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The Science Behind Ginger

The Science Behind Ginger

Today, we’re going to shine a spotlight on one of nature's most remarkable, relevant, and healing ingredients: ginger. My goal is to help expand your understanding of the science behind this powerful, time-tested herb.

In this post, we’ll explore the long history of ginger, particularly from my lens as a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner. You’ll find that from its centuries-old use in traditional medicine to its modern-day scientific validation, ginger offers a wealth of evidence-based benefits for digestive health, inflammation management, immune support, and beyond!

Join me as we explore the therapeutic potential of ginger and connect with why it can be a powerful player in your daily wellness and health creation regimen.

The Traditional Background and Significance of Ginger

Ginger is a widely recognized root known for its spicy, warming properties. It has been widely used as a food and a key therapeutic herb for thousands of years, especially in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine.

To share an example of some basic Chinese medicine principles, our digestion is best supported when it’s warm - almost like our digestive fire that we tend to. It dislikes foods and substances with a “cold” energy, which can slow digestive ability, and it prefers warmth, which supports a strong digestive vitality.

Ginger’s distinct warming properties certainly informed its traditional medicinal uses. It powerfully boosts the warming energy of digestion from a traditional lens. When we fast forward to contemporary research, these same warming properties are likely the result of the many active compounds within ginger that are anti-microbial, support the metabolism, and promote gut health.

Ginger comes in many different forms as well - fresh, dried, pickled, powdered, extracted, and more! Each of these forms has distinct therapeutic properties according to traditional medicine systems based on their potency and preparation.

When I share stories about the therapeutic uses of ginger with patients, I love to shed light on a practical example in nutrition. Have you ever eaten sushi and wondered why it’s served with pickled ginger? Well, the pairing is actually founded in these traditional nutrition principles. Sushi, or raw fish in general, has a particularly cold energy. Remember, this can disrupt our digestive energy, which prefers to operate in a warm environment. As so, sushi is paired with the hot, warming properties of ginger to offset its extremely cold properties.

This is just one of the principles that underlies Chinese nutrition therapy, but can be applied to anything we eat or drink. This includes medications, herbs, beverages, and virtually anything we introduce to our guts! Pretty cool, huh?

Key Scientific Understanding of Ginger

Now, let’s look at ginger through a more contemporary lens to explore how its traditional uses translate into our current language of scientific research. Ginger boasts many potent, active compounds that have demonstrated many therapeutic and healing uses.

When we look at all of the components of ginger under a microscope, we find that most of the benefits lie in compounds known as phenols such as gingerols and quercetin and the essential oil which contains many terpenes. Not to get lost in the chemistry, but all of these are compounds that exert some kind of chemical effect when we consume them!

There are also complex sugars, healthy fats, and fibers within ginger that have some benefits such as acting as prebiotics and decreasing inflammation. But for the purpose of this exploration we’ll focus on the phenols and terpenes as the chemicals that are responsible for most of the therapeutic benefits of ginger. These natural compounds have applications in digestive health and combatting some of the processes that contribute to chronic disease as we’ll explore in the next section!

The Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Ginger

In this section, we’ll explore the many ways that the active phenols and terpenes within ginger can be applied to real-world disease and dysfunction states. Each of these potential health benefits is backed up by contemporary research that is included, so feel free to dive into any of your most intriguing or applicable topics!

I always believe that it’s important to note that research is an amazing, powerful tool, but it’s not the only tool. There is a good amount of research on ginger with a variety of design quality, which is a common situation when complementary and alternative therapies are researched.

Here are some of the potential evidence-based health benefits of ginger:

As you can see, the potential benefits of ginger are widespread and are most commonly used in the areas of digestive health, managing inflammation, and improving the metabolism.

Tips for Using and Choosing Ginger

To reap the health benefits of ginger, it’s important to consume it regularly and in ideal amounts whether in your diet or in supplemental form. Of course, it also works well as a part of a well-rounded nutrition plan to affect overall health. Here are a few tips to consider when adding ginger to your diet or considering supplementation.

  • First, start by incorporating ginger into your diet. I always recommend food-first techniques that can become incremental parts of creating a healthful life!
  • Begin your morning with fresh ginger tea, make blended ginger salad dressings, or use the dried spice in savory dishes of all kinds.
  • If choosing to supplement with ginger extracts for a health goal, consult with a holistic healthcare professional to make sure you get an appropriate dose and quality form.
  • Consider a daily supplement from a quality company, such as Cielo’s Horizon and Golden Hour supplements that are certified Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
  • If you’re able and available, source your ginger from your local farmers market or consider growing your own at home! It’s great to have ginger alive and on hand for whenever you feel inspired to use it!

Conclusion

As you can see, ginger is a botanical powerhouse that has been revered for its healing properties across millennia.

We explored ginger’s rich history in traditional medicine, where its warming nature has long been harnessed to support digestive vitality and overall health. Modern research further validates these benefits, attributing them to ginger's potent compounds like gingerols and terpenes, which contribute to its many therapeutic properties.

Whether fresh, dried, or in supplemental form, ginger offers a myriad of options to suit every preference and lifestyle to incorporate into your daily wellness routine. Whether you're looking to ease inflammation, support digestion, or enhance your metabolism, ginger might be a great food-first tool!

Stay connected for more wellness insights and holistic health content. Explore Cielo’s blog and connect with Cielo or Dr. Kenny on social media! We will regularly explore the latest research and share practical tips for boosting your wellness journey to health and vitality!

About the Author

Dr. Kenny Mittelstadt, DACM, DC, L.Ac., Dipl.OM.

Kenny Mittelstadt is a functional health practitioner and acupuncturist based in San Antonio, Texas. He is trained through the Institute for Functional Medicine and received both of his doctorate degrees with highest honors from Southern California University of Health Sciences. He focuses on empowering patients through wellness education and root-cause healing – transforming health through personalized, lab-based functional medicine programs!

Website: DrKennyMittelstadt.com

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