I remember my mother serving us ginger ale as the miracle cure for every stomach problem. I passed this remedy down to my children and still keep a stash of the soda in my kitchen today. Ginger’s sweet yet savory taste brings thoughts of everything from gingerbread men and their houses to curries and perfectly spiced tabbouleh. This ingredient has always been a part of my life, and from what I’ve learned about its health benefits, I’m glad that’s true.
Ginger has been cultivated for at least 3,000 years. Its original roots (no pun intended) started in Madagascar, the Pacific Islands, Taiwan, and Southeastern Asia. In the 11th century, Arab traders introduced the rhizome or underground stem to Europe. Today it is grown in humid, tropical forests all over the world. The best news is you can grow it yourself at home and indoors – just make sure you choose the right type to plant.
There are more than 1000 species in the ginger family, including turmeric and cardamom. Some are edible, and some are not. The typical grocery store variety is often sprayed with a growth inhibitor to keep the rhizome from sprouting. These won’t work very well when planting for re-growth, so shop USDA-certified organic seed suppliers if you wish to grow your own. Look specifically for ‘Zingiber Officinale – edible ginger.
Available in a seemingly endless variety of forms, you can purchase the whole rhizome fresh or dried, as a ground spice, crystallized for candy, in a paste, as an extract, pickled, and even preserved as a syrup or jam. Ale, beers, teas, sweet and savory baked goods, and other dishes all benefit from the zingy flavor of ginger. The leaves are used as a garnish in soups, curries, stews, or salads. You can even eat the flowers, which are simply beautiful as well.
More people realize this plant’s medicinal potential today. In addition to settling stomach problems, ginger aids in pain relief, weight loss, improving circulation, managing blood sugar levels, increasing energy, and boosting nutrient absorption.
An anti-inflammatory, ginger also contains anti-bacterial properties and natural antibiotics. Experts believe it boosts the immune system, prevents cardiovascular disease, and reduces the risk of stroke and the loss of brain cells, which can potentially aid in fighting Alzheimer’s.
Ginger assists in your body’s fight against the creation of tumors and cancer, specifically lung, prostate, ovarian, colon, breast, skin, and pancreatic cancers. It fights asthma, loosens phlegm, and expands the lungs, helping in recovery from difficulty breathing. It reduces pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis, the toxic effects of cancer-fighting drugs, and the consequences of cancer treatments. Ginger even fights the common cold.
If you are taking blood-thinning medications or pregnant, you should discuss the effects of ginger with your doctor. Otherwise, get some ginger, peel it, add a few slices to a cup with boiling water for tea, and learn for yourself that ginger truly is the spice for life!
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