The knobbly many fingered rhizome of ginger is considered a natural wonder as it has numerous time tested benefits.The rhizome which is actually the root of the ginger plant has been prized for centuries for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties. Ginger (Inguru in Sinhala and Ingi in Tamil), Zingiberofficinale in the family Zingiberaceae is the world’s most widely cultivated spice.
In Sri Lanka three main varieties of ginger are grown on a large scale all over the country with Kurunegala, Kandy, Gampaha, Colombo and Kegalle being the main growing areas. The rhizomes of the local ginger variety are small and the fibrous flesh is somewhat ash white, with the taste and aroma being comparatively higher than other species. The Chinese variety has larger rhizomes with a watery pale yellow flesh with a lower taste and aroma. The Rangoon ginger rhizomes are medium in size with well spread fingers. All the rhizomes have occasional rings, a light to dark tan skin and are available all year round.
Ginger is used in curries, stir fries, dressings, marinades, stocks, purees and confectionery as well as in drinks such as ginger beer, ginger ale, tea, smoothies and juices. Ginger can be dried, crystalized, candied or pickled for preservation. Dried ginger powder works well in ginger bread, cakes, biscuits and masala mixtures. Ginger preserve is indispensable for Christmas cake and pudding. Ginger oils and oleoresins are used commercially to make ginger beer, ale, bakery and other food products and to some extent in the perfumery industry.Ginger is also a common ingredient in the ayurvedic medical system. Interestingly, e-cigarettes often employ ginger to spice up the liquid.
Eat a few slices of ginger sprinkled with salt before meals to help digestion and prevent stomach issues. Drink ginger tea after a large meal to reduce bloating and flatulence.
Chew ginger pieces, or drink ginger tea with 1-2 inches of fresh ginger in hot water to relieve nausea. Ginger is also good at reducing morning sickness in pregnant women, motion sickness in travellers, and even nausea in chemotherapy patients.
Ginger compounds have shown positive results in treating respiratory disorders, and it is a promising treatment for patients suffering from asthma. Part of the reason ginger works is due to its potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and pain relieving compounds.
A number of studies point to the cancer fighting properties of ginger that suggest the potential as a preventive measure for ovarian, prostate and colon cancers.
Studies have suggested that the compounds in ginger go to work by lowering cholesterol, regulating blood pressure, improving blood flow, and preventing blocked arteries and blood clots – all of which help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Ginger is a wonderful immune system booster, making it a well-known treatment for colds and flu. And since it helps calm symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection, it also works on coughs, sore throats and bronchitis.
Gingerol is a very potent anti-inflammatory compound, so take ginger at the onset of a migraine attack to stifle the symptoms. Studies have also shown that those with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis experienced less pain and swelling when they took powdered ginger daily in food or tea. Further, ginger can reduce inflammation and muscle pains caused by exercise as well as reduce pain associated with menstruation.