The ginger root has been used as a cooking spice and medicinal herb for thousands of years. It originated in Southeast Asia where it was first used medicinally for aiding digestion and treating nausea. Over the centuries, the potent root has continued to travel west across the globe. Today, ginger is still popular for its unique flavor and health benefits.
Ginger is best known for its ability to alleviate nausea and various other gastrointestinal complaints. Clinical trials in pregnant women have found that ginger is effective at reducing the severity of nausea and vomiting from morning sickness without any adverse side effects. In addition to giving ginger its distinctive peppery-sweet flavor, the active compounds in the root called gingerols also offer potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative benefits. Patients with osteoarthritis who regularly consumed ginger reported a significant reduction in joint paint and swelling in some clinical trials while others found no significant benefit. Meanwhile, cell studies in the lab have found that ginger can inhibit the growth of ovarian and colon cancer cells.
Ginger is often included in detoxes or cleanses due to its ability to promote healthy sweating which is perceived as “detoxifying” the body. However, no research can substantiate this claim as the human body is effective at breaking down or removing any unnecessary substances on its own without the need for specific “detoxifying” foods.
Cooking with Ginger
The edible portion of the ginger plant is the root. Ginger is sold in various forms including: fresh, dried, powdered, candied, crystallized, and pickled. I actually prefer the fresh root to the powder since it has so much more flavor and contains higher levels of the beneficial gingerols.
Ginger works well in both savory dishes like curry or stir fry and sweet dishes like gingerbread. Asian cuisine in particular uses ginger frequently. Personally, I like blending a 1/2 inch piece of the root into my morning smoothie. Make your own fresh ginger tea by thinly slicing or grating a 1 inch piece of peeled ginger root and placing inside of a tea infuser. Steep in boiling water for 5 minutes, remove the infuser, and serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and honey.
- (2006, May). Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/ginger
- (2015, February 4). Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/961.html
Deborah Davis MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian who practices clinical dietetics in Chicago, Illinois. She shares practical nutrition tips and healthy recipes on her personal blog, Dietitian Debbie Dishes. In her free time, you’ll likely find Deborah in the kitchen, camera and spatula in hand, developing recipes for her blog and freelance pieces. You can also connect with Deborah on Twitter and Instagram.