What Does Ginger Root Do for the Body?

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What Does Ginger Root Do for the Body?
What Does Ginger Root Do for the Body? (Image: photo credit: Crystl)

The ginger plant, or Zingiber Officinale, is a perennial herb that is native to India, Asia and West Africa. The part that is used for both cooking and medicinal purposes is the underground stem or root stalk, which has been widely used in folk medicine since ancient times. Ancient Greeks used ginger as a digestive aid by wrapping the root, called a rhizome, in bread and eating it after a large meal. The health benefits, characteristic aroma and taste are largely due to the volatile oils gingerol, shogaol and zingerone.

Reduces Motion Sickness

The unpleasant effects of motion sickness include nausea, sweating, dizziness, fatigue, and vomiting. Ginger has been used to treat these symptoms for thousands of years. More recently, in a study by the American Journal of Physiology, Vol. 284, Issue 3, the administration of ginger was found to significantly reduce the sensations of nausea, as well as speeding recovery time. Over-the-counter antimotion sickness tablets are reported to work more effectively, but many patients report side effects such as dry mouth and fatigue and therefore prefer the safe, natural remedy of ginger.

Treats Migraines

Migraine headaches are usually triggered by unknown factors and can last anywhere from three hours to three days. The symptoms of a migraine are an intense pounding or throbbing pain behind the forehead or near the temples. Bright lights, sudden movements or loud noises can aggravate the pain. A case study in The Journal of Ethnopharmacology, July, 1990, found that ginger was effective in the treatment of migraines. The patient took 600 mg four times a day and included fresh ginger into her diet. Not only did the ginger prevent her migraine attacks, but markedly decreased the intensity and frequency of the attacks.

Photo Credit: Avenue G
Photo Credit: Avenue G

Reduces Inflammation

Ginger root extract has been used to successfully treat inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis. According to a study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, November 2001, a dietary supplement of ginger pills can reduce the pain and suffering of patients who have osteoarthritis as well as conventional drugs or painkillers. Although more information and larger clinical trials are needed, the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger continue to look promising.

Alleviates the Common Cold

The soothing properties of ginger for the stomach and body aches make it a favorite home remedy for the common cold. It is often sliced, added to a pot of hot water and boiled in order to make ginger tea. People find the distinctive taste and aroma comforting, while the rising steam soothes your nasal passages and the hot liquid coats your sore throat. Herbal formulas and remedies that contain ginger are also available as over-the-counter cold medicine.

photo credit: Prakhar Amba
photo credit: Prakhar Amba

Theories/Speculation

The theories and speculations concerning what ginger might be able to do for the human body are plentiful. Some scientists speculate that ginger might cure asthma, lower cholesterol, treat stomach ulcers, alleviate high blood pressure, reduce the severity of the effects of chemotherapy, help with heart disease and protect against cancer. Laboratory studies have been done on all of the above, but scientists are hesitant to put forth any definitive results. Instead they are citing the need for more research.

How to Take It

Ginger comes in several forms and each form is taken for a different purpose. Powdered ginger root is taken for an upset stomach, indigestion or nausea. The standardized dose for adults is 250 milligrams to one gram three to four times per day. It is not recommended to exceed the amount of four grams. For arthritis pain, ginger oil is recommended, as a topical remedy to rub into sore joints. A compress can be made as well, by wrapping fresh, raw sections of the root into some fabric or a washcloth and pressing it to the skin. Lastly, for headaches or menstrual cramps, you can make ginger tea by shredding a few pieces and then steeping them in boiling water. The recommended dose for ginger tea is two to three times daily.

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