Stock Your Medicine Cabinet With This Incredible Root

With spring in full bloom and the start of summer only a few weeks away, it seems like you should be safe from getting the flu.

But here in Baltimore, a stomach bug seems to be making another round in our office...

Viral gastroenteritis – or the "stomach flu," as we know it – can be caused by any number of viruses. The two most common are rotavirus and norovirus.

Rotavirus is most common in children, while norovirus is the virus that is notorious for big outbreaks on cruise ships. Each year, about 21 million folks get sick with norovirus in the U.S.

There's no drug to cure stomach flu, so the best advice is typically to keep yourself hydrated and suffer through it. But a simple ingredient found at your local grocery store can lessen your suffering...

I'm talking about ginger.

Ginger contains powerful anti-inflammatory chemicals as well as antioxidants. And some studies have even seen that ginger has an antibacterial property as well, which fights E. coli.

Here are some of the ways to get the most from this inexpensive home remedy...

Nausea relief. Ginger is a natural antiemetic (nausea reliever). Eating some or drinking it in your tea can help soothe the urge to vomit.

A study from the National Cancer Institute found that ginger reduced post-chemotherapy nausea by 40%. And a few studies from Thailand demonstrated that small doses relieve nausea and vomiting in pregnant women.

When you're sick and losing fluids from vomiting or diarrhea, eating ginger, drinking ginger tea, or taking a ginger supplement (that contains only ginger) can significantly help ease your stomach. Pair that with potassium and lots of fluids to replenish what you've lost.

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Pain relief. People have taken ginger for thousands of years to treat pain. Ginger relieves sore muscles, migraines, and even arthritis. Two active ingredients in ginger – zingerone and shogaol – act as anti-inflammatories. Studies found ginger inhibits pain in a way similar to how medications like Advil and Motrin do. But unlike those medicines, fresh ginger is about as natural of a pain remedy as you can get... and with fewer side effects.

Heart protection. Ginger root contains antioxidants similar to what you'd find in berries. Ginger also suppresses the development of nitric oxide, which damages DNA in our cells and leads to diseases like heart disease. That's one of the reasons ginger helps heart patients... but be advised if you're on certain heart medications, ginger's effects might interfere and lead to complications. Always check before taking ginger with any medications.

Blood sugar. As I've written before, ginger helps reduce high blood sugar. A randomized study from the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine showed that diabetics who took pills filled with powdered ginger for three months had lower levels of blood sugar and lower insulin resistance than those who took placebos.

The reason ginger might be key for your blood sugar is all in the enzymes. One study from the Journal of Translational Medicine showed that spices like ginger affected pancreatic enzymes. That means they worked with the pancreas – the organ that creates insulin – to lower blood-sugar spikes after meals.

Liver protection. Ginger helps protect the liver from damage caused by alcohol abuse. A few studies recently pointed out that ginger can help with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease happens when you get an accumulation of fat in your liver cells that can lead to scarring and reduced liver function – even liver failure. According to the American Liver Foundation, about 25% of Americans have it, many without experiencing symptoms.

Ginger helps your liver by reducing oxidative stress and lowering blood sugar. Plus, as a study in Nutrition and Metabolism showed, ginger protects against scarring in the liver (called fibrosis).

Remember, there's no wrong way to add ginger to your diet. While most studies use fresh ginger or ginger paste, one study out of China pointed out that dried ginger had higher antioxidant levels from the heating and drying process. So do what I do and enjoy a sprinkle of ginger in a mixed drink or smoothie. You can also add it to a stir-fry, enjoy it with sushi, or brew it up with some tea.

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