A MINI-GUIDE ON GINGER, A NATURAL REMEDY. FROM EASTERN SPICE TO ANTI-NAUSEA AID.
Since long used as a spice, especially in Asian and Indian cooking, ginger is also present in the food traditions of the West: it can, in fact, be found in sweets, liquor, cosmetics and beverages (the famous ginger ale).
As it often happens, a product commonly used for food can also offer many advantages for the welfare of our body.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE AND MYTHS TO DISPEL
With this easy mini-guide, we will try to discover the properties of ginger, to explain how to make the best and to dispel some “myths” concerning it. In particular, we will face the following topics:
- The properties of ginger and its mechanism of action.
- The benefits of ginger according to the Ayurveda medicine
- How ginger can promote the welfare of the joints
- The advantages provided by a natural supplement compared with fresh ginger
- How and when to take the ginger and possible contraindications
- 5 myths about ginger and properties yet to be verified
- Curiosity: ginger in Japan and … music!
THE GINGER PROPERTIES ACCORDING TO WESTERN HERBALISM
The ginger rhizome has numerous properties recognized and exploited by modern Western herbalism. Among the most important are:
- combats nausea;
- aids digestion;
- It helps to eliminate intestinal gas in excess and, consequently, to deflate the belly;
- regulates intestinal motility which determines the bowel regularity.
HOW DOES GINGER ACT?
But what are the active ingredients responsible for the benefits and properties of ginger?
The main chemical components are contained in the oleoresin, responsible for the pungent taste of the drug; In fact, it contains gingerol, shogaol and zingerone, which are also responsible for the spicy taste of the drug. Other ginger components are carbohydrates, lipids, and an essential oil.
As seen, among other phytotherapeutic applications, ginger stands out for its anti-nausea effects, not unusually the Chinese sailors used it against seasickness.
The agents responsible for such antiemetic activity (ie capable of inhibiting vomiting) would be the gingerols, which inhibit serotonergic and dopaminergic receptors and reduce the rhythmic dysfunction of the stomach that, in fact, can cause nausea and vomiting.
In summary, with respect to your digestive system, ginger stimulates the peristaltic movements of the stomach and intestines (prokinetic), also exerting an anti-nausea and anti vomit effect (probably due to the action on the central nervous system for the dopamine and serotonin receptors.
For these properties, some ginger extracts have been successfully used as antihistaminic in the prevention of vomiting from motion sickness. So ginger can come to the rescue in case of sickness or seasickness.
Taking ginger in pregnancy raises conflicting opinions (some advise against), but in many countries is often advocated. For example, in England, the use of this spice is also suggested in the guidelines drawn up by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to combat gravid nausea.
THE BENEFITS OF GINGER ACCORDING TO AYURVEDA MEDICINE
Ginger has been used by thousands of years in China for herbal purposes. This substance is in fact mentioned by some sources already in the fourth century as a remedy for many illnesses, from stomach pain to nausea, from rheumatism to a toothache .
The Ayurveda tradition sets ginger among the most useful spices, together with turmeric and basil, and assigns it “heating properties”. According to this ancient Indian traditional medicine, in fact, it possesses the property of reviving the digestive fire (deepana) and to cure indigestion (Pachana).
In the ancient Eastern traditions, this root is therefore considered a real panacea and is also used as antibacterial and an anti-inflammatory .
GINGER PROPERTIES EFFECTIVE ALSO FOR THE JOINTS?
As we have seen, ginger can boast different properties: one of these regards its action contrast of localized tensions, useful to facilitate a smooth functioning of joints and their welfare.
Its active ingredients, once absorbed by the body, in fact, lead to a reduction of inflammation and pain in rheumatic diseases and in case of a headache
But as with many other plants, the list of benefits can not be exhausted in a few pages of an article; and in the case of ginger, the task is even more difficult, since this is proving to be consistently an inexhaustible source of wealth and remedies.
FRESH GINGER, GINGER POWDER, AND TITRATED EXTRACT: WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?
Ginger is now fairly well known, and also exploited for food purposes and is frequently found on the market (often in supermarkets) in the form of fresh roots (rhizomes), dried or powdered.
Also, you can find bags of candy ginger, with a sweet and pungent taste.
Both with fresh and dry ginger, you can prepare herbal digestive teas. If you use the fresh root, it should be left to steep in hot water, while the powder can be added to tea or herbal teas in order to aromatize them. The use of the ginger powder has also uses in the kitchen for the preparation, for example, of the classics Christmas flavored biscuits.
The inclusion of ginger in the daily diet can definitely offer benefits, however, in order to make the most out of the properties of this spice, it would be good to make use of specific supplements in the form of standardized extracts in gingerols.
The first difference between consuming fresh or powdered ginger and a titrated extract is that only the latter can provide a quantity of the active ingredients sufficient to have any appreciable effect on digestion and against nausea.
As we said, the active ingredients of ginger, considered the architects of the beneficial action of this spice, are the gingerols. In order to take the same amount of gingerol made available by a few pellets of a titrated extract, it would be necessary to consume every day high amount of ginger: something impossible for most people!
Second, often the high temperatures neutralize and render ineffective the active ingredient of the plant, therefore the use of fresh ginger to make infusions is, in general, pleasant but not particularly effective.
HOW AND FOR HOW LONG TO TAKE GINGER SUPPLEMENTS?
To make the most of the properties of ginger is advisable to take the integrator tablets shortly before meals (or during them), or at times when you have the first signs of nausea. The positive effect of this spice against the nausea is almost immediate, and in fact it can be noted in a matter of a few minutes.
Ginger supplements may also be taken without interruption for a long time. This substance, when taken in recommended doses, does not, in fact, have any side effects worth mentioning (except in cases where there are specific allergies to spices).
As with all natural products, in the presence of specific diseases or if you are taking medication, it is always good to hear first your doctor’s opinion before taking the supplement.
5 FALSE MYTHS AND PROPERTIES YET TO BE VERIFIED
If you search online news on ginger it is easy to find a number of pages devoted to this theme in which the spices are attributed many properties, not all truthful. Some talk about “legendary” properties but with little foundation, others extoll virtues which need to be explored further in order to have a sound scientific certainty. Let’s quickly review some.
1) CONTRIBUTES TO SLIMMING DOWN
Ayurveda, as we have seen, consider the ginger a “hot” food and recommends its consumption to help the “digestive fire” (called agni ); For these reasons, recommend taking ginger to the individuals of constitution kapha (whose attributes are cold, wet, heavy), with a tendency to gain weight.
Perhaps for this reason, there is a widespread tendency to consider the ginger a good fat burner and recommend its assumption hiring to promote weight loss.
However, currently, there are no authoritative scientific studies which confirm the slimming properties of ginger. What is certain is that the intake of this spice can promote digestion and the elimination of gasses and, in this sense, it can help to reduce the abdominal bloating and produce a flatter tummy.
2) IT HELPS TO CONTROL DIABETES
A research carried out by the University of Sydney has put in evidence the ability of concentrated ginger extract, put in contact with animal muscle tissue samples, to limit the absorption of glucose (or sugar). This ability would have positive implications for the control of diabetes.
However, this ginger property is still yet to be confirmed by subsequent research, since the studies that took place are not sufficient to ensure certainty about the positive effects on humans.
3) HIGHLIGHTING OF HAIR
On a number of forums of natural beauty, ginger compressed are recommended to highlight hair.
However, on the same forums, the results of this operation reported by users are conflicting: in fact ginger would be more of a “natural coloring” able to bring light golden highlights to the hair. Nothing to do, in short, with the highlighting power of chamomile.
4) EFFECTIVE AGAINST COLDS
In China, ginger-based drinks have long been used as polar remedy against colds, while the decoction made from the root in Burma is used to combat the flu . But there are not yet solid scientific evidences to support these benefits in humans.
According to some preliminary studies conducted in China and India, ginger would be able to reduce the symptoms of colds. Studies carried out in this regard, however, are almost exclusively been conducted in vitro and need further confirmation and supporting evidence.
5) IT HAS AN APHRODISIAC EFFECT
Folk tradition also assigns aphrodisiac properties to the root of ginger . This reputation is rooted in Eastern culture: the “hot” nature of ginger would have the power to awaken the energies of the male fire and the female desire, helping to cope with a momentary “sexual fatigue.”
This belief also reached the West, where aphrodisiac properties were already being attributed to different spices. In the sixteenth century, even Nostradamus “devised a special aphrodisiac liquid composed of ginger, pepper, cinnamon, cloves.
Mainstream science does not recognize the real ability to awaken the passion of love to any substance, understanding that the general well-being favored by many herbs can come in also indirectly help in this situation (if one is feeling good he/she will obviously feel more active fit in every aspect of life, including sex!).
PICKLED GINGER IN JAPANESE CUISINE
Ginger is traditionally used in Japanese cuisine, especially to accompany dishes of sushi, along with the super spicy wasabi. Very famous and popular is the so-called ” ginger gari ” or the pickled ginger , whose function is to “clean” the mouth and aid digestion.
To prepare it, fresh ginger root cut into thin slices and let marinate in vinegar or sugar water is generally used. Ginger so prepared is not within the actual preparation of sushi but it always accompanies the food when served at the table.
TO CONCLUDE …
As we have seen, ginger is a spice variously used in cooking and herbal medicine.
At the root of ginger are attributed many properties but the only officially recognized by the Western herbalism are those of the digestive, anti-emetic, anti-gas and regulator of intestinal transit .
Other properties (such as the ability to fight colds and flu or to regulate blood sugar) have been corroborated by preliminary studies but have not yet officially confirmed.
Finally, the popular wisdom and oriental medicine attribute ginger additional properties, not validated by science, such as those of slimming and aphrodisiac .
Ginger has multiple uses in the kitchen, however, to fully exploit it as phytotherapeutic product, it is better to use the titrated extract of ginger, in order to ensure sufficient quantities of active principle.
Until next time.