Saturday, September 8, 2012

Medical uses of Ginger

Ginger root is a popular root herb of culinary as well as medicinal importance. The root still finds special place in many traditional Indian and Chinese medicines for its unique phyto-chemicals that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties.

The ginger herb is thought to originate in the Himalayan ranges in Southeast Asia. It is now widely grown all over the world at commercial scale. The plant grows to about a meter in height featuring thin grass like dark green leaves and bears small yellow flowers. 

Its root features knotty finger like projections that grow downward from the ground surface. Fresh raw root has silver gray outer surface. Cut sections feature creamy white, yellow, or red colored crunchy flesh depending upon the variety. The root often contains fibrils running through its center, especially in over-matured. Its pungent, spicy and aromatic smell is due to essential oils and phenolic compounds such as gingerols and shogaols. 

Health benefits of ginger root

Ginger has been in use since ancient times for its anti-inflammatory, carminative, anti-flatulent, and anti-microbial properties.

The root contains many health benefiting essential oils such as gingerol, zingerone, shogaol, farnesene and small amounts of β-phelladrene, cineol, and citral. Gingerols help improve the intestinal motility and has anti-inflammatory, painkiller (analgesic), nerve soothing, anti-pyretic as well as anti-bacterial properties. Studies have shown that it may reduce nausea induced by motion sickness or pregnancy and may help relieve migraine headaches.

Zingerone, which gives pungent character to the ginger root, has been found to be effective against E.coli induced diarrhea, especially in children.

This herb root is low in calories and contains no cholesterol, but is very rich source of many essential nutrients and vitamins such as pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), pantothenic acid (vit.B-5) that are essential for optimum health.

It also contains good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure.  

Medicinal uses

  • Ginger root slices boiled in hot water with added lemon or orange juice and honey is a popular herbal drink in ayurvedic medicine to relieve common cold, cough, and sore throat.
  • It is also used as vehicle in many ayurvedic decoctions to mask bitterness and alter taste.
  • Gingerols increase the motility of the gastrointestinal tract and have analgesic, sedative, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. Studies have shown that it may reduce nausea caused by motion sickness or pregnancy and may relieve migraine.

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