Ginger or ginger root is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale, consumed as a delicacy, medicine, or spice. It lends its name to its genus and family (Zingiberaceae). Other notable members of this plant family are turmeric, cardamom, and galangal.
Ginger cultivation began in South Asia and has since spread to East Africa and the Caribbean. Ginger oil has been shown to prevent skin cancer in mice and a study at the University of Michigan demonstrated that gingerols (-gingerol) can kill ovarian cancer cells. Ginger can also heal inflammation.
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). Ginger does not cause stomach irritation; instead it helps protect and heal the gut. Ginger also treats a broader range of the inflammatory problem because it affects both the COX and the LOX enzymes. And because it doesn’t shut down the inflammatory process entirely, ginger may actually allow it to work properly and then turn itself off, the way it does with an injury.
Besides reducing inflammation, ginger has many other benefits. It helps relieve nausea, destroys a host of viruses, and in some laboratory studies has shown promise as an anticancer agent. Health care professionals may recommend ginger to help prevent or treat nausea and vomiting from motion sickness, pregnancy, and cancer chemotherapy. It is also used to treat mild stomach upset, to reduce pain of osteoarthritis, and may even be used in heart disease. Ginger extract is not widely known as a solution for hair loss, but it has properties to improve blood circulation in the scalp, which may protect the hair from falling off.