Ginger: History, Traditional Uses and Benefits

Ginger is a well-known spice and is incorporated in many savory and sweet recipes.  Its origins in cooking may not be entirely due to its flavor. Ginger is a digestive aid and stimulant. It helps with gas, bloating, and indigestion. In addition to its digestive benefits ginger root has a multitude of other health benefits. 

The ginger plant (Zingiber officinale) is a flowering plant native to Southeast Asia, China, and India.  The part of the ginger plant that we consume is the rhizome; a rhizome is a root that grows sideways and sends up shoots. 

Ginger root dates back about 5000 years

A very large ginger root pulled out of the ground, sitting the dirt with stems coming up from it

Ginger was used for flavoring long before history was formally recorded.

The known history of using ginger root dates back about 5000 years; starting in China and then in India. It was used for the treatment of numerous ailments, such as colds, nausea, and arthritis. 

The first record of ginger in Europe was in the 1st century when the Romans traded with India. 

After Rome fell ginger was almost forgotten until Marco Polo brought it back from his travels to Asia.

In Europe, it was used as a spice and was very expensive.  In the 14th century one pound of ginger cost as much as a sheep! 

In the middle ages, ginger was used to ward off the plague.  For a time it was so popular it was placed on the table like we do with salt and pepper today. 

Ginger was brought to the New World, specifically the Caribbean in the 15th century. Ginger grew well in the Caribbean. 

By the 16th century, Europe was importing more than 2000 tonnes of dried ginger each year from Asia.  

Ginger was also used in sweets

Gingerbread man in a white mug with a holly leaf and berry printed on the mug. on the piece of wood with pine in the background and out of focus lights and snow falling in the background.

 

Queen Elizabeth l is credited with the invention of the gingerbread man, the popular Christmas treat.  

In the 19th century in England, they sprinkled ginger in beer, the origin of ginger ale.   

Forms of Ginger

Ginger is used in multiple forms, including fresh, dried, pickled, crystallized, candied, and powdered.

Ginger harvested at 5 months is not yet mature and has a thin skin.  The rhizomes are tender and have a milder flavor.  These are best used for fresh and preserved forms. 

Older ginger roots, harvested after 8 - 9 months have a tough skin, which must be removed.  The older ginger root is more pungent and is commonly used to make ground ginger. This is the form normally found in cookies, cakes, and curries.

When ginger is pickled in sweet vinegar it turns pink and is popularly used when eating sushi.

A bowl of pink pickled ginger with chop sticks and a fresh ginger root sitting next to it.


Candied ginger is cooked with a sugar syrup and coated with granulated sugar.  

Some yellow candied ginger on a white background

 

Health Uses of Ginger

Ginger as an Antioxidant

Ginger has been shown in studies to be a strong antioxidant.

The levels of antioxidants in ginger are surpassed only by pomegranate and some types of berries. Ginger has been shown to decrease age-related oxidative stress markers. This science helps to show why ginger might be effective in some of the uses it has been put to historically. (1) 

Effective againts nausea

Ginger has been shown to be effective against nausea and was found to be more effective than Dramamine against motion sickness.  Another study supports its use for sea sickness.  

Ginger was shown to be effective for pregnant women suffering from morning sickness. 

It has also been shown to be effective for cancer patients to combat nausea caused by chemotherapy drugs. (2)  

Ginger has been shown in recent studies to be effective in aiding digestion.  The ingestion of ginger helps to stimulate digestion and the body's process of emptying the stomach. It can also help with indigestion, gas, and bloating. (3), (4) 

Ginger also has anti-inflammatory properties and has pain-relieving effects. It was even shown to be as effective as drugs like ibuprofen in reducing menstrual pain like period cramps and headaches. (5),  (6)

It also supports the immune system, helps with sore muscles and joints, supports brain function and healthy cholesterol levels. 

Ginger is also an activator for other herbs, and is often used with other herbs to support their absorption in the body.

Safety

Ginger with leaves

Ginger is recognized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as generally safe. Studies have shown that the consumption of ginger appears to be very safe, with very limited side effects. (7)

Summary

Ginger has a rich history of use throughout the world.  

It was used historically not only for its valuable health benefits but also for its flavor. Ginger can be a great herb to add to your diet and life for its health benefits.   

The Herbal Roots Organic Ginger supplement is just that, pure organic ginger and nothing else. It can be a great way to add daily ginger to your life.