A popular culinary herb, ginger – or, Zingiber officinale – is known for its pungent, tangy taste.
Widely praised and prized for its medicinal properties, ginger finds a pride of place in ancient ayurvedic medicine just as much as Chinese herbalists have relied upon it as a medicine and flavouring agent for over 2,500 years. It is also said that the ancient Greeks mixed ginger into breads and North American colonists took ginger beer to calm nausea, which eventually led to the development of the modern ginger ale.
Ginger’s effectiveness as a digestive emerges primarily due to gingerols and shogaols – the herb’s active ingredients. The duo helps neutralise stomach acids, improves the secretion of digestive juices, stimulates appetite, and strengthens the muscles lining the digestive tract.
Ginger, a great anti-inflammatory remedy, relieves, among other things, acute and chronic pain by lowering the body’s level of natural pain-causing compounds called prostaglandins. Some herbalists, therefore, recommend the use of ginger oil massages – a soothing balm for pain relief and comfort, not to speak of relaxation. This also explains why ginger has been commended in the treatment of arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome [wrist pain, due to continued use of the computer keyboard, for example], muscle aches, sports injuries – and, also cancer.
Just a slice of ginger, kept in the mouth, helps relieve gas and nausea, gently. It works without causing that drowsy feeling, unlike conventional medications. Since it also acts directly on the digestive tract, ginger significantly reduces stomach distress – nausea and vomiting – following anaesthesia and post-operative surgery. Its value in alleviating nausea that follows chemotherapy [cancer treatment] has, as a result, been praised in scientific literature.
That the powerful herb is just as effective in motion, or travel, sickness is as widely known, especially when the complaint is characterised by dizziness. Ginger also reduces cold sweats and vomiting – both classical symptoms of seasickness.
Studies now report that elderly people often benefit from ginger’s steadying influence when they have a shaky, or unsteady, gait.
A natural anti-histamine and decongestant, ginger dramatically reduces the flagrant symptoms of common cold, nasal allergies, sinusitis, mouth ulcers, bronchitis, and asthma. It dilates constricted bronchial tubes and reduces bronchial spasm – a classical symptom of asthma.
Ginger is quite safe, albeit some people are reported to present with symptoms of mild heartburn [acidity] following its intake. All the same, no known drug or nutrient interactions have so far been associated with the use of ginger. However, the use of ginger as medicine is not recommended during early pregnancy, except under medical supervision. Also, therapists suggest that the use of ginger is best avoided 6-7 days before surgery, because the herb can make blood platelets less sticky and lead to post-operative bleeding.