December: Ginger

by Emily Pollard

Lights are going up, wreaths are being hung, and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” song is on repeat. While the temperature is dropping, the hustle and bustle to cram for exams or holiday shop is not. Cold and flu season is here and the last thing anyone wants this holiday is to be sick! It’s time to open up the spice cabinet instead of the medicine cabinet. Ginger is an ingredient you will not want to overlook this winter.

ginger rootGinger, or Zingiber officinale Roscoe, is a beige thick root indigenous to tropical Asian countries. This spice has been used for over 2,000 years in culinary and medicinal practices. Today, ginger is cultivated throughout the world and commonly grown in Africa, Latin American and South-East Asia.1

The bioactive components in ginger that give it it’s nutraceutical value are the pungent phenol compounds: gingerols and shogaols. Ginger is used as a traditional medicine throughout the world for different uses:

  • China: reduce coughing and the common cold.
  • Indonesia: reduce fatigue and improve digestion.
  • India and Nepal: to cure headaches.
  • United States: to alleviate nausea and vomiting due to motion sickness, surgery, and pregnancy.1

Studies using ginger extract have shown an intake of 1 gram per day for at least four days was associated with an improvement in nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy.2 Ginger is able to help block serotonin receptors in the stomach to reduce feelings of queasiness.2 In addition to ginger’s antiemetic properties, it also has antimicrobial and antioxidant functions. These properties can help nip bacteria in the bud!

Ginger products are made from fresh or dried ginger root, as well as from the extracted oils. Ginger is also found in tablets, capsules, or liquid extracts.3 The use of ginger in supplemental form, such as ginger extract, contain a higher concentration of metabolites compared to fresh ginger. Ginger supplements act as a therapeutic alternative and are taken in place of traditional drugs for those experiencing nausea and vomiting.2

ginger teaFor healthy individuals, fresh ginger is the recommended form of intake. Fresh ginger provides a good source of potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese.4 Fresh ginger may be sliced, grated or minced and placed in soups, stews, dressings, stir-fries, dishes, teas, and desserts.

Young ginger has a thin outer layer that does not need to be peeled compared to store-bought mature ginger, which tends to grow a thick outer skin.3 To prepare fresh ginger, wash and remove the ends and stems. If it needs to be peeled, use a metal teaspoon to scrape off the skin – here’s a great demo video from Gourmet Magazine.

This winter spice can be incorporated into your holiday dishes and desserts. Here are some recipe ideas!


*nutraceutical: a food that provides medicinal or health benefits

*serotonin receptors: found in the gut that attach with serotonin. Serotonin is a major neurotransmitter that has been associated with nausea and vomiting.

*antiemetic: drug or agent used to relieve nausea and vomiting.


  1. Semwal RB, Semwal DK, Combrinck S, Viljoen AM. Gingerols and shogaols: important nutraceutical principles from ginger. Phytochemistry 2015; 117:554-568.
  2. Giacosa A, et al. Can nausea and vomiting be treated with ginger extract? European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences 2015; 19:1291-1296.
  3. Gordon D, Duyff RL, Lafferty L, Walker S. Savor: Ginger. Food & Nutrition website. Published January 1, 2007. Accessed December 6, 2015.
  4. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. USDA National Nutrient Database Website. Accessed December 11, 2015.



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