Ginger Root
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Ginger Root GINGER ROOT  
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Botanical:  Zingiber officinale
Family:  Zingiberaceae (ginger)
Other common names:   African Ginger, Jamaica Ginger, Black Ginger, Chiang

If you have ever reached for a glass of Ginger ale for an upset stomach, you are on the right track! Ginger is an ancient remedy for upset stomach, indigestion, motion sickness and cramps, and that's just the beginning.  This wonderful food additive and appetite stimulant can also help reduce fevers, relieve pain, reduce inflammation and help remove toxins from the body.  Important research from the University of Michigan has indicated that Ginger has caused malignant ovarian cell death in laboratory tests.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

History:
Ginger is an exotic, perennial plant with highly aromatic flowers that grows to a height of three feet. It originated in tropical Asia, where its tuberous rootstock was not only used as a spice for culinary purposes, but has also continued to play an important role in Asian medicine for 2,500 years.  The Chinese considered it a "warming" herb and used it extensively to warm the stomach, ward off colds, dispel chills and treat digestive problems, and Chinese ships even carried Ginger on voyages to prevent seasickness.  In ancient Greece and Egypt, Ginger was used as a confection, and the Romans considered it a taxable commodity by A.D. 200.  The Persians were said to use Ginger as a remedy for arthritis.  The origin of Ginger's name may be derived from two sources: The Greek word for Ginger is zingiberis, and some say it is derived from Zanzibar, from whence it was imported to Europe in the fifteenth century.   It is believed that gingerbread was sent as a gift to Russia to celebrate the birth of Peter the Great and was also a favorite in the court of Elizabeth I of England.  Ginger had spread to Spain, where it was cultivated; and later, Spanish conquistadors brought it to the New World, where it has thrived as a major commercial crop in Jamaica.  Ginger is now cultivated in tropical areas of the world, including Africa, Asia, Australia and the West Indies.  Under cultivation, Ginger seldom blossoms, and the fruit is rarely seen.  In Ayurvedic medicine, it is called "the universal medicine," and in both Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicine, its use still comprises more than half of all prescriptions dispensed.  Ginger is rich in volatile oils, beta-carotene, B-vitamins, vitamins A and C, essential fatty acids, amino acids, resins, potassium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, zingiberen, b-bisabolene, sesquiphellandrene, arcurcumene, geranial, citronellol acetate, zingerones and gingerols (including shogaols, a breakdown product of gingerols produced only upon drying and twice as effective and pungent as gingerols).

Beneficial Uses:
For nausea, Ginger is a wonderful and time-honored remedy.  The herb is frequently used to settle a queasy stomach, control vomiting and colic, ease motion sickness and seasickness (some research showed it to be even better than Dramamine).  Ginger has qualities that help to combat H. pylori, which can thus be useful in fighting ulcers.  Although an old-time remedy for morning sickness, pregnant women should use Ginger sparingly and only with doctor's approval.

Ginger is said to improve digestion and has been known to pep up the appetite, promote saliva production, combat dyspepsia and relieve flatulent colic (it is said to prevent flatulence if included with the meal).  It is also thought to be helpful for stomach cramps, alcoholic gastritis and hangover.  The shogaol content in Ginger increases the activity of the digestive tract and is particularly helpful in digesting rich, fatty foods.

Ginger helps to encourage gentle muscle contractions throughout the digestive system, yet at the same time it inhibits muscle spasms, so it is said to be effective at controlling diarrhea. 

Ginger has been used to cleanse the body of toxins through the skin by stimulating and increasing perspiration and has also been useful in breaking fevers.  It is slightly diuretic and further cleanses the body by strengthening kidney function and increasing kidney filtration.

Ginger is a natural blood thinner and may help to lower risk of strokes, heart attacks and hardening of the arteries.  The chemical gingerol appears to inhibit an enzyme that causes cells to clot and thereby reduces platelet aggregation and blood "clumping."  Ginger helps to retard and decrease the production of cholesterol by the liver and has been known to reverse the increase in triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, thus helping to combat heart attack.

Because of its blood thinning qualities, promising research results show Ginger’s effectiveness in inhibiting clotting and protecting nerve cells in the brain.  Ginger may not only help fight heart atttacks and strokes, but also be beneficial in lowering risk of Alzheimer's disease.

As an effective expectorant, Ginger has been used to rid the body of mucus buildup in the sinuses, throat and lungs.  For centuries, the Chinese have used Ginger as a drying herb to eliminate mucus and have used it for colds, diarrhea and coughs. This sweet, pungent, aromatic and warming herb is still considered a fine treatment for congestion, colds, influenza, asthma and chronic bronchitis.  It is said to ease cold symptoms, and the shagaol in Ginger is thought to kill cold viruses.  Its pain relieving properties have been said to ease the abdominal pain sometimes associated with colds and flu and also to counter the pain of strep throat.

2013 research from Columbia University found that a mixture of Ginger Root and vitamin D can help relieve symptoms of asthma. The active Ginger compounds, shogaol and gingerols, help enhance the relaxing effects of bronchodilators in asthmatic people and help patients breathe more easily. The vitamin D appears able to lower the activity of interleukin-17, which is strongly implicated in asthma.

Ginger's anti-inflammatory properties are said to help arthritis, bursitis and sprains.  The herb inhibits the production of immune system components called cytokines, chemicals that create a long-term tendency toward inflammation and also stimulates blood circulation, offering pain relief, increased joint mobility, decreased swelling and morning stiffness.  Some people with chronic lower back pain have found Ginger to be an effective pain reliever in their treatment.  A 2010 study from the University of Georgia found that both raw and heat-treated Ginger Root reduced the pain associated with muscle injury by about twenty-four percent.  Ginger Root is a rich source of antioxidants, including gingerols, shogaols, zingerones and other ketone derivatives, and its pain-reducing effects are biologically plausible because of the effect of gingerols, shogaols and zingerones on inflammatory compounds – suggesting that Ginger may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties akin to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).  

Further supporting its pain killing and swelling properties, other pain-killing benefits attributed to Ginger include treatment of migraine headaches, menstrual cramps and the cramping caused by constipation.  It is also thought to and relieve both the pain and stop the production of hormones that cause swelling in fibrocystic breasts.

Important research from the University of Michigan indicated that Ginger may cause ovarian cancer cell death.  Furthermore, it did so in a way that may prevent tumor cells from becoming resistant to treatment, a common problem with chemotherapy.  In the laboratory tests, Ginger caused two kinds of malignant cell death. The first is called apoptosis, in which the cells essentially commit suicide, and the second is autophagy, in which cells digest or attack themselves.  According to Dr. J. Rebecca Liu, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, most ovarian cancer patients develop recurrent disease that eventually becomes resistant to standard chemotherapy, and if Ginger can cause autophagic cell death in addition to apoptosis, it may circumvent resistance to conventional chemotherapy.  It's already thought that Ginger helps control inflammation, which contributes to the development of malignant ovarian cells, and by halting inflammation, Ginger may stop diseased cells from growing.

Recent research indicates that Ginger is useful in the treatment of minor burns and skin inflammations.

Ginger is said to increase the absorption and efficacy of other herbs and drugs that are taken with it.

Ginger is considered effective in combating parasitic infection.  In Japan, Ginger is included with sushi to ward off parasites and also to clear the palate and improve digestion.  The chemical, zingibain, in Ginger kills the anisakid worm, a parasite sometimes carried in raw fish.  The antibiotic activity of Ginger's shogaol and zingerone is said to strongly inhibit the growth of salmonella and other bacteria.

Ginger is a warming herb that is thought to strengthen the function of the kidneys, bladder, uterus and liver (increasing bile production).  It is also said to help increase circulation of blood, including peripheral circulation (to hands, feet, etc.).

Ginger was mentioned in an article from the American Academy of Family Physicians regarding usefulness as an alternative therapy for Osteoarthritis. Read this article from the American Academy of Family Physicians' website on "Alternative Therapies for Traditional Disease States: Osteoarthritis."

Contraindications:
People taking blood thinners (Coumadin, aspirin, etc.) should avoid GingerRoot, and the herb should be avoided for two weeks prior to elective surgery.  Pregnant women should not take large amounts of Ginger for morning sickness, nor for prolonged periods and only after consulting a physician.  Ginger Root increases bile production and should not be used by people with gallstones or gallbladder disease, unless supervised by a doctor.

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