Favoured by traditional herbalists, the medicinal properties of the ginger root and flower are prized by scientists too.
Ginger is a low-calorie way to add flavour and nutrients to your dishes, says Jaclyn Reutens, clinical dietitian at Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants. For each 100g serving, you get 80kcal, 2g of protein, 13g of sodium, 415mg of potassium and less than 1g of fat.
It helps to fight inflammation. The active ingredients in ginger, particularly shogaol, have anti-inflammatory properties that relieve body aches. It works much like the painkiller, aspirin. Gingerols, another active constituent, works directly on the stomach to improve gastrointestinal tract movement (read: improves digestion), so that food is cleared out more quickly from the intestines. Young ginger is most commonly used to relieve motion sickness symptoms and digestive discomfort. Various chemicals in ginger work in the stomach, intestines and nervous system to ease nausea.
Besides the root, the flower of the ginger plant is also rich in phytochemicals that boast antioxidant benefits and helps boost immunity. Galangal, also from the ginger family, is said to possess anti-tumour, anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer and anti-fungal properties. As for young ginger, a 2007 US study found that extracts could inhibit tumour cell growth in ovarian cancer cells. However, further research is still needed to fully assess its cancer-fighting potential.
While chock-full of benefits, ginger isn’t for everyone. Jaclyn shares that gynaecologists are still debating whether pregnant women should eat ginger as it may affect foetal sex hormones – particularly in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Women with bleeding disorders should also be wary of ginger’s blood-thinning effects. Experts generally advise against consuming more than 1g a day.
Next: The health benefits of ginger, according to TCM