GINGER is an aromatic, pungent and spicy root vegetable. Ginger adds a special flavor and zest to stir fries and many fruit and vegetable dishes. Ginger’s benefits as a healing food are well known in Asia where it is frequently called “the universal medicine.” Ginger is regarded as an excellent “carminative” (a substance which promotes the elimination of intestinal gas) and “intestinal spasmolytic” (a substance which relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract).

Ginger’s effectiveness as a buffer for stomach acid is due largely to its active phytonutrient ingredients: “gingerols” and “shogaols” which are responsible for ginger’s distinctive flavor. Ginger’s anti-vomiting/acid action has been shown to be very useful in reducing the nausea (due to the body’s need for alkalinity in the form of sodium bicarbornate) and vomiting of pregnancy also the result of excess acids and the need for base. Japanese researchers believe the gingerols may be responsible for blocking the body’s reflex to vomit. Dr. Robert O. Young’s research indicates that ginger buffers excess acid and thus blocks vomiting. Ginger’s phytonutrients help to neutralize stomach acids, enhance the secretion of aklaline juices (stimulating the appetite), and tone the muscles of the digestive tract.

Both gingerols and shogaols have been shown to fight cancer as well. Scientific research has been shown that gingerols have antibacterial properties to inhibit the growth of “helicobacter pylori,” involved in the development of gastric and colon cancer and suppress the growth of human colorectal carcinomas. Lab experiments presented by Dr. Rebecca Lui (and colleagues from the University of Michigan) at the 97th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer showed that gingerols kill ovarian cancer cells by inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death) and phagocytosis (self-digestion).

In a 2007 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Dr. Chung-Yi Chen (and colleagues in the American Chemical Society) presented compelling evidence that ginger’s shogaols effectively induce apoptosis in cancer cells. A Rutgers University study later that same year supported the cancer-fighting properties of both shogaols and gingerols.

Denmark researchers have discovered that ginger can block the effects of prostaglandins, which are substances that cause inflammation of the blood vessels in the brain and lead to migraines. When you feel a migraine coming on, take 1/3 teaspoon of fresh of powdered ginger to help stop the headache before it starts. In Chinese medicine, ginger tea with brown sugar is used in the treatment of menstrual cramps, while adding ginger to honey can wipe out food poisoning in a hurry.

But that’s not all! Studies have shown that ginger contains anti-inflammatory properties that work much like the more common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Ginger actually inhibits the action of several of the genes involved in the inflammation process, namely cytokines and chemokines.

We love to blend up a couple of fresh ginger roots along with fresh lime or lemon juice, garlic, and ice for a nutritionally potent (and tasty) breakfast smoothie. When buying ginger, fresh is best! Be sure to avoid ginger with dry, wrinkled, skin, mold or soft spots. Grating, blending, or using a garlic press will give you the maximum benefit.

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