Ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome is a wonderful cooking spice as well as a benefical herb. Known in Sanskrit as vishwabhesaj or “universal medicine,” this spicy-sweet rhizome certainly lives up to its nickname (1).
Ginger has a sweet and pungent initial taste (rasa), a heating energy, and the post-digestive effect (vipaka) varies slightly. This depends on whether you use the dried or fresh spice. Dry ginger is pungent and purifying and thus suited for Kapha dosha. The fresh rhizome is nourishing (sweet vipaka), so better for Vata dosha (1).
Ginger Ayurveda Properties and Benefits
As mentioned earlier, ginger is quite versatile and is a common ingredient in many Ayurvedic formulas. Ginger rhizome’s health benefits are wide-ranging, making it a useful supplement for many. It is also a wonderful cooking spice in baked goods, stir fries, and of course is a staple in masala chai! Here are some of the better-known ginger Ayurveda properties and health benefits.
Supports Agni and Digestion
Above all, ginger is known for its ability to support agni (digestive power), and ease digestive ailments. Specifically, ginger stimulates appetite and calms bloating, flatulence, constipation, diarrhea, and indigestion. One digestive problem that ginger is especially effective at treating is nausea. Specifically, studies indicate it’s particularly good at reducing pregnancy-related nausea and nausea resulting from chemotherapy and surgery. In fact, ginger may suppress the vomit center in the brain!
In Ayurveda, a balanced agni is tied to vibrant health. Many other health factors also benefit when the digestive power is strong, including the immune system.
Reduces Inflammation and Pain
Numerous studies have shown ginger rhizome has natural anti-inflammatory properties, which may balance a range of conditions. In some studies, ginger rhizome has been shown to reduce soreness resulting from intense exercise. Other studies have indicated it can reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis.
According to studies, people who take ginger rhizome to treat osteoarthritis typically need less medication than those who do not.
Good for the Heart
According to one study, participants who took ginger on a regular basis for a period of 12 weeks experienced an average drop of 28% in the ApoB/ApoA-I ratio. They also experienced an average reduction of 23% in oxidized lipoproteins. Because these are both risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, researchers believe this indicates ginger rhizome helps guard against it.
These are by no means all of ginger rhizome’s health benefits. There’s also evidence to indicate it reduces cholesterol levels, soothes menstrual pain, and may even aid in the prevention of some cancers.
Essential Facts about Ginger Rhizome
- Botanical: Zingiber officinale
- Sanskrit: Vishwabheshaj or vishwaaushadha, meaning “universal medicine”
- Hindi: Adarakh (fresh) and Sounth (dry)
- English: Ginger
- Rasa (taste): Pungent, sweet
- Guna (qualities): Heavy, dry, piercing
- Virya (action): Warming
- Vipaka (post-digestive effect): Sweet (fresh), Pungent (dried)
- Dosha (constitution): Pacifies Kapha and Vata
Ginger is native to Asia, but it is cultivated throughout world in tropical regions.
Ginger is a perennial plant that grows up to 3-4 feet. It produces pink and white flowers in a cluster. Ginger rhizomes vary in color and can be yellow, white and red with light brownish skin.
The rhizome, or horizontal, underground stem.
Ginger contains gingerols, a-curumene, citral, D- camphene, geraniol, zingiberenes, and zingerone among other compounds.
Ginger Rhizome – Usage and Dosage
An easy way to enjoy ginger rhizome’s health benefits is to start using it in your cooking. Ginger enhances the flavor of most dishes. Also, consider consuming Chyawanprash daily. Chyawaprash contains ginger as well as a variety of other botanicals and spices that support health and reduce disease.
Ginger is indeed a “universal medicine,” offering a variety of benefits to your health and flavor to your cooking.
(1) Dass, V. (2013). Ayurvedic herbology: East & West. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.
Reviewed by Dr. Jayant Lokhande, MD (Botanical Drugs), MBA (Biotechnology)