Putting to bed the idea that the ingredients which are good for us are often the least tasty, ginger is not only a festive favourite (gingerbread, anyone?) but its spicy wellbeing benefits make it the ultimate tonic to survive and thrive during the winter season.
So just what makes ginger so good for our health? Jo Webber, medical herbalist and Ayurvedic practitioner says: “In Ayurveda, ginger is called ‘the universal medicine’ because of its many health benefits. Spicy, sweet, warming and light: when using ginger, think ‘digestion, lungs, circulation’.”
In fact, ginger is recommended for your diet whether you’re a pitta, vata or kapha in Ayurveda thanks to its superfood qualities. Here’s how it could improve everything from your digestion to your ability to fight a cold…
It helps to boost digestion
OK, so this one isn't a surprise to anyone, but it's good to know it's not just an old wives' tale. “Its digestive benefits are legendary - it warms and strengthens the digestive system and increases Agni (the term used for digestive fire in Ayurveda) and the secretion of digestive enzymes,” explains Jo. “It is useful for keeping the digestive system clean by preventing mucous, flatulence, griping pains and sluggish digestion.
“It’s this exact time of year when our digestive system gets a fair bit of an overload of sweet, fatty and rich foods. I advise my patients who suffer with poor digestion, to get into the habit of drinking ginger tea before meals to help kick start natural digestive enzymes, which will help improve gut health overall and aid digestion.” Try Pukka’s Three Ginger Te a, £2.99.
It eases aches and pains
“Ginger is a natural warming anti-inflammatory and analgesic,” says says Naomi Beinart, medical herbalist, “providing relief from inflamed and painful and achy muscles – a perfect remedy to ease tired muscles after a day of Christmas shopping, post-workout, or to ease tired legs and feet after dancing at the Christmas party.” Try this winter warmer recipe from Deliciously Ella for chilli and ginger pho.
It reduces nausea
I’ve long been a fan of a ginger biscuit when feeling sick (I’d always take a packet on long car journeys as a child for travel sickness) and thankfully science backs up my theory. “Ginger has been used for centuries to combat stomach upset," Naomi tells me. "Ginger's two main active components, gingerols and shogaols, work by helping your stomach to relax so that you can comfortably release excess gas and relieve symptoms of stomach upset such as nausea.”
It fights off flu & the cold virus
“Warming spices, such as ginger, will improve peripheral circulation during a fever, encouraging diaphoresis and an increased level of perspiration – great for getting your cold moving faster.” Try Louise Parker’s Miso Giger and Edamame soup recipe to kick the sniffles sooner.
It keeps your extremities warm
“It’s an excellent circulatory stimulant, particularly for the peripheral circulation – good for getting blood flowing to those chilly hands and feet,” says Katie Pande, medical herbalist. Heat things up with Pukka’s Ginger Joy latte , £4.99.