Ginger has a well known and long-standing reputation for being a very useful medicine in traditional and alternative medicine. I use ginger for so many dishes, teas and other medicinal reasons… it’s invaluable to your health. And it has a delicious, light, refreshing unique taste as well. There are many more ways to consume ginger aside from just being a sidekick to sushi, as we’ll show below.
Ginger is one of the most powerful natural medicines (without the harmful side effects) with wide-reaching capabilities for many (even serious) health conditions you can possibly find. And are you surprised that ginger is very closely related to turmeric, another super-powerful health enhancer?
Ginger is more powerful than several pharmaceutical preparations, including Dramamine (sea-sickness medication), certain types of chemotherapy, and anti-Inflammatory medications–without the harmful side-effects. While many of the components in ginger are still being studied, two primary components stand out as being highly effective—one is gingerol, found primarily in fresh ginger and the other is shogaol found in dried ginger.
Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant
As you may already know, oxidation and inflammation are some of the main contributors to serious and chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s. Ginger’s ability to stop inflammation and act as an extremely powerful antioxidant means that it can help to prevent, slow or even stop serious diseases from advancing.
Reduces Pain and Inflammation in Arthritis
The anti-inflammatory compound, gingerol, helps reduce pain and inflammation and improve movement in people with osteoarthritis and even rheumatoid arthritis—when consumed on a regular basis. According to George Mateljan in World’s Healthiest Foods, two studies involving patients with arthritis found that 75% reported relief from pain and swelling. 6-gingerol inhibits the production of highly reactive free radicals, from a study published in the November 2003 issue of Life Sciences. In another study from Feb 2005 issue of Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, ginger was shown to prevent the formation of pro-inflammatory compounds, cytokines and chemokines in the lining of the joints, as well as other inflammatory compounds in the joint cartilage and immune cells. And, ginger is also highly effective at preventing muscle pain, stiffness, and inflammation from exercise as well.
Ginger is so powerful, it can fight cancer and actually shrink tumors and destroy cancer stem cells. In an article titled, “Ginger and Cancer” by Kelley Herring, published by US Wellness Meats, May 6, 2016, Kelley reports that while chemotherapy kills both cancer cells and healthy cells in the body, chemo can leave behind deadly cancer stem cells, that can return to grow new cancerous tumors. According to Kelley and the Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics:
“Cancer stem cells (CSCs), which comprise a small fraction of cancer cells, are believed to constitute the origin of most human tumors … Many studies also suggest that CSCs serve as the basis of metastases”.
Ginger contains another powerful compound, 6-shogaol, that is highly effective in killing cancer stem cells in breast cancer, according to a study done in 2015. Shogaol was compared to the chemotherapy drug, Taxol, and curcumin from turmeric. The compound found in ginger was found to be the most effective, especially against cancer stem cells. Kelley’s article (“Ginger and Cancer”) goes on to state that the Taxol could not match the activity of the shogaol in ginger even at a 10,000X increase! The best thing about this study is that ginger’s powerful properties in fighting cancer happen without the harmful side effects that chemotherapy causes.
Gingerols have also been shown to be active against the growth of colorectal cells in colon cancer, according to a study from University of Minnesota’s Hormel Institute. Ginger extracts have been shown in scientific studies to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor effects on human cells and cancer cells. In a study from University of Michigan, gingerols killed ovarian cancer cells. Ovarian cancer is thought to be caused in part, by inflammation, and because ginger has such a powerful anti-inflammatory effect on cells, reducing key inflammatory indicators also reduced chances of ovarian cancer development, in addition to ginger’s tumor-shrinking capabilities. While conventional chemotherapy also suppresses the same inflammatory markers, chemo—besides destroying the body’s healthy cells and immune function—also can create drug resistance. Cancer cells exposed to ginger do not become resistant. Ovarian cancer is often considered a silent, deadly killer, so an ounce of prevention in the form of ginger is highly advisable for most women of childbearing and menstruating age.
Ginger has long been known as a digestive aid, especially for nausea and motion sickness. In fact, it has been proven to work better than Dramamine, one of the best-known medicines for motion sickness. Ginger is especially useful to help pregnant women who may be experiencing “morning sickness”, including the most severe form, hyperemesis gravidum. The important thing to note here is that unlike most anti-nausea medication, which can cause birth defects, ginger does not have adverse effects for pregnancy. NOTE: Although ginger is considered safe, check with your doctor before taking ginger if you are pregnant. High doses can possibly increase the chance of miscarriage.
Ginger’s anti-nausea action is also very valuable for post-surgery patients with nausea and vomiting, and useful for chemotherapy patients with nausea and vomiting from standard cancer treatments.
Alzheimer’s and Brain Function
Both ginger and its cousin, turmeric are known warriors against Alzheimer’s disease. Since some of the research on Alzheimer’s centers on the inflammatory factors involved in the disease, curcumin—also found in turmeric—as well as gingerol, which have been shown in studies to not only inhibit, but reverse the amyloid plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s. Another of ginger’s antioxidants, zingerone, neutralizes the free radical peroxynitrite, another major factor in Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases.
In another study on ginger, it was shown that ginger could actually reverse dysfunctional behaviors caused by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. And lastly, ginger functions as a barrier to acetylcholinesterase (an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine), similar to several popular Alzheimer’s disease drugs, without the awful side effects. Acetylcholine is an important brain chemical, necessary for learning and memory.
Ginger asserts a very positive effect on mental abilities, even in healthy people. Ginger has been shown in studies to improve cognitive ability, and improve overall brain function, while reducing oxidative stress. And since ginger also is a stimulant, it helps to increase mental alertness, without the jitteriness that caffeine can cause.
MSG, or monosodium glutamate, a common ingredient in Asian foods and processed meats and other foods, is considered a harmful excitotoxin and a neurotoxin. Ginger helps to protect and minimize the toxicity of this ingredient. MSG has been linked to Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and ADD.
Maintains Healthy Blood Sugar in Diabetes
As the numbers of people with diabetes increase, so do the studies on natural substances that can help control this deadly and widespread disease. While this area of research is fairly new, ginger has been shown to have some pretty effective anti-diabetic properties. In a study published in International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, ginger consumption had a very positive effect on glycemic status, lipid profile and other inflammatory markers of this disease. Ginger was found to reduce: fasting glucose, HbA1C (an important measurement of damage to red blood cells caused by high blood sugar), insulin resistance, triglycerides, overall cholesterol, C-reactive protein (an inflammatory marker indicative of heart disease), and prostaglandin E2, another inflammatory marker. Researchers concluded: “Ginger…should be considered as an effective treatment for prevention of diabetes complications.”
Another study on ginger showed a drop in fasting blood sugar by 12%, and a lowering of HbA1c by 10%, as well as a 28% reduction in ApoB/ApoA-I ratio and a 23% reduction in markers for oxidized lipoproteins, major risk factors in heart disease—one of the primary complications of diabetes.
Fights Heart Disease and Strokes
As mentioned above, ginger also works against heart disease, lowering ApoB/ApoA-I ratio. The ApoB/ApoA-I ratio is a measurement which is more accurate than cholesterol ratios to estimate the balance between different types of blood lipoproteins, which promote the formation of plaques in the arteries leading to heart disease. Research on mice, published in Journal of Nutrition, May 2000, showed those given ginger had a reduction in arterial plaques 44%, reduction in triglycerides 27%, reduced VLDL (the most HARMFUL type of cholesterol) 53%, reduced LDL cholesterol 33%, and reduced LDL oxidation and aggregation. The researchers concluded that dietary consumption of ginger significantly slows down the development of atherosclerotic lesions which lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Platelets are a part of blood that can clump together, creating clots that block arteries and blood vessels, resulting in heart attacks, strokes and deep vein thrombosis. Certain substances in platelets can make them more likely to clump together. Ginger helps to reduce platelet aggregation significantly, but check with your doctor first if you are on any type of medication for this condition.
Burns Fat and Raises Metabolism
Ginger as a fat burning food—ginger boosts metabolism and thermogenesis, meaning you burn fat faster. Some research indicates that ginger can help to boost your metabolism by around 5%, and increase your fat burning potential up to 16%. In addition, ginger helps to suppress your appetite, so having a cup or two of ginger tea before meals will cut down on food consumption.
Ginger is also very valued for several other health conditions including:
Increasing immune function, reducing pain, mitigating the effects of toxic chemicals, treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (often a result of too much HFCS and fructose in the diet), protecting cells against radiation, curbing migraines, treating indigestion, fighting gum disease, freshening breath, and increasing energy.
How to get ginger’s benefits?
Ginger generally comes in two forms: fresh ginger root or dried ginger. Fresh ginger contains the most gingerol, but the dried form of it contains more of the cancer-fighting shogaol. When cooked, the primary active ingredient in ginger is zingerone.
There are many ways to enjoy ginger’s light, refreshing taste—try adding a little fresh or dried ginger to smoothies, or make tea using simmered, sliced ginger with a touch of lemon and honey or maple syrup. You can also mince ginger and add to your favorite healthy salad dressing, or marinating meat in a combination of soy, lemon, minced ginger, minced garlic and a touch of honey. Don’t forget to add ginger to your next stir fry, and remember to eat your ginger when you get sushi! You can also get many types of tea bags that are made with ginger and brew up a delicious cup of ginger tea. I also personally take 1-2 capsules a day of a ginger supplement, which is essentially just ginger powder in capsules.
Ginger Cocktail Infusions!
If you’re like me, you enjoy having a cocktail or two with friends or family on occasion. We’ve talked about the fact in previous articles that moderate drinking of alcohol (1-2 drinks per day max) is proven to have long term health benefits and moderate drinkers live longer than non-drinkers or heavy drinkers… What that means is that the dose makes the poison…although alcohol is considered a “toxin”, small amounts of regular exposure to alcohol enhances our health and makes us live longer.
Anyway, back to the topic of ginger infusions… In my opinion, if you’re going to have an alcoholic cocktail, it might as well be the healthiest cocktail possible!
In order to make the healthiest cocktails possible, I personally like to slice up ginger root and put it in mason jars with either vodka or tequila for several weeks to “infuse”, so that the alcohol can extract the powerful antioxidants and phytochemicals from the ginger. After a couple weeks of “soaking” in the tequila or vodka, you can then pour the alcohol and chopped ginger root in a blender, puree it up for a minute (which helps release a ton more of the flavor and nutrients from the ginger), and then strain the solids out. You’re left with a super antioxidant-rich ginger cocktail that you can mix with club soda, kombucha, or your other favorite mixers to make delicious and healthy cocktails! Yes, inflammation-fighting cocktails!
Note that alcohol actually extracts a lot more beneficial phytochemicals from ginger than hot water can extract (similar to how tinctures work), so it’s theorized that you can get more of the active ginger compounds from infusing ginger into alcohol than any other method. Obviously, keep your ginger infusion cocktails to moderate consumption so that you don’t drink too much alcohol, since too much alcohol would offset the health benefits of the ginger infusions.
Note: I may end up doing a full blog post sometime soon with all of my recipes for healthy alcohol infusions. If this is something of interest to you, please add a comment below that you’d love to see more of our recipes for healthy alcohol infusions.
A word of caution: Check with your doctor if you are taking any medications as ginger may increase the action of some medications. And, beware of eating/drinking too much ginger late at night—it can act as a mild stimulant!
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To your health!