To “ginger up” means to get enthused about something, and we have plenty to be excited about when it comes to what fresh ginger can do for our health.
From ancient Indian medical wisdom in the treatises of Ayurveda, Samhitas reverently refer to ginger as “the universal medicine”. Even 5000 years ago, those Indians knew their stuff. So did the Chinese, as Confucius also recognized ginger’s healing powers. Over in ancient Rome, ginger was a symbol of wealth and fertility, and by the 13th century, Romans grated, powdered, dried and shipped the fresh root throughout the known world making them players in the global spice trade. The reverence in which ancient cultures held this root and herb (yes, it is both) is due to the fact that ancient health wisdom traditions, like Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, have long understood how the root of all disease stems from inflammation, and it all starts in the gut.
The reality is that ginger treats all manner of systemic inflammation, indubitably making it a comprehensive boon for our health. This process all starts because ginger assists with digestion thereby inhibiting the inception of disease states in the body by stunting the activity of prostaglandins, a group of hormones responsible for inflammation.
INFLAMMATION AND DISEASE
And no wonder ginger is such a marvelous inflammation warrior. Ginger is a member of the same plant family as cardamom and turmeric, and by now we are all pretty familiar with the wonders of curcumin, including its anti-aging properties and its ability to protect our immune system.
Let’s look more closely at ginger’s role in inflammation. Systemic inflammation finds its root in the gut first due to poorly digested foods and/or foods that have bypassed the gut due to perforations in the lining due to ulcers, allergies and autoimmune issues. Gut permeability also can result from stress or bacterial infections such as h. pylori which can lead to ulcers and lowered immunity. Some of the culprits in our diet that lead to inflammation include omega-6 oils like corn, soy, trans fats, and even some supposed good guys like omega-3 rich canola oil. Got inflammation? Get rid of those guys!
Pasteurized dairy products also can cause gut issues, as can refined carbohydrates and conventional meat that is fed the majority of our country’s antibiotics. This livestock practice, which keeps down the price of meat, has given rise to some super bugs.
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Returning to an Ayurvedic perspective, ginger is a humble, homegrown super food. It is wonderful for digestion due to its rajasic or stimulating nature; it brings needed heat and wakes up the taste buds on your tongue. Ginger activates the salivary glands, which actually notify your stomach to secrete more digestive juices, making digestion more efficient thereby improving our absorption of nutrients. Ginger has also been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, making it a great addition to your diet for anyone struggling with diabetes or attempting to curb weight gain.
All you need is a single teaspoon of ginger taken with salt before each meal to stoke your gut fire. This practice also improves peripheral circulation and warms up the body, reducing feelings of cold and pain by pumping up the micro-circulatory channels to the skin. When all those channels are working, it helps your body clear away sinus congestion, phlegm and even can reduce the length of a cough.
Coming down with a cold? More good news about ginger is that it functions as a natural antibiotic that curbs bacterial or viral infections from taking hold. So, ginger can KEEP you from getting sick just as much as it can help you to get well. Adding ginger juice with honey alleviates congestion in the lungs and facilitates clearer breathing. It’s a great thing to sip on if you’re feeling congested in the winter weather!
If you are looking for homeopathic alternatives to chemical medications for other common ailments, ginger also has been credited with working faster and just as efficiently as over-the-counter medications that help alleviate nausea and soothe menstrual cramps.
By the way, anything that reduces inflammation will also assist with keeping your joints healthy and reduce suffering from osteoarthritis.
And get this: just when you think a nip of ginger can’t get any better, ginger juice can also stop hiccups. Talk about an all-purpose remedy for many common complaints, ginger’s got it going on!
HERE’S WHERE YOU CAN HELP, DEAR READER . . . BECOME A HEALTH DETECTIVE
For two years, I’ve scoured the internet seeking sources that can back up the health and benefit claims of fruits, vegetables, and supplements (sometimes called “boost”).
In the chart below are the health claims I and others have discovered about ginger. Where you see a footnote, you’ll find a link to the source. If there is not a footnote, that means the specific health claim has been made, but neither I nor anyone I know has been able to locate sources of research or credible anecdotes to back up the claim.
So, if you are aware of a direct source of research or anecdotes to back up the claims, please post them in the comments. I’ll check them out and if they meet our standards, I’ll make sure that they’re included in the next edition of the blog and give you a shout out!
Reported Health Benefit Claims of Ginger:
Enjoy this short podcast interview with Dr. Larry Davis
about just some of the benefits of ginger.
On today’s podcast with Dr. Larry Davis, we’ll learn about ginger. And so, let’s talk about ginger. Okay. Ginger. It’s a root, is what it is. And if you can go buy it in the store, you know, in a produce section, and a lot of people shave it and then throw it into a juice or a shake.
Uh, it’s been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, and probably one of the biggest properties of it is the anti-inflammatory effect of it. And so it lowers inflammation in the body. And inflammation in the body is basically a component of almost every disease there is.
And so a lot of times it’s combined with turmeric or curcumin, and they make a great anti-inflammatory juice. [inaudible] and so tumeric is also known as curcumin. Exactly, exactly.
You’ll hear it called both things. Uh, and I know what the juice store, when we choose ginger, we put it in a cold press machine and it does yield good juice, but it’s very hard on the machine just because of it being so hard. Yeah.
- Drs. David Frawley and Vasant Lad, The Yoga of Herbs: an Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine , 2nd ed. (Twin Lakes: Lotus Press, 2001), 122.