I’m slow to use the term ‘wonder food’ for any single item. Our bodies aren’t designed to overdose on any particular food but as a means of combating infection and illness, ginger (and garlic, and lemons!) really tempt me to use the moniker.

I’ll be honest – I don’t really like the taste of ginger! It’s hot, doesn’t really grind down well and I still shudder at the thought of taking a whole pile of it but I’m sold on its benefits. On personal experience, I can vouch for ginger treating upset stomach, vomiting and flu. At various times I’ve grated or ground a root of ginger (forget the thumb sized piece – if your going to do this, go big! Use a finger length of ginger at least), dumped it into a cup of warm water and drank/chewed the resulting mix. I did this once in the morning and once at night time. Although it burns and tastes like you are eating peppers, it will  clear symptoms in a lively manner. I swear I could feel my stomach easing straight away.

gingerGinger (Picture from Wiki Commons)

So what is ginger? The ginger we commonly buy in shops is the root (rhizome) of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale). It can be white, yellow or red in colour and has a brown skin. Incidentally, you can grow the ginger you buy in shops relatively easily and I’d highly recommend it. It originated in Asia and has been widely used there for thousands of years for cooking and medicinal purposes.

It is particularly good at treating gastrointestinal distress, relieving gas and soothing the intestinal tract. It has also been used to treat motion sickness and nausea caused by surgery, sickness and illness. A lot of modern antacid, laxative and anti-gas medications use ingredients derived from ginger in their formulas. Ginger has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body and will be beneficial in any inflammatory condition – e.g. tumours, inflammation of the intestines and colon, asthma, high blood pressure, migraine, arthritis and cancerous growths. Ginger can be applied externally also to swollen and inflammed joints and limbs.

The gingerol compounds in ginger are credited  with its anti-inflammatory effects.

Ginger also has a clearing effect on the body and relieves blocked sinuses – soothing the inflammation that causes them.

Ginger is relatively safe to take, even when pregnant. It may conflict with blood thinning medications given its power in combating inflammations. Side effects of ginger may include diarrhea and sweating – but compared to its benefits these pale into insignificance. When in pain, always experiment with ginger – due to its anti-inflammatory properties it has been shown to significantly reduce pain and ease symptoms.

If you can, use fresh ginger where possible as it’s been shown to hold higher levels of gingerols. Plus, fresh is always better than processed. Easy ways to consume ginger include tossing it into juices (use thumb sized pieces for a soft ‘hit’), soups, stews and stir fries. In cases where you are sick and need to try ginger, grind it up into as fine a powder as you can manage, dump it in water and consume. You may wish to try rubbing it to any inflammed body parts also.

Don’t wait to get sick before starting with ginger. It is an excellent addition to any diet and taking it regularly can help keep fatty deposits out of the arteries, boost infection fighting abilities and make the body less welcoming to infections and unwanted growths.