As the baby boomer generation are increasingly turning to herbal remedies to alleviate their aches and pains rather than consulting a doctor let’s take a look at one of the better known dietary supplements and it’s perceived beneficial and detrimental effects.
Originating from Southern Asia, ginger was discovered growing in the lush, moist tropical soils of the Indian rainforest. From the same family as cardamom and turmeric, it grows annual stems to a metre tall sprouting narrow green leaves, pink and white flower buds eventually blooming yellow flowers.
Used extensively by the Romans, zinziberi was exported in the lucrative spice trade and has become a frequently used, fragrant kitchen spice in cuisines around the world. The young root is juicy and fleshy, the most sought after coming from Jamaica for its aromatic scent and fiery addition to pulse and lentil curries. Mature varieties, revered by culinary experts around the world, make their way into homemade favourites from Japan, Vietnam, China and Indonesia. They utilise the fibrous, dry root and it sialagogue action in their flavoursome recipes.
Ginger isn’t just consumed after being incorporated into meals, it can be pickled in vinegar and eaten as a snack like the Gari you find with western sushi or it can be dried to form the main ingredient in gingerbread. Filipinos make salabat tea with ginger and it is made into a festive drink akin to ginger beer in the Caribbean.
Like many herbal preparations, perceived healing properties come from old wives tales, passed down through generations and it is only recently that research is being done to prove or disprove these magical qualities.
The university of Minnesota has performed studies investigating its protective properties against colorectal cancer and the university of Michigan has found it induces cell death in ovarian cancer cells.
After absorption, it accumulates in the GI tract so it is little surprise that the majority of its beneficial effects are here, acting as a calmative, expelling excess gas and soothing the digestive system, helping prevent nausea, vomiting and motion sickness. It has been extensively shown to cause a significant reduction in morning sickness, including treating Hyperemesis Gravidarum, the most severe form. The one time to avoid ginger is if you are known to have gallstones as it stimulates the production of bile potentially causes an increase in pain and potential blockage.
So, next time you are cooking a meal, making a cup of coffee or tea or just feeling cold, try adding ginger, it may help you in ways you don’t even know.