Plants have been used as medicine throughout human history. A 5,000-year-old slab of clay serves as the oldest written evidence of mankind using medicinal plants for preparation of drugs- there were over 250 plants included (1)! Herbal medicine is used more so to evoke healing responses from the body than to attack specific symptoms. Herbs play a role in the body’s own healing efforts, they do not take over the body’s functions.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is one of the most widely consumed spices worldwide. It is classified as a carminative herb. There are 14 bioactive components (parts of plants that have medicinal benefits) present in fresh and dried forms of ginger (2). The concentrations of bioactive components in ginger depend on what country it was harvested in, the type of processing used, and the form it is in (fresh, dried, processed).
Defining carminative herbs
Any herbs classified as carminative herbs relieve gas and intestinal gripping, help soothe the gut wall, prevent fermentation, ease intestinal spasms, and are rich in aromatic oils.
Other carminative herbs include mint, fennel, chamomile, and cardamom.
What ginger does in our bodies
Ginger clearly has such powerful gastrointestinal (GI) benefits, which is due to the fact that ginger and all of its metabolites appear to accumulate in the GI tract! In addition to its GI benefits, it is proven effective as a natural anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory agent, anti-nausea, and anti-cancer agent (2).
Ginger has also been proven effective in preventing the following conditions (2):
- Oxidative damage
- Ulcerative colitis
- Cardiovascular disease
- Platelet aggregation
How to consume it
Ginger can be consumed in so many different ways! Fresh, dried, pickled, preserved, crystallized, candied, or ground (spices). It has a strong and spicy scent, so it makes sense that it tastes slightly peppery but is slightly sweet at the same time.
I love drinking ginger in teas or infused waters, candied versions to bring traveling to combat GI symptoms, using the spice in baking or on fruit (I pretty much use it on any foods that I would also add cinnamon too).
Simple Ginger Tea
Peel a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger root and thinly slice it
Bring 4 cups filtered water to a boil
Once water is boiling, add ginger
Cover the pan and turn off the heat
Steep for 10 minutes
- Remove ginger and pour into mug. Optional to add honey
Tip: put ginger root in your fridge or freezer to preserve lifespan.
If you choose to seek out ginger consumption in a supplement or capsule form, I recommend you check with your health provider. Herbs like ginger have such strong medicinal properties (which is amazing) so it is important to check for cross-interactions with other supplements or medications you are taking and for safety with any pre-existing conditions.
- Petrovska, B. B. (2012, June). Historical Review of Medicinal Plants’ Usage. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3358962/
- CRC Press/Taylor & Francis. (2011). The Amazing and Mighty Ginger. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, 2nd edition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/