The Health Benefits of Ginger

Patient Expert

When I was a child, my mother's cure-all for any ailment was ginger.   Ginger tea, chicken and rice soup with ginger, ginger candy, and ginger flavored dessert.   While I had always considered ginger to be a bit of an old wives' remedy, there is evidence that ginger may contain chemicals that actually can make you feel better.

People have been using ginger for centuries.   Ginger was originally found in Asia. It is a root that is now grown in other parts of the world.  There are reports that Jamaica started exporting ginger in the 1500's.   The official name is Zingiber officinale.   It is prominent as a spice in several Asian countries including India, China, Thailand, and Japan.   It also found in many homemade or traditional herbal medicines.

Ginger contains several compounds of interest with the most prominent being the gingerols which can help calm an upset stomach.   Gingerols have been shown in animals to increase motility of the gastrointestinal tract.   In other words, it helps move food through the body more quickly which may be helpful if you are nauseous.   Gingerols also seem to relieve pain and fever.   Finally, gingerols appear to have antibacterial effects as well.

When buying ginger, choose fresh ginger that appears firm with minimal wrinkling.   To prepare ginger, break off one of the knobs and peel off the skin.   Alternatively, cut the knob in half and scrape out the ginger with a spoon.   Ginger should be stored in a dry environment.   Ginger can be peeled and cut into medallions.   For longer storage in the refrigerator or freezer, wrap the ginger in paper towels and place in a plastic bag.   Ginger is also sold dried, powdered, and pickled.

Ginger shows up as an ingredient in all types of food and drink including cookies, cakes, ginger ale, and ginger beer.   Where the ginger flowers are available, the flowers are sometimes used in salads.

For a simple herbal tea, ginger pieces can be boiled in water.   You may add lemon or honey if desired.   To make ginger ale, boil ginger with water.   Remove the ginger pieces and reserve the water.   Mix this ginger water with club soda and sugar syrup.   Squeeze some lime or lemon juice into the mixture if desired.

Whether you can really consume enough ginger for medicinal effect is debatable.   However, curling up under a blanket with a nice warm cup of ginger tea is an easy way to pamper yourself on a cold winter night.