Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has been used for thousands of years as a culinary and medicinal spice. A member of the plant family, it includes cardamom and turmeric, along with other plant nutrients that offer a variety of medicinal uses.

The ginger root or rhizome (underground stem) is what is primarily used. While many medicinal uses of ginger have been handed down for generations, one of the main plant compounds studied for health benefits is gingerols. At least 31 gingerol-related compounds have been identified in the ginger root. Ginger root also contains moderate amounts of vitamin B6, potassium and magnesium.

The research on ginger indicates high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that might help prevent and suppress cancer growth in a variety of cancers. Ginger also can help decrease the risk of heart disease, aid in treatment of asthma and might help with blood sugar control in people with diabetes.

Ginger is a wonderful digestive tonic to help relieve nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, pregnancy and motion sickness as well as other digestive ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and good ol’ stomach aches. This amazing root is also indicated to help relieve pain from arthritis, muscle soreness from exercise and menstrual pain.

One of the easiest and best ways to use ginger is by using the root. The root is usually found in the produce section of most grocery stores. Look for a root with smooth skin and a spicy scent. Ginger root can be ground, powdered, crystallized, candied or pickled.

The flavor is a little peppery with some sweetness, with a strong and spicy smell. The root can be easily peeled and then grated or sliced. It is very versatile and can be chewed raw, added to smoothies, stir fries and salad dressings or steeped in a tea. The powder can be used in meat or veggie dishes and pairs well with pork, chicken, seafood, orange, apples, melons and pumpkin.

If using it for nausea, sip some tea (hot or cold) or suck on the raw (peeled) ginger root. If you purchase ginger candy or chews, make sure they contain real ginger. Ginger is an effective and delicious alternative for a variety of ailments!

Ginger Tea

This is wonderful to sip on for nausea or just because you like it!

Ingredients:

>> ¼ cup peeled sliced or chopped ginger.

>> 4 cups water (32 ounces).

>> 1-2 tablespoons honey, if desired.

>> ¼ cup lemon juice (½ squeezed lemon) if desired.

Instructions:

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil, add ginger, cover and turn down to low heat and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. Take off cover and add honey, stirring until blended. Strain into a pitcher, add lemon and serve hot or over ice.

Ginger Stir Fry

Ingredients:

For the sauce. …

>> ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce or tamari

>> 1 tablespoon rice vinegar

>> 1 tablespoon honey or pure maple syrup

>> ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste

>> 2 garlic cloves, minced

>> 1 tablespoon ginger root, grated

>> 2 teaspoons cornstarch

Whisk all ingredients together and set aside.

For the stir fry. …

>> 2 tablespoons olive oil or veggie broth.

>> 1 medium red onion, chopped.

>> 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped into 1-inch cubes.

>> 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, then sliced.

>> 8 ounces fresh green beans, halved (about 2½ cups).

>> 1½ to 2 cups cooked and chopped protein of choice. The protein can be cooked chicken, seafood, chickpeas, tofu or tempeh.

>> ½ cup raw walnuts, chopped.

>> Cooked brown rice or quinoa, for serving.

Instructions:

Add the oil or veggie broth to a large skillet set on medium heat. When hot, add in the onion and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until it starts to soften. Add in the pepper, zucchini and green beans and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until tender. Add in protein of choice, the walnuts and sauce (give it a quick whisk first). Continue to cook for approximately 1 minute, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and serve over rice or quinoa or by itself.

This article was inspired by and dedicated to a dear friend who has cancer and has seen benefits with ginger tea! For more information on adopting healthier lifestyle changes, contact Kitty Finklea, lifestyle coach, registered dietitian and personal trainer at McLeod Health and Fitness Center, 843-777-3000.