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GINGER, the fire that heals

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In recent years, interest in ginger and its various components as valuable preventive or therapeutic agents has increased significantly, and scientific studies focused on verifying the pharmacological and physiological effects of ginger have also increased.

HISTORY AND ORIGIN OF GINGER

Ginger is a member of a family of plants that also includes cardamom and turmeric. Its spicy aroma is mainly due to the presence of organic compounds, especially gingerols, which seem to be its main component, studied today in many of the scientific health researches. The rhizome, which is the horizontal stem from which the roots grow, is the part of ginger that is mainly consumed.

The Sanskrit name of this spice, srngaveram "horn root," dates back more than 3,000 years, but Indians and Chinese are believed to have used ginger as a tonic root for more than 5,000 years as a healing remedy for many ailments. India is the largest producer of it.

Ginger has been used as a flavoring agent since long before the story was formally recorded.

USE, PREPARATION AND PROCESSING

Ginger is used in numerous forms, including fresh, dried, pickled, preserved, crystallized, candied, and powdered or ground. The flavor is peppery and slightly sweet, with a strong, spicy aroma. The concentration of its essential oil increases as the root ages and therefore, depending on the intended use of the rhizome, the time of its harvesting is determined.

For example if oil extraction is the main purpose, then ginger can be harvested at 9 months or more. It will have a tough skin that will need to be removed and the root will be more pungent and can be used dried or pulverized into ground ginger.

Ginger harvested at 5 months, on the other hand, is not yet ripe and will instead have a very thin skin, the rhizomes will be tender with a delicate flavor and best used in fresh or preserved forms.

BIOACTIVE COMPONENTS OF GINGER

At least 115 constituents, in both fresh and dry ginger varieties, have been identified in this very special spice. In particular, gingerols, the component with which great beneficial and curative qualities have been associated, are the main constituents of fresh ginger and are found slightly reduced in dry ginger, while a higher concentration of shagaols, a component with anti-cancer qualities, has been found in dry ginger.

Approximately 31 gingerol-related compounds have been found in the ginger rhizome and at least 14 bioactive components.

HEALTH EFFECTS: THE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

Ginger is believed to exert a variety of powerful therapeutic and preventative effects and has been used for thousands of years to treat hundreds of ailments, from colds to cancer. Like many medicinal herbs, much of the information has been passed down orally with little controlled scientific evidence to support the many claims.

However, in recent years, specific scientific investigations have focused on studying the effects of ginger and its various healthful components, proving ginger's actual effectiveness as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory agent, anti-nausea compound and anti-cancer agent, as well as a preventive and protective agent against other disease conditions, precisely because of its antioxidant qualities that counteract, decrease and suppress markers of oxidative stress related to age, disease or unhealthy diet (including the use or abuse of alchool).

In addition, ginger metabolites appear to accumulate in the gastrointestinal tract with surprising effects in this area, including being an excellent friend in colon cancer prevention.

This spice so peculiar to the eye seems to contain endless possibilities, whose daily use does not even demonstrate from the scientific point of view, contraindications.

Make ginger part of your diet, introducing it either as a condiment to your dishes, but also as an herbal tea, or refreshing drink. You won't regret it.

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