Ginger is a basic ingredient of most Indian and Asian cuisines. Like pepper, it was one of the earliest spices traded from India with the Arabs and the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Although the leaves are also edible, the root or underground stems (rhizomes) are the most commonly used part of the plant.
The Ginger plant is native to India and Southeast Asia, and has been used in Ayurveda, Arab and Chinese medicine for thousands of years. In all these medical systems, ginger is primarily known for, and used as, an aid to digestion. It is also known to help reduce nausea, inflammation and pain – including menstrual pains.
It is one of the oldest home remedies known to man for the treatment of coughs, colds and fevers. Ginger is used as a spice in cooking, as well as a tea or infusion.
Ginger contains many vitamins and minerals including Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, iron, sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.
Ginger’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties come mainly from the active ingredient gingerol. When cooked, the antioxidant levels of gingerol increase.
When cooked or dried, a new nutrient called shogaol is formed in ginger. Shogaol has properties that are similar to gingerol, increases the efficacy of ginger.
Research has shown that shogaols have greater anti-cancer properties than gingerols.
Studies have also shown that ginger helps regulate the functioning of the intestinal tract to facilitate the bioavailability and absorption of its nutrients by 30-75%. Studies have also shown that the potency and bioavailability of nutrients from ginger increase when it is dried.
Research has shown that it can be used in the treatment of some cancer conditions. A study published in 2017 by Kumara M, Shylajab MR, Nazeem PA, Babu T, states that “Pharmacological investigations have revealed that ginger and its major pungent ingredients have chemo preventive and chemotherapeutic effects on a variety of cancer cell lines and on animal models, and concluded that “6-Gingerol is the most potent anti-cancerous compound in Ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.). 6-gingerol is identified as a very good phytocompound compared to other ginger ligands like 8-gingerol, 10- gingerol and 6-shogaol and approved drugs like, Disulfiram and Quercitrin. Research thrust may be focused on drug development using 6-gingerol against cancer.”
Like pepper, ginger is well known in Ayurveda as a bio enhancer, and part of Trikatu Churna – a combination of Black Pepper, Long Pepper and Ginger, that has been used to multiply the effectiveness of Ayurvedic medicines, either in combination or individually.
Other than as an ingredient of Trikatu, ginger has been combined with a variety of herbs for medicinal purposes. An infusion of Ginger and Tulsi (Indian Basil) has been used as a treatment for colds, flu, and a wide variety of health issues. When honey is added to the infusion, it is effective for coughs. The base for almost every Indian, and most Asian recipes, is a ginger garlic paste. This combination has been used for medicinal purposes in Ayurveda for millennia and combines the healing properties of both herbs.