Ginger is a well known herb and a personal favorite of mine. It’s actually one of the most commonly consumed dietary herbs in the world, and has been used for thousands of years for colds, nausea, arthritis, and migraines just to name a few conditions1. With a pungent and spicy taste, it can be integrated into many dishes to add taste and flavor to your meal. On top of that, it has extraordinary healing properties and it should integrated into our diet when needed. So I decided to dedicate this post to the magnificent uses of this herb in hopes of inspiring future ginger maniacs.
Ginger and Chinese Medicine
Known as Sheng Jiang (pronounced SHUNG JI-UNG) in Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine (TCM), this powerful herb has been used traditionally for cold conditions, digestion problems, phlegm, and in some cases fluid retention. According to the Materia Media (which is like the holy grail for Chinese Medicine Herbology), ginger can be used fresh which is used more for colds and vomiting, while in a dried form (known as Gan Jiang) is used more to warm up the body and promoting energy from a very low state.
I also prescribe it to my patients to help with promoting circulation. From my experience drinking ginger tea is great for warming up the hands and in my experience also helps with promoting the liver qi (“chee”) as well. Liver qi helps your body qi flow smoothly, thus causing stable mood, helping with proper menstrual cycle, and promoting health circulation. Here is a good blog post on liver qi I wrote a while back if you want to find out more information about the liver function in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Research on Ginger
There are an abundant amount studies examining the benefits of ginger on many different types of conditions, ranging from its affects on bacteria to it’s numerous effects with certain types of tumors and cancers. There were more studies than I had thought, so I decided to look at some more recent trials and reviews. In one study a natural compound called 6-Gingerol was shown to inhibit a certain type colon cancer cell2. These results were found through tests done on cancer cultures that were “starved” for about 24 hours and then incubated with the 6-Gingerol compound. This compound is actually one of the more well known and researched compounds in ginger and may play a role in suppressing other types of cancer cells as well. In other studies ginger has been shown to inhibit the growth of hepatoma cells (liver cancer cells) as wells as increase the rate of apoptosis (programmed cell death, basically when the clock says it’s time to go and check out)3.
One of the most widest uses of ginger is for it’s ability to treat nausea and vomiting. It is commonly recommended for nausea and morning sickness in pregnant women. Several randomized, double-blind clinical trials have shown that ginger can be used safely during pregnancy to prevent nausea and vomiting4. Also common uses include for motion sickness and nausea side effects from chemotherapy.
Incorporating Into Everyday Life
There are some considerations to think about which will maximize its benefit to you.
Ginger tea is great in the winter. Try starting off with a cup with about 3 small slices, about a quarter in diameter and about an eighth (1/8) of an inch thick. and see how you feel through out the day. If you need a second serving later on try not to have it too late at night.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs rarely prescribed alone, rarely. We theorize that everything needs balance, and combining herbs makes them more powerful and reduces side effects. Green tea is a good mix with ginger because nearly everyone has some lying around in the cupboard. Ginger is considered a hot herb in TCM while green tea is more on the cooling side so they balance each other out.
You can also incorporate it into your prepared and cooked meals. About.com has a list of great recipes that use ginger, so find a dish that fits your taste buds and start cooking.
This article is just scratching the surface of the capabilities of ginger, or ultimately herbs in general. This is an herb I use myself, and though it may not be the herb to use for everyone, it will definitely continue to be a common household pantry item ready to be used for general colds, improved vitality, or just good ol’ tummy aches.
1,3,4. Bode AM, Dong Z. The Amazing and Mighty Ginger. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects
2. Lin CB, Lin CC, Tsay GJ.6-Gingerol Inhibits Growth of Colon Cancer Cell LoVo via Induction of G2/M Arrest.Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012
NCCAM.Ginger. retrieved June 29th, 2012 from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/ginger
D. Bensky, S. Clavey, E. Stoger. Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica. 2004. Eastland Press, Seattle Wa