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Get Some Ginger Into You!

flickr/MyDeliciousLife

Chances are you’ve made some dishes with ginger already this fall: from pumpkin pie to saag paneer, ginger is that special ingredient that makes everything taste warm, clean, and inviting. It can dress up pork, enliven fish, and it blends beautifully with tomato and coconut milk. But did you know it can also make you healthier?

Ginger’s health benefits are numerous, but it’s known primarily as a digestive aid. Wonder why your mother gave you ginger ale when you were sick to your stomach? That’s because ginger is an “intestinal spasmolytic,” which means it calms the intestinal tract. In studies, ginger has proven effective at reducing nausea and vomiting in people with motion sickness, pregnancy-related morning sickness, and those undergoing chemotherapy.

Ginger can also act as an anti-inflammatory:

Ginger is particularly useful in treating chronic inflammation because it partially inhibits two important enzymes that play a role in inflammation gone awry — cyclooxygenase (COX) and 5-lipoxygenase (LOX).

While anti-inflammatory drugs block COX more strongly, they don’t affect LOX at all and therefore only address part of the problem. Even worse, anti-inflammatory drugs can cause side effects, such as ulcers, because they also block the beneficial effects that COX has on the digestive tract, including protecting the stomach.

So, how do you get the most out of your ginger? The easiest answer might be just to make a tea of it. Find the best ginger you can: the root should be firm and the skin unwrinkled and unblemished. Chinese and other Asian markets usually have a large amount of fresh stock, because those cuisines make use of ginger frequently. After you find some of the fresh stuff, you can slice, grate, or blend it into a beverage with your favourite honey. Pour boiling water over the mixture, steep for a few minutes, and drink.

Here’s a recipe for Korean ginger tea: