Herbal Remedy: Ginger

February 20, 2012
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There’s a reason ginger ale has long been the go-to remedy for anyone with an upset stomach: Ginger is an important aid for digestion–and a variety of other health concerns.

Ginger (zingiber officinale) is most commonly grown in India, China, Indonesia, Mexico, Nepal and Thailand. A member of the zingiberaceae family, the utilized part of the ginger plant is the rhizome, or the underground stem. Ginger is a commonly used worldwide medicinally and as a hot, fragrant spice in foods.

Indeed, there a number of places we find ginger in our everyday diets: as pickled ginger (commonly served with sushi), in ginger tea (thinly sliced and simmered in hot water; add honey and lemon to taste), as candied ginger, ginger ale or beer, in ginger liquors, gingerbread, etc. Ginger has both antioxidant and microbial properties, which makes it a great food preservative, especially in countries where refrigeration is not always readily available.

Ginger is primarily considered a carminative (a plant rich in aromatic oils that promotes proper functioning of the digestive system), which is why it’s frequently used for nausea (from motion sickness, pregnancy, vertigo, etc.).

Here are some other ways it can be helpful:

  • Ginger is a powerful appetite stimulant and helps with other digestive upsets such as indigestion, heartburn and low stomach acidity.
  • Ginger is helpful in promoting circulation in the outer extremities making it helpful for rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, poor circulation and cramps.
  • Ginger may help to thin blood and help to decrease cholesterol, making it useful in heart disease.
  • In fevers, ginger is helpful because it stimulates perspiration.
  • Sore throats can be soothed with the hot ginger tea described above; the antimicrobial properties help fight infection too.

Here are some ginger products I recommend, depending on your health concern:

And when you’re dealing with an upset stomach, turn to these quick-relief ginger products in our stores:

  • Traditional Medicinals Ginger Aid tea
  • Ginger People Ginger Chews
  • Reed’s candied ginger
  • Newman’s Own Ginger Mints

Note: Ginger is considered safe by the FDA and is readily sold as a dietary supplement. Ginger should not be used with Warfarin due to its blood thinning effects and should not be used with gallstone issues as it promotes the production of bile.

Kate Brainard attended Bastyr University’s doctorate program in Naturopathic Medicine. She currently manages Pharmaca’s La Jolla store.