Ginger has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries but you don’t have to jump on a plane to reap its benefits.
The root can be added to food at home and is particularly popular in Asian cooking.
So how can it be beneficial to health and more importantly, how should we use it?
According to nutrition consultant Charlotte Stirling-Reed, ginger has been shown to have “bioactive and antioxidant” properties, which could have a beneficial effect on health.
“However, a lot of the research in this area (and on why and how ginger may be of support) is still very much unknown,” she adds.
One area of the research which does seem more conclusive is the impact of ginger on nausea.
“Previously it was thought that the evidence for this was more anecdotal, but recent research seems to suggest that ginger is fairly effective in alleviating nausea and vomiting,” she says.
“This is one of the reasons why health care professionals often recommend ginger for nausea relief, which can even be seen in public health policies such as certain NICE guidance documents.”
Nutritional therapist Karen Poole adds that ginger can also relieve symptoms of colds and sore throats.
“[It is] often combined with honey and hot water to help to ease congestion, reduce fever and make you feel warm and relaxed,” she explains.
Poole adds that the root can also help us maintain a heathy weight and aid the digestive system.
“Ginger can stimulate your circulation and some people find that it can help them to manage their weight by reducing cravings and becoming more active,” she says.
“Widely used to ease digestive comfort and indigestion, it can help with trapped wind and soothe the gut and, in some cases, ease the symptoms of motion sickness, stomach upsets or even post operative pains.”
She adds that ginger is often thought of as an anti inflammatory, as it can help “ease the pain and stiffness associated with chronic arthritic conditions and may even help to reduce swelling”.
Both Poole and Stirling-Reed say there are very few negative side effects associated with ginger and it is generally considered safe to use for the vast majority of people.
“Too much could possibly irritate the gut and cause discomfort if you have a condition such as IBS or an ulcer, and although a positive feature of ginger may be its potential ability to thin the blood and so reduce the risk of certain cardio vascular health issues, it is not recommended if you are taking anticoagulants such as Warfarin or Hepron as it may cause bleeding,” Poole warns.
“Likewise, if you take ginger regularly, you should tell your GP if you have an operation planned, as it could affect the blood clotting and healing process.”
Stirling-Reed says her main concern with ginger isn’t the ingredient itself, but people using ginger-based herbal forms of medicine and supplements without consulting professionals.
“This is because there is often limited knowledge on the safety of herbal medicines and there may be potential interactions with other medications too,” she says.
“However, if being used generally as a plant or spice added to food, ginger seems to show little in the way of negative side effects and may even have plenty of its own benefits.”
How To Use
Ginger is a fragrant and aromatic ingredient and Poole recommends using it in Asian cooking “for its tingly heat, freshness and flavour”.
“I love the zing and warmth it brings to a stir fry, curry, vegetable juice, salad or herbal tea,” she adds.
“As ginger loses some of its subtlety when it’s dried and ground, fresh is usually best for savoury dishes, while ground is a useful store cupboard ingredient for baking cakes and bread. It can also be frozen and has a good shelf life.”
For more ideas on how to incorporate ginger into your recipes, scroll through the slideshow below.