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Ginger has long been employed by folk medicine to treat diarrhea, flatulence, indigestion, and loss of appetite. In Ayurvedic medicine, ginger is called vishwabhesaj, “The Universal Medicine.” Ginger contains a volatile oil and other compounds which act as digestive stimulants to encourage the production of digestive fluids and saliva. Thus, ginger helps reduce the symptoms of improper chewing, overeating, or excessive motion by enabling digestion to be more effective. Ginger also neutralizes acids and toxins in the digestive tract which reduces gas and pain in the bowel.

Ginger has been found helpful for expelling phlegm and is used to treat asthma, bronchitis, colds, coughs and respiratory congestion. Ginger also induces perspiration, making it useful in the treatment of fevers, including malaria.

Ginger has been shown to reduce inflammation by acting as a prostaglandin inhibitor, in much the same way as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work. Studies show ginger relaxes muscle spasms and relieves pain and inflammation associated with rheumatic conditions.

A study published in Lancet showed ginger was an effective natural remedy for motion sickness. Two capsules of ginger taken 20-25 minutes before airflight or before embarking on a ship, followed by two capsules every 4 hours, was proven to work better than 100mg of dimenhydrinate (dramamine). Ginger has also been clinically proven to substantially reduce diarrhea, nausea and vomiting associated with the common 24-hour and three-day flus. Clinical trials conducted at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London in 1990, verified ginger’s effectiveness in treating postoperative nausea. In fact, ginger proved to work better than conventional medications. Of course, ginger is also a well-known remedy for morning sickness and may provide relief from nausea following chemotherapy treatments.

Studies have found ginger produces a strong stimulating effect on muscular contractions of the heart, validating ginger’s use for improving overall circulation. Ginger also helps lower serum cholesterol levels, again assisting circulatory improvement. Researchers have determined that ginger significantly reduces platelet aggregation—the tendency of blood cells to stick together or clot—which may help in the prevention of heart attacks.

Scientists have also confirmed ginger’s antimicrobial properties which are known to fight both bacteria and parasites, including flukes, roundworms and tapeworms. A trial study in China found 70% of patients with bacillary dysentery made a full recovery when given ginger. Ginger is also known to fight intestinal infections, including certain types of food poisoning.

According to Chinese medicine, ginger focuses its warming properties downward, toward the lower extremities, including the colon, kidneys, legs, ovaries, prostate and vagina. Ginger is often recommended to women with amenorrhea, menorrhagia and menstrual cramps.

Ginger is regarded by some herbalists as an aphrodisiac and tonic.

Many of ginger’s therapeutic properties are due to the presence of a volatile oil and its oleoresin content. In fact, gingerol, a type of oleoresin, is largely responsible for ginger’s hot or spicy taste, as well as the herb’s stimulating effects. Ginger contains vitamins B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid) and B9 (folic acid), as well as high amounts of the minerals magnesium, manganese, potassium and silicon.

Used topically, ginger cools the heat of inflamed, painful and stiff joints. Ginger increases circulation and reduces arthritis and rheumatism by means of detoxifying the blood. Ginger has even been used to treat headaches and toothaches. Two to three tablespoons of ginger added to hot bath water helps to relax muscles and ease body aches and pain. Putting the ginger in a large tea bag keeps the water free from floating particles of ginger. The Chinese also employ an oil extract of ginger in massage therapy for helping dandruff and earaches.

Dried ginger is more heating than fresh ginger; therefore, Chinese herbalists do not recommend it for those with “excessive heat” such as inflammatory skin conditions, peptic ulcers or other gastrointestinal inflammation, such as is associated with colitis, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome.

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