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Ginger – The Almighty root

Ginger would certainly not win a beauty contest in the produce department, even when dressed up with a mint leaf. (see image). It’s color is light brown, fairly unappealing, it has random deformities and appendages, and there are no two roots alike. It is its power which makes it a star.

Ginger has a history, which goes back thousands of years. It has been discussed in ancient Chinese, Asian, Greek, Roman and Arabic scripts, for it’s medicinal properties, especially in treatments of gastrointestinal ailments. The active components are phenols, called gingeroles, but more biologically active substances are being isolated, and thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Today, Ginger is mainly used as a fragrant food flavoring, commonly in Asian and Thai dishes. However, this odd gnome is experiencing major medicinal revival. Looking on NIH Medline, there have been over 1300 publications in the last five years.

Ginger has been most extensively studied as an anti-nausea medication during pregnancy and chemotherapy in cancer patients. The mechanism of action appears to be multifaceted and at least partially due to increased gastric emptying and motility. The results of various studies are mixed but predominantly positive, such that ginger improves the symptoms of nausea and vomiting. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recognizes the beneficial effect of ginger as a non-pharmacological option against pregnancy associated nausea and vomiting. Other studies have shown suppression of H pylori bacteria, which is being implicated in the development of peptic ulcer disease.

The spectrum of potential medicinal benefits of ginger is however broadening far beyond the gastrointestinal tract. Anti-inflammatory properties have been recognized and ginger is now being studied as a possible beneficial adjunctive treatment in type II diabetes, arthritis, and cancer research. It has been shown, again only in small studies, to improve both hemoglobin A1c and insulin sensitivity as well as inflammatory markers like CRP, and favorably affect the lipid profile.

It is important to realize the limitations of research of botanicals, which fall into the complementary medicine arena. They are nonproprietary and therefore not of much interest to the profit driven pharmaceutical industry. So, all studies are rather small (and underfunded), which makes it almost impossible to arrive at the magic p-value in a double-blind randomized trial. The pharmaceutical industry pours millions of dollars into clinical trials to tease out a slight difference between two drugs and claim victory by pronouncing a statistically significant difference by a p-value. That is the way how a new drug pleases the stock market and investors. However, there is a large body of evidence by inference rather than by P value, especially in the integrative medicine field, which proves efficacy, and cannot simply be rejected based on lack of randomized double-blind controlled trials.

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. (Einstein used to be credited with this insightful statement, but now it is in question; it might have been Bruce Cameron or Stephen Ross, according to “”.

I personally endorse Ginger, both as a medicinal root for nausea, upset stomach, indigestion, as well as a soothing remedy during the cold and flu season. It is an excellent spice and condiment and I would encourage you to try using it in various recipes. It adds refreshing, spicy aromas.

My ginger tea - simple: I grate fresh ginger on a rough grater and put approximately one heaping teaspoon in a tea pot, pour about two cups of hot water, just below the boiling point over it and let it seep for approximately five minutes. One might add various flavorings like pomegranate, slice of orange, teaspoon of honey and lemon and may be couple mint leaves. It can be enjoyed sipping hot or cold throughout the day. Enjoy.

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