Ginger is a popular ingredient in cooking, and especially in Asian and Indian cuisine. It has also been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes. Possible health benefits include relieving nausea, loss of appetite, motion sickness, and pain.
The root or underground stem (rhizome) of the ginger plant can be consumed fresh, powdered, dried as a spice, in oil form, or as juice. Ginger is part of the Zingiberaceae family, alongside cardamom and turmeric. It is commonly produced in India, Jamaica, Fiji, Indonesia, and Australia.
It is available fresh and dried, as ginger extract and ginger oil, and in tinctures, capsules, and lozenges. Foods that contain ginger include gingerbread, cookies, ginger snaps, ginger ale, and a wide variety of savory recipes.
Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.
However, some herbs and spices may offer additional health benefits. One of these is ginger.
Scientific analysis shows that ginger contains hundreds of compounds and metabolites, some of which may contribute to health and healing. Of these, the gingerols and shogaols have been most extensively researched.
The phenolic compounds in ginger are known to help relieve gastrointestinal (GI) irritation, stimulate saliva and bile production, and suppress gastric contractions as food and fluids move through the GI tract.
At the same time, ginger also appears to have beneficial effects on the enzymes trypsin and pancreatic lipase, and to increase motility through the digestive tract. This suggests ginger could help prevent colon cancer and constipation.
Chewing raw ginger or drinking ginger tea is a common home remedy for nausea during cancer treatment.
Taking ginger for motion sickness seems to reduce feelings of nausea, but it does not appear to prevent vomiting.
Ginger is safe to use during pregnancy, to relieve nausea. It is available in the form of ginger lozenges or candies.
3. Cold and flu relief
During cold weather, drinking ginger tea is good way to keep warm. It is diaphoretic, which means that it promotes sweating, working to warm the body from within.
To make ginger tea at home, slice 20 to 40 grams (g) of fresh ginger and steep it in a cup of hot water. Adding a slice of lemon or a drop of honey adds flavor and additional benefits, including vitamin C and antibacterial properties.
This makes a soothing natural remedy for a cold or flu.
4. Pain reduction
A study involving 74 volunteers carried out at the University of Georgia found that daily ginger supplementation reduced exercise-induced muscle pain by 25 percent.
Ginger has also been found to reduce the symptoms of dysmenorrhea, the severe pain that some women experience during a menstrual cycle.
Ginger has been used for centuries to reduce inflammation and treat inflammatory conditions.
A study published in Cancer Prevention Research journal reported that ginger supplements, which are available to buy online, reduced the risk of colorectal cancer developing in the bowel of 20 volunteers.
Ginger has also been found to be “modestly efficacious and reasonably safe” for treating inflammation associated with osteoarthritis.
6. Cardiovascular health
Other possible uses include reducing cholesterol, lowering the risk of blood clotting, and helping to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. More research is needed, but if proven, ginger could become part of a treatment for heart disease and diabetes.
The United States (U.S.) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider ginger to be a food additive that is “generally recognized as safe.”
Natural ginger will cause little or no known side effects for most people. In some, however, a high intake may worsen symptoms of acid reflux, irritate the mouth, and cause diarrhea. Taking ginger as capsules may help reduce the risk of heartburn.
The effectiveness and side effects from ginger supplements will vary by brand and formulation, but people are advised not to take more than 4 g of dried ginger a day, or 1 g during pregnancy, including food sources. Scientists urge caution when using supplements, as these are not standardized.
Anyone who is pregnant, or who has gallstones, diabetes, or a blood clotting disorder should discuss first with their doctor whether to increase their intake of ginger. Ginger supplements should not be used with aspirin or other blood-thinning medications.
Scientists note that many of the compounds in ginger have not been fully investigated, and not all of the claims for ginger have been supported by research. However, many of those that have been studied appear to show promise for medicinal purposes.
It is better to seek dietary sources of nutrients rather than supplements, and to consume them as part of an overall diet, rather than focusing on one item.