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Top 15 Healing Properties of the Ginger Family (and Some Side Effects)
Do you have any idea just how amazing the ginger family plants are for your health?
Ginger itself is already a rockstar’—known for curing sore throats, decreasing inflammation, and alleviating joint pain—but there are a number of other truly amazing plants in the ginger family.
In fact, some of the best natural ingredients for a healthy you come from the ginger family!
Read on to find out everything you need to know about this amazing plant family and how it can make your life so much better…
What You Need to Know About the Ginger Family
The ginger family, also known by the scientific name Zingiberaceae, is a plant family with roughly 50 genera and around 1600 known species of herbs. These plants include some well-known herbs, along with a number that most of us aren’t too familiar with.
The best-known plants in the ginger family are:
- Ginger (zingiber)
- Turmeric (curcuma)
- Cardamom and Ethiopian (or false) cardamom
- Grains of paradise
- Thai ginger
- Japanese (myoga) ginger
Found chiefly in the pantropical regions of the Americas, Asia, and Africa, the plants in the ginger family are truly diverse and offer an incredibly wide range of uses. Many are used for their essential oils, as well as their highly aromatic properties. However, it’s the nutritional value of some specific plants that really make the ginger family so spectacular!
Science-Backed Benefits of the Ginger Family
Let’s take a look at some of the things that make the ginger family so amazing:
Reduces Oxidative Stress – Ginger is known to reduce oxidative stress and protect the body from damage by free radicals. Gingerol, one of the potent antioxidants in ginger, has very powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that can decrease oxidative damage in your body and thereby protect your cells.
Fight Nausea – Ginger is one of the best natural anti-nausea treatments on the planet! Not only can it help to deal with pregnancy-related nausea, but it can also reduce post-surgery nausea and nausea caused by chemotherapy.
Aid in Weight Loss – Ginger is a truly amazing weight loss remedy, thanks to its ability to reduce body mass index and manage blood sugar levels. Studies have indicated that taking ginger supplements can have a positive effect on the fat cells in your body, and can lead to weight loss. But that’s not the only ginger family plant that can be used for weight loss! Grains of paradise can also contribute by helping to burn body fat.
Help Treat Osteoarthritis – Ginger contains marvelous anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it a potentially very effective treatment for osteoarthritis-induced joint pain and swelling. The anti-inflammatory properties help to combat the swelling, and the painkilling effects of the ginger will reduce the discomfort in your joints.
Alleviate Chronic Indigestion – Ginger can help to alleviate indigestion, both acute and chronic. Not only does it help to improve digestion and speed up stomach emptying, but it can decrease inflammation in the stomach and stomach lining that may be contributing factors to the problem.
Anti-Diabetic – One study found that taking ginger powder every day for even a short period of time led to a 12% decrease in fasting blood sugar. Not only that, but the participants also saw a drastic decrease in the levels of a specific blood marker that indicated long-term high blood sugar levels.
Lower Cholesterol Levels – Ginger can have a direct and positive effect on your LDL cholesterol levels, leading to a noticeable drop in serum cholesterol. Cardamon, too, may be able to help lower both cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Fight Cancer – Ginger is loaded with an antioxidant compound called 6-gingerol, which has been proven to decrease inflammation linked to cancer cells and a potent eliminator of the free radicals linked to various types of cancer. Turmeric, too, can help to fight cancer, thanks to its ability to combat inflammation. Cardamom contains high quantities of certain important enzymes that not only help to fight cancer, but encourage the body’s own killer cells to attack cancer cells.
Support Learning and Memory – Myoga ginger is known to effect nerve growth factor (NGF), a neurotrophin that is known to play a role in synaptic plasticity. This can enhance both learning and memory in humans.
Boost Male Fertility – Galangal root has been found potentially effective for improving male fertility, both sperm motility and count. Animal studies discovered that feeding rats galangal (combined with pomegranate) led to improvements in their sperm count and motility.
Fight Infections – Galangal root contains potent anti-bacterial properties that not only make it a useful preservative, but effective at fighting off infections. One study found that it was capable of killing off multiple types of bacteria—including E. coli and Salmonella—as well as protect against yeast, parasites, and fungi.
Anti-Inflammatory – Turmeric contains curcumin, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory so powerful it works on par with many over the counter medications. It effectively blocks the molecules that trigger inflammation-related genes in your cells, thereby stopping inflammation at a cellular level. Cardamom, too, contains a number of antioxidants that can prevent inflammation and protect your body from damage caused by the inflammation.
Improve Brain Function – The curcumin in turmeric helps your brain to produce more Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a neurochemical that is linked to better brain function and the production of new brain neuron connections. Not only can this help to improve memory, but it may decrease the risk of age-related brain decline and neurodegenerative diseases.
Reduce Stomach Ulcers – Studies have shown that cardamom contains special properties that help to protect the stomach and decrease ulcers. In fact, combining cardamom with turmeric in one study led to a noticeable decrease in stomach ulcers forming after taking high doses of aspirin, one of the common triggers. The anti-bacterial properties of cardamom may also protect your stomach from the H pylori bacteria that cause ulcers.
Aid in Respiration – Cardamom is used in aromatherapy to amazing effect! One study found that inhaling cardamom essential oil just one minute before doing exercise led to “significantly higher” oxygen uptake than the control group. Not only can it help to increase oxygen uptake, but it can decrease inflammation that might constrict your airways.
Side Effects of the Ginger Family
Of course, as with any herbal remedy, the ginger family is known to have a few side effects:
Ginger is known to trigger mild heartburn, stomach discomfort, and diarrhea . Pregnant women taking ginger have also noticed increased menstrual bleeding.
Turmeric causes only mild side effects, including diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, and stomach upset. It can also worsen gallbladder problems, bleeding problems, diabetes, GERD, and hormone-sensitive conditions.
Cardamom is much safer, though there are potential risk factors for pregnant women, including a higher risk of miscarriage. Those suffering from gallstones should avoid excessively high cardamom intake as well, as the spice can trigger spasmodic pain called gallstone colic.
How to Incorporate Ginger Family Ingredients in Your Diet
The beauty of the ginger family is that the plants are SO easy to include in your diet! You can work the spices into your meals in all kinds of creative and delicious ways.
Ginger can be used to make ginger tea, or it can be eaten pickled on sushi as a garnish. Ginger is also a staple ingredient in a wide range of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Southeast Asian dishes.
Turmeric is a classic spice used in Indian curries and sauces, and it lends both an incredibly rich flavor and bright yellow color. You can also use it to make “golden milk”, a spicy turmeric milk drink popular in India.
Cardamom can be cooked in pod form and used as a spice to add flavor to your dish, or it can be brewed into a tea. To obtain its respiratory benefits, you can use cardamom essential oil in a diffuser to open up your airways and improve oxygen uptake.
There are no end of ways that you can get more of this amazing plant family in your diet!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure anything and may not reflect the opinion of GQ and it’s staff.