Ginger: Uses, Health Benefits and its Side effects

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The root of the Ginger plant is well known as a spice and flavoring agent. Ginger basically is an herb. The rhizome (underground root) is also used as a medicine. It can be used fresh, dried and powdered, or as a juice or oil. It is mainly grown in India, China, Nepal, Indonesia, Nigeria and other warm climates. It’s been a traditional remedy in many cultures for thousands of years to help cure and prevent several health problems.  It is known to promote energy circulation in the body while positively increasing the body’s metabolic rate.
Uses

Commonly, ginger is used as a kitchen spices in many countries. They are often pickled or cooked as an ingredient in many dishes. Ginger roots are also been made into candy and ginger-vine since 1740s.

In Indian cuisine, ginger is a key ingredient, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Ginger also has an important role in traditional Ayurvedic medicines in India. It is an ingredient in traditional Indian drinks, both cold and hot, specially the famous Masala chai.

Health benefits of Ginger

The raw ginger root consists of 80% of water so it has low overall nutrient content whereas ground dried ginger consists of only 10% water and provides with numerous essential nutrients in high content, particularly the dietary mineral manganese.

It also has essential medicinal properties such as:

Antiemetic/anti-nausea, anti-clotting agent, antispasmodic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, antitussive, analgesic, circulatory stimulant, carminative, expectorant, hypotensive, increases blood flow, promotes sweating, relaxes peripheral blood vessels.

Ginger is a common treatment for upset stomach and nausea.

Ginger seems to aid digestion and saliva flow. Studies found that taking ginger could reduce nausea and vomiting in some pregnant women. But pregnant women should be careful with ginger. Some experts worry that it could raise the risk of miscarriage, especially in high doses.

Ginger seems to help with nausea caused by vertigo as well. There’s mixed evidence about whether ginger helps with nausea caused by motion sickness, surgery, or chemotherapy.

Ginger does seem to help with painful periods. In one study, more than 60% of women felt that ginger lessened pain. Besides, taking ginger tea might help irregular periods.

There’s strong evidence that ginger may ease osteoarthritis pain. It may also help with Rheumatoid arthritis, Muscle and joint pain, Headache (But more research is needed to know for sure),

Lab and animal studies have found that ginger may, theoretically, lessen swelling, lower blood sugar, Lower cholesterol, Protect against Alzheimer’s disease, prevent blood clotting

Optimal consumption dosages for ginger have not been set for any condition but it may vary from person to person.

Listed below are some home remedies using Ginger

Ginger has many uses in the home remedies department and can be used to help arthritis, diarrhoea, flu, headache, heart and menstrual problems, diabetes, stomach upset and motion sickness if you prefer to go with the home remedies over medicines.

Muscle Strains – Apply warm ginger paste with turmeric to the affected area twice a day.

Sore Throat – Boil some water and add a dash of cinnamon, a little piece of ginger, 1 tsp honey and drink.

For a persistent cough – Take a half teaspoonful of ginger powder, a pinch of clove with a pinch of cinnamon powder and honey in a cup of boiled water and drink it as tea.

Asthma – A teaspoon of fresh ginger juice mixed with a cup of fenugreek decoction and honey to taste acts as a excellent expectorant in the treatment of asthma.

Headaches – Dilute a paste of ginger powder, about 1/2 a teaspoon, with water and apply to your forehead.

Colds – Boil a teaspoonful of ginger powder in one quart of water and inhale the steam – helps alleviate colds.

Ginger Compress – This method stimulates blood and body fluid circulation, helps loosen and dissolve toxic matter e.g. Cysts, tumors. Place about a handful of coarsely grated ginger in a cloth and squeeze out the ginger juice into a pot containing 4 litres of hot water (do not boil the water). Dip a towel into the ginger water and bring it out. Apply very hot to the affected area.

Diabetes – Some doctors recommend some drinking ginger in water first thing in the morning to help regulate your glucose level.

For relief of nausea – Ginger is generally taken in doses of 200 mg every 4 hours.

For relief of flatulence – Ginger is generally taken in doses of 250 to 500 mg 2 to 3 times a day.

As antioxidant-   Antioxidants react with free radicals in the body, which are responsible for cell damage. There is also some belief in eastern traditional medicine that ginger is also a good aphrodisiac. Interestingly, it is also advisable to take ginger for any menstrual disorders like heavy cramping and a delayed onset, this is interesting to note because most drugs that have the same benefit can induce a period at any time without taking the body cycles into account.

Side effects of Ginger

There are few side effects associated with ginger, but one should always be aware of the risks before consuming any herb.

Most of the common side effects associated with ginger occur in the digestive tract, particularly the stomach and intestines. These side effects rarely occur in low doses but are a greater threat as dosage sizes increase.

Side effects include heartburndiarrhea, oral irritations, burping, and upset stomachs. Many of these side effects can be avoided by taking ginger supplements in capsules, such as enteric-coated capsules, which delay the body’s digestion of the herb until it enters the digestive tract.

It is advised that consumption of ginger should be avoided if one is suffering from hemorrhoids as it may worsen the condition.

Ginger can prevent blood-clotting in the circulatory system by preventing platelets to clump together. While the number of instances where this has occurred is unknown, it is nonetheless advised by medical experts that individuals avoid taking ginger if they are taking any blood-thinning medications, such as aspirin or warfarin. You may also consider talking to a doctor about the possible interactions between ginger and blood-thinning medications and take ginger according to doctor’s orders.

While ginger is recommended to help treat nausea related to pregnancy, pregnant or nursing women are advised to take not more than one gram of the herb daily as it could also lead to miscarriage if taken in an excess amount.

As far as ginger’s effects on the cardiovascular system, ginger may cause changes in the heart’s rhythm, although research definitively confirming this side effect is lacking. Ginger may also cause fluctuations in one’s blood pressure.

There are some dangers of using too much ginger. In order to best avoid toxic side effects, try to consume ginger less than three times in a day. Antacids can be affected by ginger, which may stimulate the stomach’s production of acid. Ginger can affect medications for the heart, antihistamines, cancer treatments and weight loss drugs.

Symptoms of Allergic reaction

Symptoms can include a hoarse voice, dizziness, swelling of the lips, fainting episodes, difficulty swallowing, diarrhea, abdominal pain, heartburn, congestion in the nose and throat, bloating and gas. In addition, you can develop inflammation of the eyes and face, skin rashes, a runny nose, vomiting, stomach cramps and itching of the lips, tongue, mouth or throat. Symptoms can vary from mild to extreme. An allergic reaction to ginger can come on immediately after you consume ginger or take a few hours to manifest.

Treatment

Avoid ginger and any products that contain ginger, such as facial creams, candy, ginger-vines and teas. With doctor’s approval, take an antihistamine to help ease itching, swelling and inflammation, if any. Antihistamine skin creams can be applied topically and can also ease symptoms.

When to seek medical help

Seek medical help immediate if you develop tightness in the chest, hives, wheezing or breathing difficulties after consuming ginger. Food allergies can sometimes trigger a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Left untreated, anaphylaxis can be life-threatening. If you are diagnosed with an allergy to ginger, your doctor may suggest that you carry an injectable form of epinephrine with you at all times to be used in the event of an emergency.

 

Megha

Agriculturist, specialized in Horticulture (Floriculture and landscaping)

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