Ginger of commerce is the dried underground stem of the herbaceous tropical plant grown as an annual. The whole plant is refreshingly aromatic and the underground rhizome, raw or processed, is valued as spice. Ginger is a slender perennial herb, 30-50 cm tall with palmately branched rhizome bearing leafy shoots. The leafy shoot is a pseudo stem formed by leaf sheath and bears 8 to 12 distichous leaves.
Its spicy aroma is mainly due to presence of ketones, especially the gingerols, which appear to be the primary component of ginger studied in much of the health-related scientific research. The rhizome, which is the horizontal stem from which the roots grow, is the main portion of ginger that is consumed. Ginger’s current name comes from the Middle English gingivere, but this spice dates back over 3000 years to the Sanskrit word srngaveram, meaning “horn root,” based on its appearance.
ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION
Indians and Chinese are believed to have produced ginger as a tonic root for over 5000 years to treat many ailments, and this plant is now cultivated throughout the humid tropics, with India being the largest producer. Ginger was used as a flavoring agent long before history was formally recorded. It was an exceedingly important article of trade and was exported from India to the Roman Empire over 2000 years ago, where it was especially valued for its medicinal properties. Ginger continued to be a highly sought after commodity in Europe even after the fall of the Roman Empire, with Arab merchants controlling the trade in ginger and other spices for centuries. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the value of a pound of ginger was equivalent to the cost of a sheep. Read more about the Origin and History of Spices here.
It is a tropical plant with the centre of origin in India and Malaysia. Now it is widely cultivated in India, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Malaysia, Southern China and Japan. Ginger requires warm and humid climate and thrives well from sea level to an altitude of 1500 mtrs above MSL. A well distributed rainfall (150 to 300cm) during growing season and dry spells during land preparation and harvesting are required for the crop. Though grows on a wide range of soils, lateritic loams are preferred for higher yields.
USES OF GINGER
Fresh ginger, dry ginger powder, oleoresin and oil are used in food processing. It is indispensable in the manufacture of ginger bread, confectionary, ginger ale, curry powders, certain curried meats, table sauces, in pickling and in the manufacture of certain cordials, ginger cocktail, carbonate drinks, liquors etc. In medicine, it is used as carminative and stimulant. It has wider applications in indigenous medicines. The ginger oil is used as food flavourant in soft drinks.
Health Benefits of Ginger:
Ginger Boosts Immunity:
Ginger acts as a wonderful immunity booster, making it quite effective in treatment of cold and flu. It also helpful to calm symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection. It also works on coughs, sore throats and bronchitis. Ginger is also known for its thermogenic properties. It can warm up the body in the cold and can promote healthy sweating.
Ginger Benefits for Weight Loss:
Studies conducted on both humans and animals have shown that ginger supplements help in significant weight loss. It is more effective on people with obesity.
Ginger helps Diabetes Prevention and Control:
Ginger works on diabetes by increasing insulin release and sensitivity, inhibiting enzymes in carbohydrate metabolism, and improving lipid profiles.
A recent study has discovered a fascinating fact about raw ginger that it is effective in high blood sugar levels and has positive effects on Type-II Diabetes. It also helps in maintaining low blood glucose levels and cholesterol balance.
Ginger as an Antioxidant:
Studies have found ginger to contain potent antioxidant properties, which help protect lipids from peroxidation (rancidity) and DNA damage. Antioxidants are extremely important as they provide protection against free radicals, which helps reduce the various types of degenerative diseases.
Ginger helps Reducing Menstrual Pain:
Studies have found that ginger works just as well as drugs such as mefenamic acid and ibuprofenic acid/caffeineprine or even better as a relief for pain symptoms.
One of the most practically-helpful health benefits of ginger is the effect it may have on dysmenorrhea, or ‘period pain’.
Ginger as an Anti-Cancer Agent:
Various studies have revealed that ginger extract can combat distinctive types of cancer such as colon, pancreatic, ovarian, and breast cancer.
it also prevented them from building up resistance to chemotherapy – a common issue in ovarian cancer patients.
Ginger has also been proven to effectively treat breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer.
Ginger Helps Reducing Osteoarthritis Symptoms:
Ginger contains Gingerol which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger is known to boost bone health and relieve joint pain associated with arthritis. It can improve movement in osteoarthritis, knee inflammation, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Ginger can also reduce inflammation and muscle pain caused by exercise. In a study carried out by the University of Georgia, researchers administered raw and heat-treated ginger to two groups of 34 and 40 volunteers, over 11 consecutive days. The results, concluded that daily use of ginger supplements relieved exercise-induced muscle pain by 25%.
Ginger Improves Digestion:
Consuming ginger may help improve digestion. In addition, ginger may help increase movement through the digestive tract, suggesting that it may relieve or prevent constipation.
Its carminative properties promote the elimination of intestinal gas to prevent bloating and flatulence. People suffering from irritable bowel syndrome may find relief from the symptoms when they consume more ginger.
Ginger Helps Nausea:
Ginger is very good at subsiding various types of nausea and vomiting, including morning sickness in pregnant women, motion sickness in travelers, and even nausea in chemotherapy patients.
A study on adult cancer patients found that supplementing a daily dose of 0.5 to 1 gram of ginger before chemo, significantly reduced the severity of acute nausea in 91% of the participants.
Ginger Prevents Alzheimer’s Disease:
There is evidence that suggests that ginger could delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. According to a study, ginger improved cognitive function in middle-aged healthy women. This shows that it can be used to improve cognitive decline among the elderly.
Ginger Benefits in cold or the flu:
Ginger works on treating asthma by inhibiting the enzyme that constricts airway muscles and by activating another enzyme that works to relax the airways. This is traditionally used against cold and flu. Fresh ginger shows potential antiviral properties against respiratory tract infections. It can be used in the form of tea for providing relief to sore throat and coughing.
Ginger Helps Relieve Asthma Symptoms:
Zerumbone, an active compound, may help relieve asthma symptoms. Research shows that allergic airway inflammation is majorly caused by Th2 dominance and the spicy root is successfully able to suppress it.
Ginger Benefits Cardiovascular System:
Early studies suggest that it can decrease total blood cholesterol, improving blood health and reducing the chances of developing severe heart complications associated with hypertension, heart attack, stroke.
It’s consumption can also reduce levels of almost all other lipids in the bloodstream. HDL, LDL and triglyceride levels were shown to decrease in-line with the reductions in cholesterol when ginger was consumed.
It may also reduce the risk of blood clotting, thereby helping regulate hypertension and keeping your heart healthy.
Ginger Helps Relieve Muscle Pain:
Ginger is well-known for reducing muscle pain and soreness caused due to exercising. The potentially anti-inflammatory properties of this root are to be credited for this benefit. The study points out that ‘daily consumption of raw and heat-treated ginger resulted in moderate-to-large reductions in muscle pain following exercise-induced muscle injury.
Research has shown that ginger can provide pain relief from migraine headaches. Ginger works on migraines by blocking prostaglandins, which stimulate muscle contractions, control inflammation in the blood vessels, and impact some hormones.
Ginger for Sexual Health:
A known potential aphrodisiac, ginger was used in many cultures to arouse desire and enhance sexual activity. In Ayurveda it is recommended as an aphrodisiac. Its scent has a unique allure that helps in increasing fertility. This root also helps increase blood circulation.
Ginger Improves Dental Health:
Ginger is known to inhibit bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, owing to the presence of gingerol in it. It may also help in maintaining oral health by killing the pathogens in the mouth and keeping the teeth and gums intact. Its potential antibacterial properties may help ward off pathogenic bacteria that cause urinary tract infection (UTI), bronchitis, and pneumonia.
Effects of Ginger Supplementation on Cell Cycle Biomarkers in the Normal-Appearing Colonic Mucosa of Patients at Increased Risk for Colorectal Cancer: Results from a Pilot, Randomized, Controlled Trial (nih.gov)
The influence of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on human sperm quality and DNA fragmentation: A double-blind randomized clinical trial – PubMed (nih.gov)Antibacterial activity of -gingerol and -gingerol isolated from ginger rhizome against periodontal bacteria – PubMed (nih.gov)