Ginger is popular all year round for the zippy flavor it adds to sauces and marinades as well as its soothing addition to tea and other beverages.
Alice-born chef, Busisiwe Mbane (38), believes that it has some anti-stress properties and combats chronic diseases including hypertension. “It is for those reasons why I do not [leave the shops] without ginger on my shopping list. I use it for its benefits and for its distinctive flavour.”
Mbane tells Health For Mzansi that ginger can also help with nausea, chest pains, and skin problems. She says it’s her secret weapon to achieve glowing skin.
“It’s good to have ginger in your house, particularly in winter, to aid you when you feel like you have the flu and have nasal congestion,” she says. “You may just cut it and chew, or boil it, and drink it. Having it in the home is like having first aid in a time of need.”
‘Ginger is my all in one’
Gengezi Babu-Yuze  from Cape Town says she grew up in a household of people who loved herbs. In fact, it was her own grandmother who inspired her to grow her own in her garden.
Her grandmother used to tell her that ginger relieved menstrual pains. “I can vouch for that since I’ve seen it work. I had difficulty trusting her since she was uneducated. Her wisdom still astounds me,” says Babu-Yuze.
Mbane adds that ginger is her “all in one” favourite ingredient in her kitchen.
“For the coffee lovers, having your ginger snaps in this winter is the best thing ever. Consequently, I utilise ginger while preparing my pantry delicacies, such acookies and crunchies.”
Mbane advises that moms should use ginger to aid the kid’s digestive systems since it helps to digest meals quickly, particularly for people with a slow digestive system.
A wonder kid
The strongest evidence was found for the anti-nausea effects of ginger in pregnant women, a pain reliever for osteoarthritis and it helps improve blood glucose control, says Megan Pentz-Kluyts, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa.
Kluyts tells Health For Mzansi, “Ginger also had a statistically significant positive effect on blood pressure, weight management, digestive function, dysmenorrhea, postoperative nausea, and chemotherapy-induced vomiting as well as blood lipid profile and anti-inflammatory and antioxidant biomarkers for colorectal cancer risk.”
“Although due to a small sample size and the varying doses, more studies are needed to confirm these benefits.”
She adds that in cases of harmful side effects when ginger has been used excessively, there were no life-threatening or severe cases reported.
“However, heartburn was the only symptom consistently reported. Other side effects with large doses can include stomach aches, diarrhoea, cramping or bloating. These symptoms were reported where participants were consuming between 500 and 2000 mg per day.”
How often should you have ginger?
Kluyts adds that the spice can be added to pretty much anything.
“Firstly, when it comes to buying ginger for cooking, you have a few options, including whole ginger root, minced ginger, ginger paste and ground ginger.
Add a few pieces of fresh ginger to hot water to make tea or add to your morning smoothie, to oatmeal, to spice up stir-fries or soups, curries, salad dressings, grain bowls. Add it o marinades and baked goods like pastries, cookies, cakes, and scones.”
Kluyts advises that when cooking with ginger, add it at the beginning for a milder flavour or add it towards the end of the cooking process for a stronger punch.
“The good news is that although ginger’s nutrient profile does undergo some changes during the drying, bottling, or cooking process, it still offers up plenty of health benefits and is worth adding to your diet in any form.”