Ginger and Turmeric boost body health but beware of side effects

Sandhya Govind
August 25, 2022

Herbs and spices have played an important role in cuisines all over the world for centuries and have been valued since ancient times not only for their flavour-enhancing properties but also for their health-promoting and disease-preventing abilities.

Significance over the ages

Hippocrates (460-377 BC), considered to be the ‘Father of Medicine,’, wrote about spices and herbs such as saffron, cinnamon, thyme, coriander, mint, and marjoram.

Various herbs and spices such as cinnamon, saffron, coriander seeds, mint, dill, and cumin are mentioned in the Bible.

In ancient India, spices, and herbs such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, cumin, and mustard seed are mentioned in the writings of Charaka in the Charaka Samhita (First Century), Sushruta II, in the Sushrutha Samhita (Second Century), both of which are important Sanskrit texts on Ayurveda.

Spices are the dried, aromatic parts of certain plants.

The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), defines spices as “Aromatic vegetable substances, in the whole, broken, or ground form, whose significant function in food is seasoning rather than nutrition.”

Unlike other food ingredients, spices are used in very small amounts and the amount used in the same dish can vary depending on the recipe and even personal taste. As a result, until a few decades ago, not much formal scientific research had been made into their health benefits.

In this and subsequent articles, I will be discussing the health benefits of various herbs and spices that have been validated by research over the past few decades. This article looks at the health benefits of ginger and turmeric and also the precautions to be taken while using them.

Sandhya Govind

Varied benefits of Ginger

Ginger is an aromatic spice derived from the rhizome (underground stem) of the ginger plant and is widely used in various cuisines for its hot, fragrant flavour and aroma, as well for its medicinal benefits, having had a long history of use as herbal medicine to treat a variety of medical conditions and illnesses.

Some of the major components in ginger such as gingerol, zingerone and shogaols have been found to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial as well as other health-enhancing effects. Ginger has been proven to be safe and effective for decreasing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy as well as for nausea caused as a result of chemotherapy and other medical treatments.

The anti-inflammatory action of ginger might prove beneficial in controlling pain in people suffering from osteoarthritis. It has also been shown that regular consumption of ginger could help lower blood levels of triglyceride, cholesterol, and LDL (the bad cholesterol), and increase the levels of HDL (the good cholesterol). Regular consumption of ginger could also help with weight management.

This is because the gingerols in ginger function as thermoregulators, wherein they help the body to burn calories more efficiently. They can also help people feel full for a longer period, thereby extending the time before they start feeling hungry and craving food again. Gingerols can also help stabilise blood sugar levels which is also an important factor in weight management.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a dry yellow spice derived from the powdered rhizome of the turmeric plant (Curcuma longa), that belongs to the same family as ginger – Zingiberaceae.

Turmeric is widely used in many Asian cuisines, and it has been used for centuries in many cultures to treat various health conditions.

One of the most important compounds in turmeric is curcumin, which is what gives the spice its yellow colour as well as many of the medicinal and health-enhancing properties attributed to it. Turmeric has been proved to have a strong anti-inflammatory effect on the body, which may help with pain management in people suffering from osteoarthritis.

The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric combined with the antioxidant properties that it also possesses, could help lower the risk of heart disease by assisting with blood pressure control as well as contributing to reduced LDL and total cholesterol levels and increased HDL cholesterol levels in the blood.

Regular consumption of turmeric can also contribute to a healthy gastro-intestinal system, by preventing inflammation of the gut as well as the liver, bladder, and the kidneys.

It has been found that regular consumption of turmeric may help people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and may also help in preventing the development of certain liver and digestive diseases as well as certain gastrointestinal cancers.

Recent studies have shown that regular turmeric consumption can help preserve cognitive function in older adults.

However, curcumin is not very readily absorbed in our system, and as a result most of the curcumin in our food is excreted through the faeces.

However combining turmeric with black pepper and a source of fat such as olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, avocados etc. greatly enhances absorption of curcumin. 

Some side effects

It should also be noted that consuming turmeric can cause side effects for certain groups of people. Turmeric has been found to have blood thinning properties.

Therefore people who are on blood thinning medication such as aspirin, warfarin, dabigatran (Pradaxa), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), apixaban, enoxaparin and heparin among others, should be very cautious about consuming turmeric and should only do so after consulting with their doctor as it might cause excessive bleeding.

People who are on medication for diabetes should also exercise caution while taking turmeric and should always consult with their doctors before doing so, because large amounts of turmeric taken along with the medication for diabetes might lead to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) which can be dangerous.

It is very important to note here that this article only talks about including the abovementioned spices in the diet and not taking them in the form of supplements. Nutritional supplements should only be taken if they are prescribed by a health care professional after a personal consultation, as they might be harmful if taken incorrectly.

Moreover, please seek professional advice before making any major dietary changes. This is especially important if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, are already on medication or supplements, or are suffering from any medical condition. The information provided in this article is not to be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor, especially if you have any concerns regarding your health.

Sandhya Govind is a qualified and trained Naturopath and runs ‘Sandhya’s Naturopathy Clinic,’ an integrated Natural Medicine facility, which helps people rediscover optimal health, radiance and vitality naturally. Email: sandhyanaturopathy@gmail.com; The above article should be read for general information purposes only and not taken as individual advice. Please always consult your GP or other authorised persons or agencies for personal advice. Indian Newslink and Sandhya Govind absolve themselves of all responsibility or liability in this connection.

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