It comes from the same family as turmeric and cardamom.
It is native to Southeastern Asia and is also cultivated in the U.S. India, China and the West Indies. It arrived in Europe during the Spice Trade and was used by ancient Greeks and Romans. By the 11th century C.E., it was a common trade article from the East to Europe.
It was once recommended to King Henry VIII of England in the early 1500s to treat the plague. And his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, is said to have invented the gingerbread man.
The ginger plant can grow up to 4 feet tall and produces clusters of white and pink flower buds that bloom into yellow flowers. It is often used as landscaping around subtropical homes.
The part we eat, the rhizome, (the underground stem) can be yellow, white or red in colour, depending on the variety.
It has been used both for centuries as a spice for flavouring foods and medicinally. In fact, Chinese and Ayurvedic practitioners have relied on ginger for at least 3,000 years.
Ginger contains, ‘gingerol’ a compound with strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that had been linked to many unique health benefits.
Ginger’s Health Benefits
- May help to relieve nausea and vomiting after surgery and in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Studies have shown that nausea is significantly reduced in pregnant women when they ate 1.1 to 1.5g of ginger a day.
- May reduce muscle pain and soreness when eaten daily. 1 study showed that people who ate 2g of ginger a day, had significantly reduced muscle pain after exercising. Obviously, more research is needed.
- Can help with Osteoarthritis. In a trial of 247 people with osteoarthritis of the knee, taking ginger extract reduced their pain and they required less pain medication.
- Lowers blood sugar levels. A 2015 study of 41 people with Type 2 diabetes, showed that their fasting blood sugar levels fell by 12%, after eating ginger powder.
- Can help treat chronic indigestion. Ginger apparently speeds up emptying of the stomach, so this could help people with indigestion and related stomach discomfort.
- May reduce menstrual pain. 150 women were asked to take 1g of ginger powder per day for the first, three days of their periods. Ginger reduced their pain effectively as Ibuprofen.
- May lower cholesterol levels. Some evidence shows that ginger can reduce, significantly, LDL cholesterol and blood triglycerides levels.
- May help to prevent cancer. But more research is needed.
- May help to protect against age-related damage to the brain.
- May fight harmful bacteria such as the oral bacteria linked to gum disease.
I absolutely love ginger! It’s incredibly versatile. I used to love ginger biscuits and ginger ale, (still do!) and for the last few years, I’ve been using it in my curries and stir-fries.
Here is a recipe for you with, of course, ginger in it. One of my favourite dishes: Thai Red Curry.
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 inch of grated ginger
- 1 clove garlic chopped up
- 1 red pepper
- 1 yellow or green pepper
- 3 carrots sliced into rounds
- 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
- 1 can of full fat coconut milk
- 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
- Optional, any meat or meat substitute. I used Middle Eastern falafels in the above photo!
- Fry the carrots and a pinch of salt in the oil for 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another 30 seconds.
- Add the peppers and fry for a few minutes.
- Add meat etc. if taste requires.
- Add the curry paste, coconut milk and the sugar and fry for about 10 more minutes.
- Stir in the soy sauce and rice vinegar and serve with rice.
Sources: justforfunfacts.com, thatsit.com, robinsandsons.co.uk, factslegend.org, alternative–health-concepts.com, healthline.com, medicalnewstoday.com, webmd.com, chopra.com, netdoctor.co.uk