Ginger (a.k.a. ginger root) is the underground stem of the Zingiber officinale plant. Resembling a small, knarled tree root, this zesty spice is also used as an alternative medicine with some high-powered potential, ranging from quelling bellyaches to reducing inflammation.
The Only Ginger More Powerful than Chuck Norris—Why It's Super
From the semi-expected to the totally bizarre, ginger has been used to treat nausea, diarrhea, upper respiratory infections, hair loss, and burns—among other ailments. While the jury’s still out on the baldness claim (hang in there, Bruce Willis!), ginger might be effective for other uses. In one study, researchers found a 1-gram dose of ginger helped reduce nausea and vomiting caused by morning sickness Ginger for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial. Vutyavanich, T., Kraisarin, T., Ruangsri, R. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Obstetrics and Gynecology 2001 Apr;97(4):577-82.. Other research suggests 0.5 to 1 grams of ginger may also reduce the severity of chemotherapy-induced nausea Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces acute chemotherapy-induced nausea: a URCC CCOP study of 576 patients. Ryan, J.L., Heckler, C.E., Roscoe, J.A., et al. Departments of Dermatology, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY. Supportive Care in Cancer: Official Journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer 2011 Aug 5. [Epub ahead of print].. And for the motion sick types, ginger might also help relieve that green feeling from being “on a boat” or other rocky modes of transport Efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Ernst, E., Pittler, M.H. Department of Complementary Medicine, School of Postgraduate Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, UK. British Journal of Anaesthesia 2000 Mar;84(3):367-71..
Need a few more reasons to root for ginger root? Because it inhibits enzymes that play a key role in inflammation, eating ginger raw or in capsule form daily might ease sore muscles and potentially help alleviate symptoms of arthritis Ginger— an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions. Grzanna, R., Lindmark, L., Frondoza, C.G. RMG Biosciences, Inc. Journal of Medicinal Food 2005 Summer;8(2):125-32. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and rheumatic disorders. Srivastava, K.C., Mustafa, T. Department of Environmental Medicine, Odense University, Denmark. Medical Hypotheses 1989 May;29(1):25-8.. Research suggests some certain antioxidants in ginger could also be effective in slowing the growth of cancer cells, including those caused by prostate cancer Cancer preventive properties of ginger: a brief review. Shukla, Y., Singh, M. Environmental Carcinogenesis Division, Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Uttar Pradesh, India. Food and Chemical Toxicology: An International Journal Published the British Industrial Biological Research Association 2007 May;45(5):683-90. Increased growth inhibitory effects on human cancer cells and anti-inflammatory potency of shogaols from Zingiber officinale relative to gingerols. Sang, S., Hong, J., Wu, H., et al. Department of Chemical Biology, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2009 Nov 25;57(22):10645-50..
Find Your Roots—Your Action Plan
While several studies have used ginger in fresh or dried form, there’s little evidence that the form affects the function. But if the dried stuff is on hand, gingerbread or savory Indian curry dishes are always tasty bets. To beat nausea, ginger has been shown especially effective in combination with a high-protein meal, like this ginger chicken recipe Protein and ginger for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced delayed nausea. Levine, M.E., Gillis, M.G., Koch, S.Y., et al. Department of Psychology, Siena College, Loudonville, NY. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2008 Jun;14(5):545-51.. Anyone who’s imbibed a bit too much has probably heard that ginger ale helps. Sure enough, the ginger eases nausea while the ale helps restore fluids.
For cooks who don’t love ginger’s biting flavor, there are a couple ways to tone it down without missing out on the benefits. Simply dilute it with other flavors (like the base ingredient in the recipe or spices you prefer, like nutmeg or cinnamon), balance heat with dairy (think whipped cream on pumpkin pie), or neutralize the pungent tang with a squeeze of lemon or honey.
Just remember that some forms of ginger (like powdered and raw) have fewer calories than others (candied ginger is cooked in syrup and coated with sugar!). And at the sushi counter, the pickled stuff can tack on 160mg of sodium per 0.5 g. So jazz up that sushi roll with care!
Photo by Marissa Angell
Superfood Recipe: Ginger "Fried" Rice
By Tulika Balagopal
What You'll Need:
- 1 cup uncooked brown rice
- 2 tablespoons chopped (or grated) fresh ginger
- 2 cups vegetables, diced (spinach, broccoli, carrot, and snap peas work well!)
- 1/2 cup egg substitute or egg whites (or 2 eggs)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
What to Do:
- Cook rice according to package instructions and set aside.
- Scramble eggs, and set aside.
- Once the eggs and rice are cooked, heat oil over medium heat in a large pot or skillet. When oil is hot, add ginger.
- When ginger becomes fragrant (about 1 minute), add the vegetables and sautée until cooked through (almost soft)
- Add cooked rice and eggs to the ginger and vegetable mixture and stir to combine.
- Season with rice vinegar and soy sauce, and mix thoroughly