A photo of ginger root and fresh ground ginger.

Ginger is a go-to ingredient for many chefs, but did you know it also has strong medicinal properties?
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For centuries, civilizations have been consuming ginger not only for its taste, but for its varied medicinal properties. Ginger is a tropical plant in the same family as turmeric and cardamom. It was originally used to relieve nausea and vomiting from illness and seasickness. It can be eaten fresh or dried. Powdered ginger is made from the dried root while pickled or crystallized ginger is made from the fresh root.

In modern times, it has been used to relieve morning sickness, motion sickness, and even some of the side effects of chemotherapy. One study found that ginger is as effective as Dramamine when it comes to reducing the effects of motion sickness. In addition to its ability to soothe nausea, it has also been shown to reduce pain in the intestinal tract and prevent ulcers caused by painkillers.

If that’s not convincing enough, ginger has also been shown to reduce pain and inflammation in the joints by stimulating blood circulation. Ginger contains a compound called gingerol, which scientists believe is responsible for reducing joint pain by inhibiting the formation of inflammatory cytokines.

More recent studies have shown that ginger has a variety of other less expected health benefits when taken as a supplement. For example, one 45-day study concluded that taking three grams of ginger powder daily significantly reduces cholesterol levels. In a second study, ginger extract had the same effect as atorvastatin (a cholesterol lowering drug) when it came to lowering LDL cholesterol counts. Both studies cited a reduction in total cholesterol and blood triglycerides as well.

Additional studies show that gingerol can inhibit the growth of many types of bacteria, including those responsible for gingivitis. It is also effective against the RSO virus, which causes respiratory infections.

Lastly, the relationship between gingerol and Alzheimer’s disease is being investigated because some studies suggest that gingerols can actually reduce inflammation in the brain.

Aside from its medicinal properties, beauty companies are currently conducting research on the effect ginger has as a topical agent. In other words, don’t be too surprised if ginger starts making an appearance in soaps, lotions, and cosmetics.