Ginger and turmeric are two healthy-food rock stars. They are two types of flowering plants and two of the most extensively studied ingredients in herbal medicine. Interestingly, both have been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, ranging from migraines to chronic inflammation and fatigue. Both have also been used to help relieve pain and nausea; enhance immune function to help protect against illness and infection.
Ginger, or Zingiber officinale, originated in Southeast Asia and has long been used as a natural remedy for various health conditions. Its medicinal properties are mostly due to the presence of phenolic compounds, including gingerol, a chemical thought to possess potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, belongs to the same family of plants and is often used as a spice in Indian cooking. It contains curcumin, a chemical shown with properties for pain management and digestive
Ginger and turmeric have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which could help decrease pain and protect against disease.
One study regarding osteoarthritis found that taking 1 gram of ginger extract per day for 3 months effectively reduced inflammation. In terms of brain health, there are a lot of anti-inflammatory properties of ginger that can help your brain. For example, ginger increases serotonin and dopamine levels. The reduction in brain inflammation aids in mitigating depression.
Meanwhile, some studies indicate that turmeric extract can decrease several markers of inflammation, with some research noting that it may be as effective as anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and aspirin.
Both ginger and turmeric have been studied for their ability to provide relief from chronic pain.
Studies show that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is especially effective at decreasing pain caused by arthritis. In fact, some studies found that taking 1 gram of curcumin is as effective at reducing joint pain as certain pain medications in those with arthritis.
Ginger has also been shown to decrease chronic pain associated with arthritis. One study noted that taking ginger root powder 3 times daily reduced the intensity and duration of menstrual pain. Another study found taking ginger powder (2 grams ) for about two weeks significantly reduced muscle pain caused by exercise.
In addition to helping relieve pain, ginger may help to prevent some of the side effects associated with conventional painkillers as well. Long-term or high-dose use of aspirin and NSAIDs have been linked to stomach damage such as lesions, ulcers, and other gastrointestinal disorders. Research shows that the active compounds in ginger may help protect the lining of the stomach from damage due to these drugs, which directly impact our brain health.
Adding turmeric supplements to your diet can also support a healthy gut and prevent serious intestinal health problems. Turmeric supports digestion by relaxing the muscles of the intestinal walls to easily push food through and reduce gas and bloating. In addition, curcumin or turmeric aids in balancing the gut flora and immune response by encouraging the growth of friendly gut bacteria and can aid in the regeneration of healing when leaky gut is present.
The microbes or bacteria that live in your gut are vital to overall wellness and brain health, thus the balance of the gut flora is vital. Your gut microbes actually communicate with your brain and can influence your feelings and behaviors impacting your mental health, behavior, ability to focus, mood and much more.
Support immune function
Many people take turmeric and ginger at the first sign of sickness, hoping to enhance immune function and relieve cold or flu symptoms.
Some research shows that ginger may have powerful immune-boosting properties.
One study indicated that fresh ginger was effective against human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV), which can cause respiratory tract infections in infants, children, and adults. Another study found that ginger extract blocked the growth of several strains of respiratory tract pathogens.
An animal study showed that taking ginger extract blocked the activation of several pro-inflammatory immune cells and decreased symptoms of seasonal allergies, such as sneezing.
Similarly, animal studies have shown that turmeric possesses anti-viral properties and can help reduce the severity of influenza A virus.
Studies have observed that ginger could be an effective natural remedy to soothe the stomach and help reduce nausea. Gingerol, the antioxidant compound in ginger, communicates with the serotonin (aka the “feel good” chemical) receptors in your brain to help relieve discomfort. This can have therapeutic implications but with far fewer side effects for pregnant women and people on chemotherapy or post-operation. Ginger also can decrease nausea caused by motion sickness, and certain gastrointestinal disorders.
Some studies found turmeric may also protect against digestive issues caused by chemotherapy, which could help reduce symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Spice up with Ginger and Turmeric
Both ginger and turmeric can be consumed fresh, dried, or ground, and added to a variety of dishes. There are various ways to add ginger and turmeric to your diet to enjoy their many health benefits. The two ingredients work well together in salad dressings, stir-fries, and sauces to add both unique flavor and health benefits to your favorite recipes.
Fresh ginger can also be used to make ginger shots, brewed into a cup of soothing tea, or added to soups, smoothies, and curries. Turmeric, on the other hand, is great for adding color to dishes such as casseroles, frittatas, dips, and dressings.
The bottom line is that ginger and turmeric are loaded with nutrients and bioactive compounds that have powerful benefits for your body and brain health.
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Turmeric Ginger Red Lentil Soup (adapted from Yummly.com)
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 onion (diced)
- 1 cup red lentils
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock
- 1 tsp. ginger
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. salt
Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Sauté onion, garlic and ginger until the onion is translucent and golden.
- Add turmeric, paprika and salt to the pot. Stir to combine so the spices start releasing their aromas.
- Add in the red lentils and stir for one minute.
- Add in the water or vegetable stock and bring the soup to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 25 to 30 minutes until the lentils are creamy and fully cooked.
- Right before serving this red lentil soup, add a squeeze of lemon juice and give it a nice stir. Lemon juice gives this soup some brightness and fresh flavor.