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Of all the herbal remedies for the successful treatment of common health issues — including, most importantly, unchecked inflammation – ginger, referred to in scientific nomenclature as Zingiber officinale, is arguably the most overlooked.
The hardy Southeast Asian root has played second fiddle in recent years to its more popular anti-inflammatory cousin, turmeric. However, ginger’s noteworthy potential as a healing salve deserves a revisit.
Let’s take a deep dive into the remarkable health-promoting properties of ginger and why you should be utilizing it to keep yourself healthy in these uncertain times.
Ginger has historically been one of the most widely used healing herbs across space and time.
The early seafaring Austronesian people first cultivated ginger several thousand years ago. Since its initial use among Southeast Asian peoples, the plant began to circulate throughout the world as a biproduct of increased trade between various cultures.
Eventually, the Indians acquired ginger through the vaunted Indian Ocean Spice Route and dramatically expanded the contemporary understanding of how to best utilize the herb.
As a result, ginger took a prominent place in the canon of Ayurvedic Medicine, the traditional folk medicine of ancient India that has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the West due to its proven efficacy as a legitimate medical discipline in modern-day clinical settings.
The practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine in the old times produced myriad volumes of medical literature that spanned the documented use of more than 700 herbs to treat more than 5,000 health conditions. None, though, were more extensively lauded in the ancient texts than ginger.
The ancient Indians used ginger to treat:
Ayurvedic practitioners employed the use of ginger so often, in fact, that it was known in India in its heyday as the "Universal Medicine."
In modern times, we call such a wonder drug a "panacea." If any herb deserves that title, it is ginger. Here's why.
Much of the corroborated medical applications of ginger stem from its potent activity as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Modern researchers now widely regard unchecked, chronic inflammation as the number one driver of human disease.
Inflammation occurs when the body attempts to respond to a threat from the environment, perceived or real. Once the innate human alarm system – in the form of biological signaling through the endocrine system – is sounded, inflammatory cytokines and other cells of the immune system swarm to respond.
The swelling of an ankle following a tendon tear and the swelling of the throat during upper respiratory infections like the common cold are just two everyday examples of inflammation in action.
In America in 2020, we live in a toxic inflammatory stew of rampant air and water pollution, processed foods (loaded with inflammation-amplifying preservatives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and others), hectic lifestyles, and poor sleep habits.
In tandem, this team of inflammatory offenders damages our health day-by-day with low, chronic levels of inflammation that add up over time to contribute to disease.
While inflammation is a necessary and, indeed, life-saving response to stress, threats, and injury, it is a double-edged sword with a nasty flipside.
Inflammation has been implicated as a major contribute to autoimmune diseases (asthma, multiple sclerosis, etc.), cancers, impaired immune system function, cardiovascular disease, and nearly every other major category of disease currently documented by medical science.
Enter ginger to save the day.
Ginger owes its remarkable inflammation-fighting abilities to its roster of compounds that comprise its rich phytochemistry profile.
In terms of anti-inflammatory activity, researchers have fingered the four main compounds in ginger known to reverse inflammation:
Of these four ginger compounds, the inflammation-killing effects of gingerol are best understood. Gingerol exerts enormous positive influence over the molecular signaling network in the body known as the endocrine, or hormone, system. The hormone system is the catalyst for inflammation, so tamping down pro-inflammatory signaling via common endocrine pathways is a surefire way to stop inflammation in its tracks before the hormonal cascade kicks it off in high gear.
Clinical researchers have poured enormous resources in recent year into the relationship between microbiome gut health and overall health. We now understand that gut composition has profound implications on our well-being – much more so than previously believed.
Just as it does throughout the body, ginger robust anti-inflammatory "gastroprotective" activities in the gut. The findings of modern research corroborate the ancient indicated use of ginger by Ayurvedic practitioners for effectively and safely healing digestion issues.
An important caveat: ginger is not a cure-all – nothing is. Pharmaceutical drugs, in the right situations, confer a healing potential that should not be discounted. There's no need to brush off conventional drugs' effectiveness in appropriate settings.
Rather, evidence-based folk medicine and pharmaceutical treatments can often be paired. Hand-in-hand, they can work to restore a patient's health synergistically.
No reason exists, therefore, to throw out one in favor of the other. While modern medicine has technology and vaster resources on its side, folk medicinal preparations utilizing ginger have a millennia-long track record of positive outcomes for patients.
If you are convinced to give ginger a tryout as the newest addition to your medicine chest, the good news is that working it into your diet is easy. The most convenient method, as well as the most satisfying, is to simply cut fresh ginger root into fine pieces and mix it with near-boiling water to make a refreshing tea.
Feeling is believing. When you begin to consume greater quantities of fresh, pungent ginger, you are sure to feel noticeably healthier and more vigorous.