Ginger is native to India and China. It takes its name from the Sanskrit word stringa-vera, which means “with a body like a horn”, as in antlers. Ginger has been important in Chinese medicine for many centuries, and is mentioned in the writings of Confucius. It is also named in the Koran, the sacred book of the Moslems, indicating it was known in Arab countries as far back as 650 A.D. It was one of the earliest spice known in Western Europe, used since the ninth century. It became so popular in Europe that it was included in every table setting, like salt and pepper. A common article of medieval and Renaissance trade, it was one of the spices used against the plague. In English pubs and taverns in the nineteenth century, barkeepers put out small containers of ground ginger, for people to sprinkle into their beer — the origin of ginger ale. In order to ’gee up’ a lazy horse, it is the time honoured practice of Sussex farmers to apply a pinch of ginger to the animal’s backside.
In Asian cooking ginger is almost always used fresh, either minced, crushed or sliced. Fresh ginger can be kept for several weeks in the salad drawer of the refrigerator. Dried ginger should be ‘bruised’ by beating it to open the fibers, then infused in the cooking or making ginger beer and removed when the flavour is sufficient. Store dried and powdered ginger in airtight containers.
Fresh ginger is essential to Asian and oriental cookery. It is used in pickles, chutneys and curry pastes and the ground dried root is a constituent of many curry powders. Tender young ginger can be sliced and eaten as a salad. Sometimes the roots will produce green sprouts which can be finely chopped and added to a green salad. In the West, dried ginger is mainly used in cakes and biscuits, especially ginger snaps and gingerbread. Ginger is also used in puddings, jams, preserves and in some drinks like ginger beer, ginger wine and tea. Pickled ginger is a delicious accompaniment to satays and a colourful garnish to many Chinese dishes. Preserved ginger is eaten as a confection, chopped up for cakes and puddings, and is sometimes used as an ice cream ingredient.
Medicinal Uses and Indications
Today, ginger root is widely used as a digestive aid for mild stomach upset and is commonly recommended by health care professionals to help prevent or treat nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness, pregnancy, and cancer chemotherapy. Ginger is used as support in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, and may even be used in heart disease or cancer.
Several studies suggest that ginger may be more effective than placebo in reducing symptoms associated with motion sickness. In one trial of 80 novice sailors (prone to motion sickness), those who took powdered ginger experienced a significant reduction in vomiting and cold sweating compared to those who took placebo. Similar results were found in a study with healthy volunteers. While these results are promising, other studies suggest that ginger is not as effective as medications in reducing symptoms associated with motion sickness. In a small study of volunteers who were given ginger (fresh root and powder form), scopolamine (a medication commonly prescribed for motion sickness), or placebo, those receiving the medication experienced significantly fewer symptoms compared to those who received ginger.
Conventional prescription and non-prescription medicines that decrease nausea may also cause unwanted side effects, such as dry mouth and drowsiness. Given the safety of ginger, many people find it a welcome alternative to these medications to relieve their motion sickness.
Pregnancy Related Nausea and Vomiting
A limited number of human studies suggests that 1 gram daily of ginger may be safe and effective for pregnancy-associated nausea and vomiting when used for short periods (no longer than 4 days). Several studies have found that ginger is more effective than placebo in relieving nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy. In a small study including 30 pregnant women with severe vomiting, those who ingested 1 gram of ginger every day for four days reported more relief from vomiting than those who received placebo. In a larger study including 70 pregnant women with nausea and vomiting, those who received a similar dosage of ginger felt less nauseous and experienced fewer vomiting episodes than those who received placebo.
There is evidence from a few studies that suggests ginger reduces the severity and duration of nausea (but not vomiting) during chemotherapy. Long-term studies should be performed to confirm these results and to establish safety.
Nausea and vomiting following surgery
Research has produced mixed results regarding the use of ginger in the treatment of nausea and vomiting following surgery. In two studies, 1 gram of ginger root before surgery reduced nausea as effectively as a leading medication. In one of these two studies, women who received ginger also required fewer nausea-relieving medications following surgery. Other studies, however, have failed to find the same positive effects. In fact, one study found that ginger may actually increase vomiting following surgery. For this reason, further studies are needed to determine whether ginger is safe and effective for the prevention and treatment of nausea and vomiting following surgery.
In addition to providing relief from nausea and vomiting, ginger extract has long been used in traditional medical practices to decrease inflammation. In fact, many health care professionals today use ginger to help treat health problems associated with inflammation, such as arthritis and ulcerative colitis. In a study of 261 people with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, those who received a ginger extract twice daily experienced less pain and required fewer pain-killing medications compared to those who received placebo. Although there have also been a few other studies of the benefit of ginger for arthritis, one trial found that the herb was no more effective than ibuprofen (a medication frequently used to treat OA) or placebo in reducing symptoms of OA.
Although it is much too early to tell if this will benefit those with heart disease, a few preliminary studies suggest that ginger may lower cholesterol and prevent the blood from clotting. Each of these effects may protect the blood vessels from blockage and the damaging effects of blockage such as atherosclerosis, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Laboratory studies have also found that components in ginger may have anticancer activity. More research needs to be performed to determine the effects of ginger on various cancers in humans.
Ginger products are made from fresh or dried ginger root, or from steam distillation of the oil in the root. The herb is available in extracts, tinctures, capsules, and oils. Fresh ginger root can also be purchased and prepared as a tea. Ginger is also a common cooking spice and can be found in a variety of foods and drinks, including ginger bread, ginger snaps, ginger sticks, and ginger ale.
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a health care provider qualified in the field of botanical medicine.
Side effects associated with ginger are rare, but if taken in excessive doses the herb may cause mild heartburn. Some of the mild gastrointestinal side effects, such as belching, heartburn, or stomach upset, may be relieved by taking ginger supplements in capsules.
People with gallstones should consult a doctor before taking ginger. Make sure to tell your doctor if you are taking ginger and will be going to surgery or placed under anesthesia for any reason.
Do not take ginger if you have a bleeding disorder or if you are taking blood thinning medications, including aspirin.
Ginger may alter the effects of some prescription and non-prescription medications. If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use ginger without first talking to your health care provider.
Blood-thinning medications -- Although ginger may interfere with blood clotting, there have been no scientific or case reports of interactions between ginger and blood-thinning medications, such as aspirin and warfarin. However, people taking medications that thin the blood should use ginger only under the supervision of a health care provider.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition
.Alicensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.