Ginger is used so widely in ayurveda that it is an entire medicine chest in itself. There is an ayurvedic sutra that says that everyone should eat fresh ginger just before lunch and dinner to enhance digestion. The few situations in which ginger is contraindicated are in cases of hyperacidity, during any form of hemorrhage, including menstruation, vertigo and chronic skin disease. Other than in these situations, ginger is an excellent spice that can be used daily.

Ginger Health

A traditional ayurvedic text also recommends ginger for therapeutic use for joint pain, motion or airsickness and clearing the microcirculatory channels to facilitate better absorption of nutrients and better elimination of wastes.  During my studies at the Chopra Centre, we would have an aperitif prior to lunch and dinner that consisted of equal parts of ginger root juice, lemon juice, water and a dash of pepper.   Modern science, by way of worldwide research, ratifies its effectiveness in preventing motion or airsickness, improving digestion and its pro-analgesic effect on the joints, particularly in early stages of rheumatoid arthritis. 

The health benefits of ginger come from chemicals called volatile oils, specifically gingerols and shogaols, that also give ginger its spicy, pungent taste. Those oils stimulate your body to produce more digestive juices and help neutralize the stomach acids that cause cramping, nausea and diarrhea. Ginger is also a natural decongestant and antihistamine, which makes it a natural treatment for head colds.

Ginger is another spice with a potent flavor that is great for warming your body and adding kick to foods. Its medicinal properties include:

  • Soothes nausea, motion sickness and other stomach upset.  Research has proved that ginger root and its oil is also effective against nausea, motion sickness and vomiting.
  • Relieves morning sickness.  Usage of ginger may result in reduction in pregnancy related vomiting as well in women.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties.  Research has now proved that its anti-inflammatory properties can be attributed to the presence of the substance named Zingibain. It is analgesic in nature and reduces pain caused by muscle aches, arthritis, rheumatisms, headache, migraine, etc. Ginger oil or paste of ginger is often massaged on aching muscles to remove muscle strain. It is further believed that regular use of ginger leads to reduction of prostaglandins which are the compounds associated with pain. Hence ginger helps in pain relief.
  • Eliminates intestinal gas
  • Relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract
  • Antioxidant properties
  • Relieves dizziness
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Protects against bacteria and fungi
  • Ginger is also used for people suffering from gallstones, because the herb promotes the release of bile from the gall bladder.
  • Promotes cardiovascular health

Ginger has also been shown to clean and thin the blood thus positively affecting the heart and almost every other organ in the body.  Chinese medicine also shows that when the stomach is healthy, the internal energies are healthy and are able to flow about the body much more freely. This will impact on everything you do.  If you are going juice ginger root, I have discovered that it is best to first chop it in a food chopper and then juice the chopped ginger root.  Save the fiber portion and use it to make hot ginger tea.  It is fabulous. 


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This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE.  The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.




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