Healing from the Pantry: Ginger
Ginger is a spice we associate with fiery Asian cuisine, or perhaps wintertime treats like gingerbread. It can certainly impart some culinary heat to food, adding a unique zing to dishes both savory and sweet. It’s a common staple in most Americans’ spice cabinets, and many cooks are fond of using the fresh, perishable root in a variety of dishes.
But ginger deserves another look. It’s so much more than a flavoring for zesty marinades or spicy cookies. It’s also one of nature’s most important healing herbs.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is the dried or fresh rhizome of a flowing plant native to Asia. It’s been cultivated there for thousands of years, and it’s a key healing herb in several traditional medicine systems. For instance, ginger tea is an ancient remedy for nausea. Modern science has confirmed its efficacy for this use. Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds, plus a number of chemicals that have been shown to bind to receptors for the brain messenger chemical, serotonin.
This ability to engage serotonin receptors may account for ginger’s well deserved reputation for combating morning sickness, seasickness, and nausea caused by chemotherapy. And emerging research suggests it may actively discourage colon cancer among people at high risk of developing the disease. Ginger may even help treat the pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis, without the gastrointestinal side effects linked to the use drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen. Research also suggests that ginger has some effects that may be protective against cardiovascular disease. Among other effects, it reportedly helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
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