Even though it is not technically a vegetable, this weeks featured ingredient is truly amazing - and hopefully I can have you all convinced that ginger should be a daily part of our diet. Ginger, or Zingiber officianalis, is a plant that was first cultivated in South Asia, and it has a long history of medicinal use in both Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine. In these ancient systems of medicine, ginger root is classified as a warm & pungent herb – very useful for stimulating the immune system, strengthening digestive "fire" or "agni", and clearing stagnant energy (which manifests as everything from congestion to fibroids, cold limbs and fatigue).

In Chinese Medicine, ginger is a very important remedy at the first sign of a cold or flu; as it helps to dispel the pathogen but also gently stimulates a mild fever – our best natural immune defense. Ginger is also very helpful, particularly with the flu, as it is an anti-emetic; it decreases nausea and vomiting.  Compounds in Ginger have been studied as anti-nauseants, and demonstrated to be highly effective in the treatment of motion sickness, pregnancy-induced nausea, and post-chemotherapy illness.

The medicinal compounds in Ginger, aptly named gingerols, are thought to act in the digestive tract by binding to serotonin receptors. Low serotonin levels in the digestive tract (interestingly enough about 90% of the serotonin in our entire body, brain included, is formed in the gut) has been linked to the development of conditions like IBS, fibromyalgia, and other mood disorders. In any case, it is this function that makes ginger such a valued digestive remedy. I recommend it in both food and supplemental form for many digestive ailments – both acute and chronic.

Gingerols are also being researched for their anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, and studies show that these effects are due to the reduction of inflammatory prostaglandins and free radicals such as nitric oxide – both of which are increased in a wide range of conditions; arthritis, auto-immune disease, endometriosis, menstrual cramps and pre-cancerous growth in the colon and ovaries. Although much of the research is still preliminary, I have no doubt that consuming ginger regularly as part of a healthy diet, is a factor in the prevention of such health concerns.

Some of my top tips for getting fresh ginger-root into your daily routine:

  • -add some freshly sliced ginger to your water bottle, drink it cold or warm as preferred
  • -try some sliced ginger in your next green smoothie or homemade juice – it adds a subtle spice that is both unexpected and delicious!
  • -Try minced ginger in your marinades, salad dressings and homemade broths for extra flavour and loads of health benefits.
  • -Fresh ginger root can be stored in the fridge whole, or try freezing your sliced/minced ginger so that you always have some on-hand.

Bronwyn Hill, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor & food lover. She is currently in practice in Toronto's Forest Hill Neighbourhood, at Mahaya Forest Hill Integrative Health. She specializes in using food as medicine, acupuncture & traditional chinese medicine & botanicals; and has particular experience treating digestive concerns, women's health concerns including menopause, stress management, insomnia, healthy detoxification, and chronic respiratory conditions including asthma. She can be reached at bhillnd@gmail.com . Follow her on Twitter @drbronwynnd.