Growing up in the United States, ginger was a seasoning to be found in cookies and cake like gingerbread and ginger snaps.  But, after moving to South America, I found that it has many other health benefits for colds and sore throats, for the digestive system and for arthritis and muscle pain.

1) For Colds and Sore Throats

The first time I had a sour throat here in Ecuador, a friend brought some ginger root and taught me how to make a gargle out of it.  She washed the root, cut the skin off and blended it with a cup of water of warm water in the blender.  Then she watched as I gargled it “for at least a minute”.  It had a VERY strong flavor

GingerCredit: From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

that was not pleasing to me and it was hard to continue to gargle for a minute, but I did it to make my friend happy. 

Ginger Cough Syrup EcuadorCredit: Wendywanderer

Since then I have learned that the folk medicine here has a scientific basis.  The chemical properties of ginger contain gingerols which has properties of a natural pain killer, natural fever reducer as well as anti-bacterial properties. [2]  Our local natural foods store here in the Amazon jungle region manufactures and sells "Jarabe de Jengibre".  We take this when we begin to feel a sour throat and much of the time can get rid of the sour throat before it develops into something worse.  Gargling with this savory spice is a help even for a more full blown strep throat infection, due to the chemical properties that kill bacteria, reduce fever, and help with pain.  

2) For the Digestive System

One of the main concerns here in the jungle is to eliminate parasites and keep the digestive system in working order.  The tribal people of Ecuador use ginger for this.  The root is dried and ground to a fine powder and this powder is administrated as medicine for stomach problems.  This pugnant spice has properties that help the body to maintain healthy intestinal flora and increase digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas.  It is reported to help prevent ulcers, gastritis and diarrhea by killing the bad bacteria and parasites. [1]

3) For Muscular Pain and Arthritis

Due to its natural pain killer properties, ginger can be used to bring relief to painful arthritis and other pain in the back as a natural anti-inflammatory.  A piece of the root which has been cleaned and skinned is boiled in a liter of water for several minutes.  Then, a towel is dipped in this liquid and applied to the back or other areas of pain for 20 minutes.  This treatment can be repeated every six hours.  The skin absorbs the natural pain killer, making this an ideal treatment.  This water can also be used to soak wrists suffering from carpel tunnel syndrome.  The pain from carpal tunnel is also reported to be relieved by ingesting this natural remedy, in the form of powder, taking two tablespoons twice per day.[1]

Ginger is a pungent spice that is delicious in cookies, but why not give it a try for its additional  health benefits?