Your grandmother might be onto something when she advises you to drink ginger tea at the first sign of a cold. While the ancient root has long been touted a sick-day panacea in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, the overall health benefits of ginger are wide-ranging, according to Karen Ansel, R.D.N. and author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging: Stay Younger Live Longer. Plus, if you feel good on the inside, you’re bound to look fierce on the outside, too.
Just one word to the wise: “Having a couple of tablespoons of fresh or powdered ginger a day is fine,” says Christy Brissette, R.D., and president of 80 Twenty Nutrition. “If you’d like to take more, speak to your doctor, as ginger can interfere with some medications.”
Because of its versatility (and, quite frankly, its intimidating tree bark-like appearance), it might be difficult to know where to start when you’re staring down a ginger root. Before you blindly grab every super-root from the farmer’s market, make sure you’re choosing the right piece. Ansel says to ensure your fresh ginger is smooth with unblemished skin, and not dried out. You can store it unpeeled in your fridge wrapped in plastic for three weeks, or in your freezer for six months. Because of its strong, peppery taste and aroma, chop it finely before tossing it into recipes. Peel it thoroughly so its thick, rough skin doesn’t make any surprise appearances in your cooking.
For some morning pep in your step, add half a teaspoon of fresh ginger to a smoothie. Brissette also swears by the combination of crushed ginger and pear. Or, mix it into fruit salad. For ginger tea, steep a tablespoon of thinly sliced ginger in boiling water for 10 to 20 minutes. For an easy side dish, Ansel recommends skipping the garlic and sautéeing it with spinach and kale (your significant other will thank you). Whisk a teaspoon of chopped ginger with one-quarter cup fresh orange juice, two tablespoons of canola oil, and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard for a sweet and spicy salad dressing. The opportunities are endless when it comes to this spice.
Now that your pantry is stocked with the stuff (go ahead—we’ll wait), here are some other great health and beauty benefits of ginger:
IT WILL MAKE YOUR SKIN GLOW
Ansel says ginger contains substances known as gingerols that quash inflammation and turn off pain-causing compounds in the body. The anti-inflammatory benefits can also help soothe red, irritated skin. A promising study in rats also found that eating a combination of curcumin and ginger helped skin improve its appearance and function and helped it heal faster.