Ginger: Few unknown facts
Ginger is an aromatic herb with an underground root and an erect stem. It is native to Indo-Malayan region and has been in cultivation in India since prehistoric times. India, China, Australia, East Indies, West Indies, Mexico, Jamaica, North Africa, and West Africa are the countries that grow ginger on a large scale. The rhizome or the root is the main part of the plant, which is used in different ways.
The ginger root is much branched, somewhat resembling the palm of a hand with fingers. Fibrous roots come out from these nodes. The root continues to grow underground while the aerial shoots die out annually. The ginger roots are peeled and washed in clean water often containing lime-juice. The cleaned roots are then dried in sun for 5-6 days, taking care that they do not get damp or moldy during the drying period.
Ginger is used in many ways namely as a stimulant, carminative, and diaphoretic. It is used to treat cold and flu because of its medicinal values. It is used to flavor food, beer, and other drinks. It is also used as a condiment in curries. They are also used to treat various types of stomach problems. Ginger is also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, menstrual pain, and other conditions.
In manufacturing, ginger is used to add fragrance in soaps and cosmetics. Chemicals in ginger are also used as an ingredient in laxative, anti-gas, and antacid medications. Ginger is also used to make a famous beverage called ginger tea. Ginger tea is used as a remedy for indigestion, nausea, and to ward off colds, flu, and coughing.
Nutritional contents of ginger
Ginger provides a variety of vitamins and minerals:
Fresh ginger root weighing approximately 100 grams contains 79 calories, 17.86 g of carbohydrate, 3.6 g of dietary fiber, 3.57 g of protein, 14 mg of sodium, 1.15 g of iron, 7.7 mg of vitamin C, and 33 mg of potassium.
Other nutrients found in ginger are vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, folate, riboflavin, and niacin. Due to the limited consumption of ginger, it does not add significant quantities of calories, carbohydrate, protein, or fiber.
Health benefits of ginger
Inflammation is a reaction either to injury or infection. Ginger contains a component called as oleoresins, which have the strongest anti-inflammatory effects. Ginger’s pungent components can block a pathway that reduces the activity of inflammatory genes in immune cells. Ginger blocks the inflammation- and pain-causing COX enzymes.
Ginger stops the release of inflammatory cytokines in immune cells and could reduce the important inflammation-causing TNF-alpha, as well as IL-1 beta. According to an analysis, ginger strongly reduces the inflammation marker CRP in the blood. Other uses of ginger including reducing pain, cramps, and arthritis are also linked to this anti-inflammatory activity.
A painkiller is a medication used to relieve pain. Ginger is considered to be an effective and safe natural painkiller according to several studies. Ginger has the ability to work like the popular painkiller called diclofenac, which is an NSAID (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug).
Consuming nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can cause some side effects such as GI irritation and long term use can even lead to the formation of ulcer due to the damage of the stomach lining or cause digestive discomfort. Ginger seems to be mild to the stomach, but potent in reducing the pain symptoms.
Helps with Menstrual Cramps
Due to the anti-inflammatory effects of ginger, it has the potential to reduce menstrual cramps. A powdered form of ginger was used to study the effectiveness compared to the mefenamic acid, which is the commonly used painkiller for menstrual cramps and proved to be efficient in combating menstrual cramps when used during the first 3 days of menstruation.
Seasonal Allergies and Asthma
Seasonal allergies are a type of allergy, which develops when the body’s immune system overreacts to something in the environment, usually during spring. Asthma is a condition in which the airways become narrow and produce extra mucus, which can lead to difficulty in breathing. Zerumbone is an active ingredient in ginger, which enhances the Th1 cells and reduced the Th2 cells with allergic asthma.
Ginger decreased the production of various Th2 immune substances and helped in rebalancing the immune system and reduced the allergies. It helps to improve asthma symptoms by suppressing the Th2 immune response and airway inflammation. Ginger also has the ability to relax the airways under an asthmatic attack.
Helps with Eczema
Eczema is a condition where patches of skin become inflamed, itchy, red, cracked, and rough. TNF-alpha plays a role in eczema symptoms, such as redness and skin eruptions. Eczema is a mixed Th2/Th1 condition. A compound in ginger called 6-Shogaol has the ability to reduce eczema and ginger was successful in keeping all inflammatory immune substances and pathways under control. Ginger has the ability to reduce TNF-alpha levels.
Ginger Protects the Stomach
Stomach related issues are common in people taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which can damage the stomach lining and cause digestive problems. Ginger has the ability to increase protective prostaglandins in the stomach lining and protect the stomach from damage. Cellular studies confirm that ginger reduces stomach damage. Antioxidants in ginger can block the growth of stomach-ulcer-causing H. Pylori, mainly by fighting free radicals.
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting is the first sign of a stomach upset. Nausea and vomiting can cause loss of fluids in the body and a person can get dehydrated. Nausea and vomiting can also occur during early stages of pregnancy and can also be related to morning sickness during early pregnancy. Vagus nerve seems to be playing an important role in the cause of nausea.
Over activating the vagus nerve can lead to nausea. Ginger seems to be beneficial in combating vagus nerve activated nausea. Blocking excess serotonin and vagus nerve activation in the stomach and gut caused by ginger is helpful to treat nausea and vomiting.
Ginger Protects the Liver
Studies have shown that Ginger 500 mg/day can help protect the liver from toxic anti-tuberculosis drugs. It can help slow down aging-related liver damage, which was compared to alpha-lipoic acid, which had even stronger effects.
It has shown positive effects in protecting from the detrimental effects of heavy metals and drugs on the liver against cadmium toxicity. Ginger can also help treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Ginger has the ability to reduce liver enzymes, inflammatory cytokines, and improved insulin resistance in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Ginger and its essential oil have many active components such as gingerol and shogaol, which are potent antioxidants. These antioxidants can scavenge free radicals throughout the body and neutralize them, which is crucial for preventing numerous chronic diseases. This antioxidant activity underlies the immune-balancing and tumor-fighting benefits of ginger.
May Fight Cancer
Compounds from a specific steam distilled ginger extract caused cancer uterine cells to die by a process called apoptosis. Zerumbone, which is another ingredient in ginger, triggered pancreatic cancer cell death by acting on the same cancer-fighting pathway. It also enhances the effects of radiation. Gingerol, which is a chemical compound found in fresh ginger can block cancer blood vessel growth in melanoma and stopped breast cancer from spreading in cells.
Protects the Heart
As we have already understood that ginger can reduce an important inflammation marker (CRP), ginger is also known to increase HDL and reduce triglycerides in the blood, which in turn help in preventing heart disease. Ginger also can reduce blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels. 6-Gingerol can protect blood vessel cells from oxidative stress and prevent hardening of the arteries. Due to all these effects of ginger, it is considered effective in preventing heart diseases.
Diabetes is a condition that impairs the body’s ability to process blood glucose, otherwise known as blood sugar. A study has shown that consuming 2 grams of ginger for 12 weeks can result in a reduction on hemoglobin A1c and reduce the fasting blood sugar levels.
Ginger Fights Microbes
Ginger was capable to kill viruses, bacteria, and yeast in numerous cellular studies. In a cell study, fresh ginger prevented the common cold virus from entering human cells.
- Staphylococcus aureus, known to cause skin infections.
- Staphylococcus pneumoniae causes serious lung infections.
- Haemophilus influenzae, which causes the common cold.
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which causes hard-to-treat hospital infections.
- Salmonella, a cause of food poisoning.
- Escherichia coli causes urinary tract infection.
Ginger is well known to boost the testosterone level in the body. According to a recent study, ginger is able to boost testosterone levels in men, especially who are under oxidative stress. Studies have also shown that ginger can increase testosterone-boosting hormones, sperm count, and sperm motility and parameters were up by 50% in a few cases.
Side effects of ginger
Ginger when used in appropriate levels generally does not cause any side effects. Some of the side effects caused by ginger include problems with blood pressure, may cause diarrhea, might cause bleeding and might lower blood sugar, cause gas and bloating, heartburn, upset stomach, mouth irritation, skin, and eye irritation. All these side effects caused by ginger are mainly due to the excess consumption of ginger or ginger products and ginger generally does not cause any harm when consumed in moderation.
Ginger is available in six forms namely fresh, dried, pickled, preserved, crystallized (or candied), and powdered or ground.
Fresh Ginger: Fresh ginger is available in two variants namely the young and mature. Young roots are also called as green or spring ginger. Fibrous flesh is obtained when the tough skin is peeled away. This is usually grated, chopped, or ground for use.
Dried Ginger: It is available as the whole finger, which is generally soaked in recipe liquid before using.
Pickled Ginger: This form is pickled in sweet vinegar and is usually colored bright red or pink.
Preserved Ginger: This form has been preserved in a sugar-salt mixture. It is generally used as a confection or added to desserts, and it is especially good with melons.
Crystallized Ginger: This form of ginger is also known as candied ginger. It is cooked in sugar syrup and then coated with granulated sugar. It is commonly used in desserts.
Ground Ginger: Also referred to as powdered. It is used primarily in sweets and curry mixes.
Ginger: The final takeaway
Ginger is an herb, which has numerous health benefits. It is associated with numerous health benefits as well as used in several culinary dishes. In manufacturing, ginger is used to add fragrance in soaps and cosmetics. Chemicals in ginger are also used as an ingredient in laxative, anti-gas, and antacid medications. Due to a large number of benefits, it is widely used in many countries. Side effects are generally nil or minimal and only occurs due to excess consumption of ginger or ginger supplements. It is always advised to use any herb with caution and consult a healthcare professional for the appropriate dosage.
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