Ginger is one of the most widely used herbs today, not just in India, but across the world. While a large part of this global popularity owes to its distinctive flavor, ginger has long held a position of importance in Ayurveda’s herbal chest. It remains an essential ingredient in various herbal formulations, often described as ‘the universal medicine’. Ayurvedic texts offer astute observations not just on the qualities of ginger, but also on its interactions with the doshas. Recommendations for the Ayurvedic uses of ginger are therefore well thought out and based on knowledge accumulated over millennia. Rather than looking at the broader implications or dosha-specific recommendations, we’ll look at specific uses of ginger in the treatment and prevention of various health conditions.
Top 10 Ayurvedic Uses of Ginger
Because of its heating properties, ginger is best known in Ayurveda as a digestive aid that can help treat a variety of gastrointestinal disorders. This is because it strengthens your natural digestive fire or agni. These Ayurvedic recommendations are now supported by modern research, which points to ginger’s ability to improve gastric motility, among other gastro-protective effects.
- Nausea & Appetite Loss
Often prescribed by Ayurvedic physicians to treat morning sickness and motion sickness, ginger has been proven as an effective natural treatment for nausea. As a natural antiemetic that reduces nausea and vomiting, ginger is regarded as a safe alternative to OTC medications, especially during pregnancy. These properties also make ginger a useful aid to restrict the side effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients.
Although best known for its gastrointestinal health benefits, ginger has a lot more to offer. The root is also used to treat headaches and migraines in Ayurvedic practice, providing quick relief. This benefit is explained by the presence of naturally occurring compounds in ginger oil, called gingerols and shogaols. Aside from their pain relieving effects, studies show that ginger extracts also increase levels of serotonin, which could help reduce inflammation and migraines.
Ginger is an important ingredient in a number of Ayurvedic medications and herbal remedies because of its strengthening effect on immune function. Not only does ginger bolster immunity, but it also lowers the risk of infections through its antimicrobial activity. These benefits have been clearly observed in studies that show it to be helpful in the treatment of bacteria that cause gastrointestinal, oral, and respiratory infections.
- Chronic Pain
Ginger root is also widely used in Ayurvedic formulations for pain relief, which makes sense considering its anti-inflammatory properties. However, it’s efficacy as a natural pain treatment is much greater than most of us realize. Research has shown ginger to be effective at reducing both chronic and acute pain, whether caused by exercise, menstruation, or arthritic diseases.
- Respiratory Health
From the common cold and flu to more serious conditions like tuberculosis and emphysema, respiratory diseases are pervasive today, becoming increasingly common as a result of rising air pollution levels and drug resistant bacteria. Ginger can be used to support healthy respiratory function in its raw form, as a juice, or in herbal teas. Steam with ginger oil may also help reduce congestion in the nasal and sinus passages. Its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects also aid recovery.
- Cardiac Health
Ginger is an important ingredient in Ayurvedic treatments for heart disease because of its anti-hyperlipidemic profile. This means that it helps to regulate lipid levels, keeping LDL lipoproteins or ‘bad’ cholesterol in check, protecting against heart disease. The efficacy of ginger for heart health is supported by research, with one study showing that daily ingestion of just 3 gm of ginger powder improved cholesterol profiles in 45 days.
- Diabetes Protection
Patients at risk of or suffering from diabetes can also benefit from the use of ginger. Intake of the root’s juice or powder is believed to lower levels of ama or toxins in the body, while improving insulin metabolism. With a study finding that ingestion of just 2 gm of ginger powder daily could lower blood sugar levels by 10%, ginger is now attracting increased interest for its anti-diabetic properties.
- Cancer Protection & Chemoprotective
Although long advocated by Ayurvedic experts as therapeutic for lifestyle diseases like cancer, the scope of ginger is only now being appreciated. Ginger is already recommended as a complimentary treatment to reduce chemotherapy side effects such as nausea and vomiting. Now, studies suggest that gingerols in the root may also have anti-cancer properties.
- Brain Health
Degenerative brain disease in which you suffer from memory loss and behavioral problems is perhaps the most dreaded risk as we age, but it’s hard to treat and irreversible. However, the risk of conditions like Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline with age can be reduced with the antioxidant action of ginger compounds, as they inhibit inflammatory responses.
While modern science looks to gather more research data for precise dosage recommendations, you can try using Ayurvedic medications based on age old formulas. After all, the evidence for their efficacy keeps growing each day.
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