Some foods take the cake when it comes to nutritional value and versatility. They are sometimes called superfoods because of how they seem to heroically save the day by helping to heal our digestive systems, support our immunity, or even prevent cancer. Many of these superfoods are actually quite common in the cultures and countries from which they came, and are becoming staples in contemporary cuisine all over the world. One of the most popular superfoods foods is ginger.

What Is Ginger?

Ginger is a tropical leafy plant, originally from Asia and India. Today there are over a thousand types of ginger growing all over the world. Many of them look just like other tropical plants with waxy leaves and fragrant flowers.

The particular magic of ginger lies in the rhizome, the gnarly stem of the plant that lives just below the surface of the soil. It is usually yellow, golden, or white with a thin beige skin, a firm striated texture, and distinctly spicy odor. Only a few varieties of ginger are used for culinary and medicinal purposes.

Using Ginger

Ginger can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. You can grate the raw (cleaned) rhizome and add it to sweet or savory dishes. Or simmer thin slices, covered, on very low heat for 10 minutes to make a nourishing tea or base for a soup broth. Be sure to eat the ginger pieces after you drink the tea to get all the goodness. For more intensive usage, ginger is available in supplement form.

Properties of Ginger

1. Helps It All Go Down Easy

Ginger is probably most famous for supporting digestion. A cup of ginger tea before a meal stimulates the digestive system and gets the bile and other gastric juices flowing. It can also be helpful after you eat, especially if the meal included poorly combined foods.

2. Get the Goods from What You Eat

Ginger supports nutrient absorption and assimilation. It stokes the metabolic fires, ensuring that the food we eat is thoroughly broken down and turned into fuel.

3. Calm and Happy Belly

Ginger is great for reducing and preventing nausea. Whether it is caused by the rocking of a boat, sitting in the backseat of a fast-moving car, menstrual cramps, or pregnancy, ginger can usually make it better. Chewing on just a small piece of the root, or a few cups of tea, will usually significantly reduce nausea and make a person less likely to vomit.

Pregnant women should have no more than 1 gram of ginger daily, and consult your doctor if you notice any excess heat or other unusual symptoms from the ginger.

4. Protection for Windy Days

Ginger is a natural carminative, which means it reduces the production of intestinal gas. It also soothes the intestinal tract and helps it relax. This also reduces bloating and digestive discomfort.

5. Anti-inflammatory

Ginger is one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories available. It has been shown to reduce inflammation in arthritis patients. Chronic inflammation is a major contributor to joint pain, heart disease, obesity, arthritis, and many types of cancer; so reducing it is a priority for anyone wanting to stay healthy and active.

The gingerols, phyto-chemicals that give ginger its distinct aroma, are what provide the anti-inflammatory effects. Gingerols inhibit two of the enzymes that trigger chronic inflammation, cyclooxygenase (COX) and 5-lipoxygenase (LOX). Eating or supplementing with up to 4 grams of ginger a day can be as effective as chemical anti-inflammatories without the side effects.

Ginger is not a quick fix, however. It can require a few weeks of daily ginger consumption before there is any noticeable reduction in pain and swelling. Depending on the condition, the inflammation may return if you stop eating ginger.

6. Anti-oxidants

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ginger is one of the top 5 foods with the most anti-oxidant activity. The zingerone and gingerol reduce the deposition of the brain plaques that cause Alzheimers disease.

7. Preventing and Killing Cancer

Perhaps the most promising benefit of ginger is in treating and helping to prevent the development of cancer. This is in great part because of its anti-inflammatory properties. But it also seems to poison cancer cells while supporting the health of the normal tissue in the rest of the organ or body part.

Ginger has been shown to selectively kill cancer cells in breast tissue, and inspire cell death in breast cancer cells without harming healthy breast tissue. Preliminary studies show ginger may also be an effective treatment or preventative measure for lung cancer and colon cancer.

Ginger also contains melatonin, an anti-oxidant that protects DNA from being damaged by cancer-causing free radical activity.

Ginger is a powerful superfood with a variety of medicinal uses and amazing properties. Luckily, it also tastes wonderful. Use ginger as a tea or in your sweet or savory to enjoy both its healing benefits and spicy flavor.