Ginger’s 2500 year legacy of healing: the go-to root of healing….Ginger and IBD

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Ginger seems spicy and hot but it’s really a soothing healer.

When it comes to the test of time, a sure indicator of its merits, few things compare with the longevity of natural ginger root. Originally found growing over 5000 years ago in India, it wasn’t long before fragrant and vibrant-tasting ginger root was cultivated in China and Japan and then, via the Arabian trade routes, it found its way to Greece, Rome, and eventually the West Indies (Jamaican is renowned for some of the finest ginger root) and New World. Certainly, the pervasive presence of ginger in Chinese and Indian cuisine as well as its stature in both ancient Chinese medicine and the Ayurvedic tradition and the folk medicine of many cultures underscores the important role ginger has played as well as the respect it elicits. To this point, Greek physician, pharmacologist and medic for the army of ancient Rome, Dioscordies wrote in On Therapeutic Substances, AD 77, his recommendation of ginger as a digestive aid.

Folk Medicine and Ancient Ginger

A proud member of the zingiberaceae family which includes similarly soothing botanicals, cardamom and turmeric, ginger has some impressive bragging rights. Touted benefits of ginger include it as treatment for joint soreness, digestion, weight loss, motion sickness, rheumatoid arthritis, colic, lowering cholesterol, chronic inflammation, and the common cold.

Despite its spicy nomenclature and vibrant sweet-hot flavor ginger can go a long way to calm whatever ails you as it contains a bioactive compound called Gingerol, recognized both as a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Ginger is also anecdotally demonstrated (as Dioscordies notes centuries ago) a powerful digestive, assisting in gentle processing of your meals or snacks. If you’ve ever held a colic-y baby you also might recall ginger water was helpful for that as well! As coveted now as in times past, as much for its contributions as a spice, as an essential oil in diffuser treatment, as well as a healing tonic, ginger has earned a place on both pedestals.

The Science of Ginger and IBS

The effectiveness of diet and pharmaceutical therapies for IBS is familiar to those with IBS and the benefits of these approaches are not perfect or effective all the time for all IBS sufferers. Not surprisingly, some 40% of patients investigate alternative medicine to treat their symptoms and ginger is one of the go-to alternates. As with many natural options there isn’t a plethora of scientific studies to substantiate the positive claims of this century-old remedy which isn’t an indication of its lack of positive impact but just a lack of consistent study and trials. But the proof is in the pudding when it comes to ginger as an alternate or complimentary treatment of diseases such as IBS. Still, of the few, sanctioned medical studies cited, subjects given the placebo (no ginger) did as well (symptoms abated or stayed the same) than those who were given a few grams of ginger.

Admittedly, it’s unknown exactly how much ginger might be effective and its effectiveness might depend on the specific IBS and symptoms a person has. And one must be aware if ginger is a good option, depending on where you are on your IBS journey (stable, in a flare-up, in an elimination diet mode). But there is reason for hope. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that a study in which participants took a Chinese herbal formula that included ginger did find a reduction in the participants’ IBS symptoms. In his book, Integrative Medicine, David Rakel, an integrative medical practitioner, notes that ginger contains serotonin antagonists, something which can improve the processes of the digestive tract, which is some indication that ginger can offer relief from IBS by relaxing the intestines during an attack.

Where to Find Ginger and How to Use It

Ginger is widely available in its natural root in any grocery store, as well as in pills, in powder (as a spice), dried, candied and as an essential oil. It’s recommended you purchase ginger, in whatever form, from a trusted source (online or retail stores) and certified organic, pesticide and BSE free as well as non GMO. You may enjoy ginger as a seasoning in recipes such as vegetarian casseroles or soups, as well as pickled in salads or a few slices in a cup of chamomile tea. If the taste is not to your liking, you might also (subject to physician approval) consider ginger essential oil diffuser therapy (diffusers are easy to find and another option to consider).

Do check with your physician to see if ginger is indicated for you and if so, start with small amounts, in a format (food, teas, essential oil diffuser, pills) that appeals to you. Ginger is a strong taste but cooking it mellows its flavor and bite. A slice of fresh ginger in cranberry orange tea is sublime or any other gentle, non-caffeinated herbals tea is but another way to enjoy ginger’s positive effects without too much pungency.

Recipe Links

Depending on your ISB symptoms and whether you are in flare-up or elimination diet, do verify if the ingredients in these recipes are viable with where you are in terms of your ISB.

Ginger Tea

Gluten Free Ginger Cookies

Ginger Salmon

Helpful food and IBS resource:


* The sole purpose of these articles is to offer added support and enlightenment in the healing journey of IBS. Intended to provide information about the natural tradition of herbs, spices and foods to assist in IBS management, these features are not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. Always check with your doctor or IBS support team before including any (new) food, herbs or even essential oils so as to ensure they are not harmful and/or can be used in conjunction with traditional or specific therapies and medications are you currently using. While it is true natural remedies are ‘natural’ and can help, natural isn’t always harmless so always check with your physician when using any natural complimentary therapies.

References (preliminary)

Written by

Cookbook Author, Master Baker, Writer, contributer to Huffington, Washington Post, PBS Next Avenue. Find me and

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