Ginger - western medicine

Ginger has a wide range of demonstrated health-giving properties, and it both stimulates the heart and settles the stomach. Over the last decade it has become a common over-the-counter herbal remedy, taken in many different forms. Its main use in the West is for motion sickness because of its anti-sickness properties.

Active compounds

Many of its actions are due to the presence of compounds in the rhizomes called oleoresins, especially those known as gingerols and shogoals. The compounds work on the muscles of the gut to improve digestion. They also help to lower blood cholesterol, treat migraines, minimise the risk of thrombosis as well as help prevent cancer.

From sickness to swellings

Ginger is often taken as a digestive aid and a cure for nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Ginger works best when treating post-operative nausea and morning sickness, although its effectiveness in treating sea- and other forms of motion sickness is still questioned by some scientists. Fresh rhizomes are said to help to reduce inflammation in conditions like osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis.

In America, ginger is frequently used as a herbal alternative to antihistamines and antidepressants. Ginger can also help reduce blood sugar levels and so help prevent the onset of diabetes. Finally, antioxidant properties are likely to contribute to slowing down aging, as well as its ability to fight cancer.

The plant's fresh juice is applied to the skin to treat burns, while the essential oil may be used for pain relief.

Safety

Ginger has been used as a food and a medicine for thousands of years and is considered a safe herbal medicine. Only occasionally have side effects such as heartburn, diarrhoea and stomach discomfort been experienced. At one time its use was not advised during pregnancy and breast-feeding but there is little scientific evidence to support this, so long as doses are controlled. The juice and oil of ginger may cause irritation if applied to the skin of people sensitive to it.

This information is provided for general interest only. It is not intended as guidance for medicinal use. Further information on using herbal medicines is available.

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