Traditional holiday spice tames inflammation and blood sugar

With the Christmas season in full swing, you’ve probably seen lots of gingerbread houses on display — and perhaps you’ve even made one yourself. But these decorative treats aren’t the only ones that use ginger. In fact, a lot of traditional holiday recipes include this ancient spice.

Ground ginger comes from the rhizome (or root) of the flowering ginger plant, which originated in China. It belongs to the Zingiberaceae family and is closely related to turmeric.

In fact, like turmeric, ginger has a long history as a folk remedy. In China, for example, men and women have used it to treat stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea for more than 3,000 years. Which helps explain why ginger plays such a prominent role in Asian cooking to this day. And it probably also explains why your mom had you drink a glass of ginger ale when you had an upset stomach as a child.

And modern research shows ginger has many other benefits…

Ginger reins in damaging inflammation

I’ve written a lot over the years about the role chronic inflammation plays in the development of disease — such as Type II diabetes. For example, blood sugar levels go up as inflammation markers increase.

So, even if you abide by a religious exercise routine and sensible, balanced diet — your efforts won’t do enough to lower your blood sugar if your inflammation levels remain high.

Fortunately, research shows that ginger root helps control the type of chronic inflammation related to Type II diabetes. It even improves both fasting blood sugar and A1C numbers.

Ginger also seems to go to work directly in your microbiome, the environment in your GI tract where billions of healthy probiotic bacteria thrive. Indeed, it seems to work by preventing sugar from entering the bloodstream in the first place.

If you want to take ginger to help control blood sugar, look for a branded extract known as Gingest™, instead of standard ginger root powder. This form offers potent, fast-acting effects in smaller doses. I recommend 150 mg, twice a day. (Better yet, you can now find this ingredient in a convenient formula — along with curcumin, chromium, and vanadyl sulfate— for the ultimate in blood sugar control. Simply type “Gingest” into the top right search bar on to learn more.)

You can also find ginger root powder as a supplement in most grocery stores, pharmacies, or health supplement stores. Since it’s not a branded ingredient like Gingest™, it’s not as strong, so you’ll need a higher dose. I recommend up to 2 grams (2,000 mg) daily. At this dose, there is no known toxicity.

A healthy, fresh addition to the kitchen

I also suggest keeping some fresh ginger root in your kitchen year-round — not just during the holidays.

You can add a few fresh slices to hot water to make a ginger infusion. It’ll help soothe your digestive woes and help you recover from a cold or the flu. And remember — when making hot infusions, don’t worry so much about “dose.” Just cut off slices of ginger and brew to taste. Then, sip on the ginger tea throughout the day.

You can also add freshly grated ginger to salads as well as fish, meat, and vegetable dishes. Of course, it also makes a flavorful addition to any Asian dish. You can even add shredded ginger as a topping for (moderate) servings of ice cream or chocolate dishes.

At this time of year, I also like to remember the folk tale of the Gingerbread Man. As you may recall, Gingerbread Man taunts his many pursuers with the famous line:

Run, run, as fast as you can!

You can’t catch me. I’m the Gingerbread Man!

Of course, the tale ends with a fox catching and eating the Gingerbread Man who cries as he’s devoured, “I’m quarter gone…I’m half gone…I’m three-quarters gone…I’m all gone!”

And perhaps if you make ginger a part of your daily regimen, your health won’t go the way of the Gingerbread Man: a quarter gone… half gone… all gone.