A classic and familiar herb in many culinary and medicinal traditions, ginger is a good example of the confluence of medicine and food. The benefits of ginger have long been known in Indian and Chinese systems of medicine. In India, it was even known as a “universal medicine”. A digestive aid that calms nausea, warms, and promotes digestion, ginger is also known for its overall anti-inflammatory effects. Ginger root acts as an anti-inflammatory (or, more appropriately, an inflammation regulator) partly by to normalizing prostaglandin action, and therefore helping to regulate the inflammatory cascades of the body. It also acts to inhibit the enzyme COX-2 (cycloxygenase-2) which when overactive/overstimulated in people can lead to multiple inflammatory issues including arthritis. Ginger root also has compounds that inhibit the formation of thromboxanes and therefore can reduce platelet formation helping to keep a healthy blood viscosity. Ginger can also reduce pain by reducing prostaglandins that sensitize pain receptors.
Therefore, ginger root taken in therapeutic doses, can be a useful alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and acetaminophen, without the side effects such as gastritis/ulcers. In fact, ginger root contains at least 17 compounds that have an anti-ulcer action.
Of the 477 compounds that have so far been identified in ginger root, many have varied desirable effects on inflammation. It is the whole root that seems to work, as much as some would like to find the “active compounds”.
Primary actions of ginger: anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, circulatory stimulant, warming, digestive, blood thinner (inhibits platelet aggregation), diaphoretic
Primary uses: sluggish or weak digestion, nausea, motion sickness, joint inflammation, arthritis, head aches, gastritis (inflammation of the stomach), high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, colds & flu to help break a fever and induce sweating