Nutritionally dense foods that offer us health benefits beyond the sum of the individual nutrients they contain are called superfoods. These foods contain essential amino acids, phytonutrients that act as antioxidants, and healthy fatty acids. Ginger is the root of a vegetable that is used around the world for its many superfood health benefits.

Countries including the United States, England, India, Asia, China, Japan, Greece, and the Caribbean utilize this superfood herb and spice in teas, ales, beers, cookies, breads, and more. Historically, almost every culture has used ginger to reduce inflammation, stimulate immunity, and enhance digestion.

Ginger is listed 13th on the most impressive antioxidant list with an ORAC score of 28,811. A variety of volatile oils enhance the flavor and odor of ginger such as gingerols, shogaols, and zingerone. These oils exhibit properties that are anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. (1) These agents are capable of inhibiting carcinogenesis and can even destroy current cancer cells already present in the human body. (2, 3, 4)

Supports Digestion

The herb ginger has been traditionally used as a natural remedy to heal digestive disturbances. The gut contains serotonin receptors that can be stimulated to provide digestive relief to the gastrointestinal tract. Ginger is one of nine agents known to exhibit this effect. This results in reduced gut inflammation and improve nutrient absorption.

Ginger also is classified as a carminative herb that reduces intestinal gas as well as a spasmolytic agent that soothes the intestinal tract while provoking gut motility. It is known to many moms to aid in feelings of “morning sickness” because it reduces nausea, alleviates motion sickness, and reduces fever. It also stimulates bile production making it a useful agent in fat digestion. (5, 6, 7)

Relieves Pain

The components in ginger make it an important food to suppress inflammation and support natural pain relief processes. 6-Gingerol is a compound that has been significantly shown to inhibit the generation of nitric acid, a highly reactive nitrogen molecule that is quickly converted into a dangerous free radical known as peroxynitrite.

Ginger is also an excellent tool to defend the body’s storage supplies of glutathione. (8, 9) Glutathione is a powerhouse antioxidant that destroys free radicals. As a result of its relationship with glutathione and nitric oxide, ginger provides protection for the nervous system and the brain against degenerative stress. (10)

The potassium content of ginger provides detoxification support and promotes electric energy production. Manganese in ginger protects the lining of the heart’s blood vessels as well as the urinary tract. The silicon content in ginger provides benefits to nails, skin, hair and teeth. It further helps calcium assimilate into the body while reducing inflammation in the bone tissue and encouraging strong bone and teeth development.

Functional Uses

Ginger is recommended to individuals for regular consumption and use to support the healthy detoxification of the liver and aid in digestive function. It can be ground onto salads, meats or stews, juiced in green juice or smoothies, and brewed in hot teas. Powdered, dry ginger also can be found, and although it is pungent in taste, using it mildly will provide you will the superfood health benefits.

Ginger stimulates digestive secretions such as bile from the gall bladder and liver as well as hydrochloric acid from the stomach. For this reason, it is a useful ingredient to add to your largest meal of the day. You can find pickled ginger in prepackaged sushi packs from grocery stores.

Therapeutic Cancer Treatment Properties

In addition to chemotherapy, radiotherapy is a cancer treatment method used to destroy cancer cells using ionizing radiation. Unfortunately, the primary use of radiotherapy to treat cancer cells is also toxic to normal tissue and healthy cells.

For this reason, natural compounds can be used to protect non-tumor cells against the destructive effects of conventional cancer treatment. The plant compounds of ginger provide radio-protective effects to healthy tissue without resulting in additional toxicity concerns to patients. (11)

Gastrointestinal Cancer

One of the most common cancers around the world affects the digestive system and is gastrointestinal cancer. Natural sources of chemotherapeutic agents, such as ginger, have been analyzed more recently as a more cost effective and safer approach at treating this form of cancer.

Primarily affecting the digestive system, ginger serves several more duties in addition to stimulating digestion. The active compounds 6-gingerol and 6-shogaol exhibit anticancer properties against the gastrointestinal tract and can treat a number of infections. Part of this activity is attributed to the ability of these two components to improve signaling molecules that induce inflammation, suppress apoptotic (cell death) activity of cancer cells and stimulate cancer growth. (12)

Other compounds in ginger such as zingerone and paradols provide chemopreventive activity which prevents and slows the progression of tumor growth in the following ways: (13)

  • Scavenge free radicals
  • Stimulate antioxidant pathways
  • Increase affinity of antioxidants to cancer inducing compounds
  • Modulate gene expression
  • Induce apoptosis of cancer cells

Liver Cancer

Amongst digestive system problems, cancer of the liver is the most common type and also has the highest rate of mortality. Mounting evidence suggests that the dietary components of ginger can prevent and suppress the progression of liver cancer by: (14)

  • Inhibiting tumor cell growth
  • Suppress metastasis
  • Provide protection from carcinogenic agents in the liver
  • Support a natural immune response
  • Inhibit inflammation
  • Enhance chemotherapeutic drugs

Multiple pathways involving cell signaling are influenced by ginger’s active ingredients. Studies show that ginger is capable of reducing proteins associated with the deterioration of healthy cellular components such as the enzyme MMP-9. Furthermore, ginger increases the generation of the protein TIMP-1 responsible for decreasing MMP-9 activity. Ginger extract effectively suppresses inflammation of the liver tissue and provids protection against cancer by promoting a free radical scavenger system known as ROS (reactive oxygen species). This results in increased apoptosis in drug resistance liver cancer cells. [14]

Lung and Cervical Cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSLC) may be most associated with carcinogens found in cigarette smoke but also affects individuals who have never smoked.  This form of cancer is not readily treated using conventional chemotherapeutic mechanisms and patients are typically expected to undergo surgery.

Ginger extract has been shown to provide anti-cancer activity against both NSLC and cervical epithelial cancer. A 2010 study reveals that the aqueous extract directly disrupts cancer cell structures. Results of the study show that the polyphenols of ginger have the ability to inhibit cell division of cancer cells and increase gene p53 responsible for suppressing tumors. (15)

Homemade Ginger Ale Recipe

A health tonic produced by Europeans many years ago was a ginger ale believed to offer a wide variety of benefits to treat health ailments. However, ginger ale took on a different meaning at the turn of the 20th century when sugar and artificial flavorings were added to this once healthy beverage. Traditional European ginger ale was a fermented ginger tea. Ginger’s full nutrient properties are activated during the fermentation process and results in a probiotic and enzyme rich digestive tonic.

This de-inflaming recipe utilizes coconut water, which is low in sugar and high in electrolytes. The sugar source found in the coconut water, fructose, provides a beneficial food source for healthy microbes in the gut. The fructose is metabolized to produce organic acids and B vitamins that give this beverage a natural effervescence and unique flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp coconut water kefir (as a fermentation starter)
  • 1-2 cups coconut water
  • 2-4 oz fresh grated ginger or organic ginger powder

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients together.
  2. Allow to sit and ferment for 24 hours at room temperature to release the full health potential of this soda alternative.
  3. After 24 hours, open it up to observe for natural effervescence (carbonation). This is a sign that it is fermented well.  It should taste slightly sour.  If extremely sour than discard and try again.  If it is slightly sour and effervescence is present upon opening, than store in the refrigerator and drink within 3 days.

Inner Eco is a brand of coconut water kefir starter that you can find at many health food stores.