Zingiber officinale is a spice commonly known as ginger that originated in Southeast Asia and was used by the Chinese as a medicine to treat common ailments. The spice has a high content of gingerol, which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The use of ginger was eventually spread to Mediterranean regions by traders where it was cultivated and used to flavor dishes as well as being used as a medicinal herb. The 15th-century ships carried ginger plants to new regions of the Caribbean as well as Africa, and the spice is grown in most areas of the tropics today. Ginger became quite expensive in medieval times when it was imported and used in a preserved form to flavor sweets.
Ginger root was carried on merchant ships as they traveled from one port to another. The spice was a valuable trading commodity, but it was also used by sailors to combat seasickness. Cultivation of the plant eventually spread around the world, and it was grown by Indians as a medicinal herb as well as to flavor certain dishes. Ginger root can be purchased in most grocery stores today for just a few dollars, but in the 14th century, the price was as much as the value of a live sheep.
Ginger has been used mostly for its medicinal qualities up until the past 200 years or so. The herb is classified as belonging to the Zingiberaceae family, so is related to cardomon, turmeric and galangal. The rhizome or ginger root is used fresh, dried or can be powdered for long-term use. Ginger is also available as a juice or oil, and is used primarily to flavor foods but can also be found in certain cosmetics.
While ginger has been highly valued for its medicinal and food flavoring qualities for hundreds of years, a new use for the spice has become recognized. Some people have discovered that using ginger for weight loss has helped them reach their weight loss goal and get fit and healthy. Obesity has become a serious health problem over the past few decades, and the cause is likely a diet high in fat and calories. Convenience foods that contain over-processed ingredients and empty calories are sold in grocery stores, and a busy lifestyle encourages people to purchase them.
Fast-food chains and restaurants that serve large portions are partly responsible for customers who consuming two or three times as many calories as they can burn in a single day. Some serious health conditions affecting the population can be traced to people eating foods that contain too much sugar and fat. The increasing incidence of heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, kidney disease and certain types of cancer can all be linked to the over-consumption of sugar and fatty foods. Perhaps the advice doctors give to their patients most often is that they should lose weight and get more exercise.
Weight loss has become the focus of an entire industry in the United States. Health food stores across the world sell a wide variety of supplements that are promoted as weight loss aids, and weight loss clinics are available across the nation. Individuals who want and need to lose weight will spend millions of dollars each year on various types of weight loss supplements and pills that are not effective in most cases.
Weight loss clinics are much more helpful to obese people than the various branches of the weight loss industry, but what is really needed is a complete change of lifestyle with a dietary switch to healthy, low calorie foods. In many cases of morbid obesity, weight loss surgery may be recommended, but most patients are required to lose some weight before they qualify. The surgery can be dangerous for individuals who weight over 500 pounds. Unfortunately, about 90 percent of people who undergo bariatric surgery regress to their old eating habits and regain whatever weight they were able to lose.
Health professionals nationwide agree that obesity has become a serious health problem in our current society. While there are certain prescription drugs available that will suppress hunger and lead to weight loss, some of these medications have serious side effects. A healthier and less dangerous choice could be the use of ginger for weight loss since the spice has been found to reduce feelings of hunger and increase the level of metabolism so calories are burned faster.
How Does Ginger Impact Weight Loss?
There have been 60 studies done on Ginger based on the consumption of the spice in food or drink or taken as a supplement. The findings indicate that the ancient herb may protect consumers against certain chronic diseases and obesity. Although there is not a specific recommended dosage to prevent these health issues, health experts believe that adding this spice to the diet of overweight people is smart.
Only 10 of the studies cited have been done on humans due to lack of funding, but the human studies were included in the findings. The human studies used various forms of ginger including capsules, tablets, and beverages such as tea made with powdered ginger. The scientists were still unable to determine which formulations or dosages are required for optimum results.
Metabolic syndrome is a health problem that has increased to the point that it now affects one-fourth of the worldwide population. This condition includes high-risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Historically, ginger has been used widely as a spice and has an extensive record of treating various ailments as an herbal medication. Researchers have found this is due primarily to the phytochemicals and antioxidants contained in this potent spice.
Ginger has been shown to relieve chronic indigestion or dyspepsia, a condition that causes pain due to a delay of the stomach emptying its contents. A study involving 24 healthy individuals showed taking ginger powder previous to eating alleviated this problem at a rate of 50 percent. Other important benefits of ginger include its ability to control blood sugar and serum cholesterol, and there is evidence it can reduce the cortisol levels that trigger the accumulation of belly fat.
Research indicates that ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that help to reduce muscle and joint pain. Individuals who suffer from arthritis and muscle pain typically find it difficult to be as active as they should, so they tend to live a sedentary lifestyle. Taking ginger as a supplement or in their food or drink can help them to burn more calories through exercise and a higher level of metabolism. The combination of a reduction in appetite and a higher level of energy will result in weight loss for people of any fitness level.
How to Use Ginger for Weight Loss
While ginger can be used in many ways in recipes, the specific amount consumed will vary using this method so the effect may be somewhat haphazard. Drinking ginger tea could be the most effective and enjoyable way to use ginger for weight loss. The tea can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for convenience, or it can be made fresh one cup at a time according to the individual preference. The tea should always be hot when it is used.
A simple recipe for tea made from ginger root calls for a two-inch piece of root that has been peeled and finely grated. The ginger is then added to 250 ml of boiling water and allowed to simmer 5 minutes. The water and ginger should then be strained into a cup and enjoyed with a little honey or without. The tea can also be made using one-half to one teaspoon of ginger powder using the same method.
Drinking ginger tea probably will not result in satisfactory weight loss without also eating healthier meals and being at least moderately active. However, it has been shown that ginger does curb the appetite and stimulate digestion. When using ginger tea to assist in weight loss, it is recommended to drink one cup before your meals every day. It is also important that the tea is consumed while it is still hot, but no more than 4 grams of ginger should be used in one day. Overuse of the spice could cause heartburn or an upset stomach. People who take blood-thinning medication or prescriptions to treat gallstones should not use ginger since it interferes with the effectiveness of the medicine.
There seems to be a good amount of evidence that ginger can indeed be used to induce weight loss, but the spice also offers other important health benefits. In addition to treating nausea, reducing joint and muscle pain, reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes and lowering cholesterol, ginger may also reduce the risk of some cancers and Alzheimer’s Disease. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of gingerol can help to reduce the risk of all these health issues as well as fighting infection anywhere in the human body. Individuals who would like to lose weight and regain their health should consider adding ginger to their food, drink or supplements.