Last Friday, I told you about the many health benefits of thyme. Today, I’m going to talk about ginger.
Like thyme, ginger adds a bold and tangy flavor to many dishes. In addition, it has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine, and for centuries in other herbal traditions for many medical conditions, including arthritis, indigestion, and motion sickness. More modern research shows it also helps with the nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy.
Ginger can also help alleviate morning sickness during pregnancy. It stimulates and aids in digestion, through the smooth muscle of the GI tract, as well as stimulating and supporting muscle health. However, doctors discourage taking excessive ginger during the third trimester, since the muscle stimulation may contribute to uterine contractions and preterm labor.
One of ginger’s more surprising benefits is its ability to support weight loss by aiding fat burning and reducing food cravings. (So — if you are underweight, you may want to avoid it.)
In addition to its gastrointestinal and weight loss benefits, ginger also stimulates the circulation, increases blood flow, and “thins the blood.” These effects benefit many common health conditions — including dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. But people with hemophilia (a genetic blood clotting disorder) should avoid it. Hemophiliacs take medication to prevent excessive bleeding in the event of even small injuries, and ginger may interfere with these drugs.
Likewise, ginger may interfere with anticoagulant drugs, insulin, and certain medications for high blood pressure, such as beta-blockers. Consult with your doctor if you take any of these medications.
Of course, cayenne pepper, paprika (red) pepper, and turmeric (curcumin) all belong to the same botanical family as ginger, so you can incorporate these healthy spices as alternatives to ginger if you wish. You can also try sweet peppers. Sweet peppers commonly come in red, yellow and green. In Europe, they often come packaged with all three colors in a row. They call the package “traffic lights,” but don’t let that stop you.