Five medicinal health benefits in ginger root

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Every slice of ginger contains eighteen amino acids in addition to a wide array of vitamins, chemicals, and minerals. For this reason, ginger is beneficial in a multitude of different ways.

This article addresses five of the many nutrients found in ginger: amino acids (both essential and nonessential), calcium (necessary for reduced cholesterol levels and proper blood clotting as well as strong bones), magnesium (crucial for the heart, nerves, and muscles), essential fatty acids (both omega 3 and omega 6), and iron (a provider of oxygen to the body and a key player in immunity).*

The multiple health impacts of each of these is explained in detail below. There are also additional herbs listed that contain each nutrient: This is intended to help individuals who still want some of the benefits of ginger but who are unable, or possibly unwilling, to eat the herb.

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1. AMINO ACIDS

Ginger contains eighteen amino acids, including the ten classified as essential and that must therefore be obtained from food (23, 43). Essential amino acids present in ginger are arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Each is described below.

Arginine

Arginine eliminates toxic ammonia from the body and assists in the production of creatine, an amino acid coverted into ATP and used for energy (24, 44). Arginine also functions as a vasodilator and may effectively treat atherosclerosis, vascular disease, chest pain, heart failure, and headaches (24).

Histidine

Histidine is necessary for the production of histamine, a substance that helps the immune system effectively fight pathogens (25, 1). Histidine also assists in the production of blood cells, chelates metals, and improves rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure (25).

Isoleucine, leucine, and valine

Isoleucine, leucine, and valine are similarly structured amino acids that work together to provide muscles with energy, increase physical endurance, and heal damage to tissue, skin, and bones (26). Isoleucine works with leucine to control blood sugar levels as well (26).

Lysine

Lysine is needed for general growth and for the creation of carnitine, a nutrient that lowers cholesterol and coverts fatty acids into energy (27). Lysine also helps with calcium absorption and collagen formation (27). Collagen is important in the structure of bones and in the connective tissues of the body.

Methionine

Methionine is an antioxidant that helps detoxify the liver and protect the colon (28). It also breaks down fats, strengthens muscle, and helps synthesize nucleic acids, proteins, and collagen (16). It is a precursor to SAMe, a molecule that improves depression and combats arthritis related pain (29). Methionine improves symptoms of individuals with osteoporosis, chemical allergies, rheumatic fever, Gilbert's syndrome, and schizophrenia as well. (16).

Phenylalanine

Phenylalanine slows the rate at which endorphins are broken down in the body, and thereby promotes extended pain relief (29). This could reduce pain from menstrual cramps, arthritis, back injury, and other similarly painful conditions (29). Phenylalanine also treats depression, improves memory, controls appetite, reduces addictive-substance abuse, and improves mental alertness (30, 31).

Threonine

Threonine is important for the regulation of mood, the prevention of fat accumulation in the liver, and the stimulation of the immune systm (32, 33). Threonine is a precursor for serine, an amino acid used in muscle growth and immune system health, and glycine, an amino acid responsible for neutralizing toxins and minimizing inflammation (33, 2, 3). Threonine is also required for tooth enamel protein formation and elastin and collagen production (33).

Tryptophan

Tryptophan helps infants grow properly and balances nitrogen levels in adults (34). It is used as a precursor for niacin as well as for serotonin, a molecule that stabilizes mood and promotes healthy sleep (34). Tryptophan is used to form collagen, tooth enamel, and elastin and also boosts the immune system (16).

Other Herbs

Amino acids are also provided by the herbs aloe, annatto, burdock, chaparral, fenugreek, green tea, maca, and passionflower (16).

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2. CALCIUM

Calcium is vital for neuron functioning and healthy neuromuscular activity (5, 6). It is an integral component in DNA and RNA, regulates blood pressure, ensures correct permeability of cell membranes, and blocks the absorption of toxic lead into bones and teeth (6, 8). Sufficient levels of calcium result in strong bones, healthy gums, proper blood clotting, and a reduction in cholesterol levels, heart disease, and cancer (6). Calcium also activates multiple enzymes, including the one that breaks down fats into forms easily used by the body (6).

Low calcium is linked to preeclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy (7). In fact, increasing calcium intake lowers the risk of developing several pre-term complications (7). Deficiencies in calcium result in nerve, muscle, heart, artery, bone and kidney problems (9).

Some other herbs besides ginger that contain calcium are alfalfa, cayenne, chamomile, dandelion, fennel seed, flaxseed, lemongrass, nettle, paprika, and peppermint (22).

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3. MAGNESIUM

Magnesium works directly with calcium to make bones strong and keep the heart functioning optimally (17, 20). Magnesium is responsible for the activation of several enzymes and plays a key role in cellular energy formation, protein synthesis, and replication (18). Nerve and muscle cells both need magnesium to maintain their electrical charge and it prevents soft tissue from calcifying as well (18, 22).

Magnesium regulates calcium, copper, zinc, potassium, and vitamin D levels within the body and reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis (20). In the presence of vitamin B6 it also combats the symptoms of PMS, prevents calcium-oxalate kidney stones, and eliminates stones made of calcium phosphate (19, 22). Deficiencies lead to muscle weakness, an irregularly beating heart, and increased irritability (21).

Additional herbs that are a source of magnesium are bladderwack, catnip, chickweed, eyebright, fenugreek, horsetail, mullein, oat straw, peppermint, red clover, sage, and yellow dock (22).

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4. ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS

Essential fatty acids can be categorized by structure as either omega-3 or omega-6, and both types are included in ginger (16, 23).

Omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3 fatty acids regulate hormone levels, control blood sugar, balance cholesterol and triglycerides, minimize inflammation, prevent blood clotting, relax the blood vessels, and maintain cell health (35). In addition to this, these fatty acids may also reduce many types of cancer, minimize sugar cravings, protect heart health, contribute to retinal function, and be beneficial for individuals with psychological disorders including major depression, schizophrenia, and attention deficit disorder (36, 37, 38, 39, 42).

Omega 6 fatty acids

Omega 6 fatty acids may prevent the symptoms of PMS and, when eaten in small amounts and in place of less healthy saturated fats, promote health of the heart and brain (40, 41).

Herbs other than ginger that also have essential fatty acids include astragalus, blessed thistle, borage, cayenne, celery, chickweed, elder, flax, hawthorn, and thyme (16).

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5. IRON

Iron is more easily absorbed from a meat source than a plant one (10). However, the absorption from plants is improved in the presence of vitamin C (10). The good news is that ginger has both. Getting iron from plants is highly encouraged, as individuals who get the mineral almost entirely from meat may be at risk for an iron overload (11). Vegetarians are far less likely to develop excessive iron stores, which can result in serious health problems (11, 12).

Hemoglobin is an iron rich protein found in red blood cells that distributes oxygen throughout the body (13). Both its formation and oxygen carrying ability would not be possible without the presence of iron, and when iron levels decrease so does the oxygen reaching the muscles and brain (13). This causes headaches, fatigue, and shortness of breath (14). Iron is also required by enzymes that produce the T-cells of the immune system and by some white blood cells (15). Without proper iron the immune response is impaired and individuals are more vulnerable to diseases and infections (15).

Other herbs also containing iron include alfalfa, cayenne, chamomile, chicory, eyebright, horsetail, licorice, mullein, and parsley (22).

Further Information

*This article is meant to be informative only. It describes only potential benefits of consuming fresh ginger and is in no way meant to advocate ginger as a superior source of these nutrients when compared to other foods.

According to analysis by Self Magazine 100 grams of fresh ginger contains the following breakdown of these nutrients:

Protein: 1.8 g, 4 % of DV

Calcium: 16.0 mg, 2% of DV

Magnesium: 43.0 mg, 11% of DV

Omega-3 fatty acids: 34.0 mg

Omega-6 fatty acids: 120 mg

Iron: 0.6 mg, 3% of DV

Other foods may have higher quantities of some of these nutrients. What makes ginger unusual is that not only does it contain all of these, but it has additional beneficial elements as well, including eighteen naturally-occurring chemicals.

I have authored another hub with more information about how these chemicals affect your health: Ginger's 18 disease-fighting chemicals: from alpha-pinene to zingerone.

SOURCES

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The Myth of Alzheimer's: What You Aren't Being Told About Today's Most Dreaded Diagnosis
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Comments 8 comments

Cathy Fidelibus profile image

Cathy Fidelibus 3 years ago from NJ

Wow, great information and really well done.

I love ginger I grate some fresh and steep it in my green tea every day.

Thanks, voted up.


Schatzie Speaks profile image

Schatzie Speaks 3 years ago from US Author

Hi Cathy,

Thank you for your comment! Ginger/green tea sounds like a great, and very healthy, way to start the day with a little pick-me-up kick. I love both green and ginger teas but have not yet tried them combined, I will definitely give it a go.

Thanks for stopping by,

Schatzie


compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 3 years ago from London UK

I don't no what to do with ginger when I buy it, so would I be able to gain all the health benefits of ginger just from a ginger/green tea? and/or would it be better to buy ginger supplements from the health shop?


Wellness 2 years ago

Thanks Schatzie. Extremely useful and very well researched article.

Ginger root contains a very high level of antioxidants and in my part of the world, ginger is also used as an ingredient in antacid, laxative and anti-gas herbal medications.

That being said, thanks for the wonderful information.

Regards,

Arnab Roy

(Moderator - http://isGoodForHealth.com )


nickico profile image

nickico 23 months ago from New Jersey suburb

This is a very informative and important article. Ginger root did wonders for some issues I had with inflammation a while back. I am proof of its amazing benefits. Great info!


Schatzie Speaks profile image

Schatzie Speaks 23 months ago from US Author

compu-smart,

I am sure drinking ginger tea would be beneficial! But it would be better to make your own by boiling fresh chunks in water. you can easily google recipes that use ginger in a variety of dishes. Fresh is always best!


Schatzie Speaks profile image

Schatzie Speaks 23 months ago from US Author

Arnab,

thank you for your comment! it is quite amazing how many uses ginger has, and it has such a good flavor as well, a true win-win!


Schatzie Speaks profile image

Schatzie Speaks 23 months ago from US Author

nickico,

I am so glad you found a natural cure and didn't have to take medication. I am still amazed at the end of every commercial how many "potential side effects" are listed, and not small ones either! I think that a lot of pharmaceuticals could be replaced by foods or herbs that have similar benefits without being dangerous! thanks for stopping by! :)

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