Health Benefits of Ginger

Earlier this winter, I had a day where I experienced a sore throat and sinus irritation. I didn’t reach for a box of any over-the-counter remedy, instead I juiced a fair amount of ginger and lemon and added it to a tea. I was very satisfied with the relief I felt. My experience was nothing new; ginger, or ginger root, has been cultivated and used therapeutically for thousands of years. Traditional medicine systems all over the world have applied it to a wide range of ailments, including calming an upset stomach. Recent studies of ginger have confirmed this effect and much more…

1. Helps Calm Nausea and Vomiting

Clinical studies have proven ginger’s effectiveness at calming nausea and vomiting. Research has also confirmed its potential against chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). The majority of studies found a positive effect against this side effect of aggressive therapies. Ginger may be a powerful option for those suffering from toxic medical procedures like these.

2. Digestive Tract Protection

Ginger has also been historically used for flatulence, constipation, bloating, and other digestive complaints. In addition to these gastro-protective effects, researchers have found ginger to be effective for stress-related ulcers.

3. Brain Health

Ginger contains compounds that have demonstrated protective effects for the brain. One of them, known as 6-Shogaol, inhibited the release and expression of redness-causing chemicals known to cause damage to neurons in both in vitro and in vivo models. The other, 10-gingerol, when sourced from fresh ginger, similarly impacted production of nitric oxide and other chemicals that lead to redness and swelling of the brain.

4. Migraine Relief

In a clinical trial, 100 patients received ginger powder or a drug given to migraine sufferers. The results showed the ginger powder helped reduce migraine related discomfort… without side effects.

5. Protection from UV Rays

Research data has shown ginger possesses UV absorbing capabilities that protect against DNA damage related to UVB (ultraviolet-B) light. Extracts from ginger stimulated antioxidant production, suggesting protective effects against potentially damaging UV light.

6. Supports Stable Blood Sugar

Ginger has repeatedly demonstrated powerful blood sugar balancing effects. It acts on insulin release and sensitivity, and supports the metabolism of carbohydrates and lipids. In one study, insulin levels noticeably lowered with ginger supplementation. In addition to its effectiveness as a blood sugar stabilizer, ginger has also demonstrated powerful protective effects against diabetic kidney, eye and liver complications.

7. Promotes Healthy Blood Pressure

Thai medical practitioners have traditionally used herbs such as ginger to support healthy blood pressure. Extracts from ginger and other herbs used in Thai therapeutic recipes were evaluated for their effectiveness against hypertension. The ginger extract was the most effective.

8. May Benefit Osteoarthritis

A recent in vitro study tested ginger against drugs used for osteoarthritis — the ginger extract was demonstrated to be as effective. Another study involving 43 osteoarthritis patients found ginger to be as effective and safer than the NSAIDs.

9. Helps with Muscle Aches and Discomfort

A recent 2013 study has evaluated ginger for use in relieving muscle discomfort in female athletes. Over the course of this 6-week trial, participants taking ginger reported a significant decrease in muscle soreness as compared to the placebo.

10. May Benefit Cardiovascular Function

One of the active compounds in ginger, 6-gingerol, has been isolated, tested and determined an active factor in regulating blood pressure and supporting cardiovascular health. Based on the results, researchers are exploring the potentials of ginger as a remedy for cardiovascular problems.

Using Ginger

Ginger has an extremely robust flavor which makes consuming it a little bit tricky. It might be too strong to ingest on its own, but as I mentioned, it mixes incredibly well into tea or juice, it can be a great ingredient in a recipe, and you can also find it as an ingredient in some healthy snacks.

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.

Fast facts on ginger:Here are some key points about ginger. More detail is in the main article.

    • Ginger has long been used for the culinary and medicinal purpose.
    • Possible health benefits include reducing nausea, pain, and inflammation.
    • Ginger can be used to make tea, chopped or crushed in curries and savory dishes, and dried or crystalized in sweets and confectionary.

6 health benefits

Root or powdered ginger adds flavor to many dishes, and it can benefit health too.

Root or powdered ginger adds flavor to many dishes, and it can benefit health too.

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.

1. Digestion

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.

2. Nausea

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 a 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.

5. Inflammation

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 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.

Nutritional content

Ginger provides a variety of vitamins and minerals:

In 100 grams (g) of a fresh ginger root, there are:

  • 79 calories
  • 17.86 g of carbohydrate
  • 3.6 g of dietary fiber
  • 3.57 g of protein
  • 0 g of sugar
  • 14 mg of sodium
  • 1.15 g of iron
  • 7.7 mg of vitamin C
  • 33 mg of potassium

Other nutrients found in ginger are:

  • vitamin B6
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • zinc
  • folate
  • riboflavin
  • niacin

Fresh or dried ginger can be used to flavor foods and drinks without adding unnecessary salt or sugar. Since it is often consumed in such small amounts, ginger does not add significant quantities of calories, carbohydrate, protein, or fiber.

How to eat more ginger

Ginger tea with lemon and honey can be a soothing cold remedy.

Ginger tea with lemon and honey can be a soothing cold remedy.

Other anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds found in ginger that that are beneficial to health include gingerols, beta-carotene, capsaicin, caffeic acid, curcumin and salicylate.

Ginger pairs well with many different types of seafood, oranges, melon, pork, chicken, pumpkin, rhubarb, and apples, to name a few. When buying fresh ginger, look for a root with smooth, taut skin, with no wrinkles, and a spicy aroma.

Store fresh ginger in a tightly wrapped plastic bag in the refrigerator or freezer, and peel and grate it before use. Add it to any suitable dish for extra flavor.

If fresh ginger is not available, you can use dried.

In most recipes, one-eighth of a teaspoon of ground ginger can be substituted for one tablespoon of freshly grated ginger. Ground ginger can be found in the herbs and spices section of most grocery stores.

Recipe tips for ginger

Here are some tasty ways to use ginger:

  • Add fresh ginger to a smoothie or juice
  • Add fresh or dried ginger to a stir-fry or homemade salad dressing
  • Make ginger tea by steep peeled fresh ginger in boiling water
  • Use fresh or dried ginger to spice up any fish recipe

These tasty ginger recipes have been developed by a registered dietitian:

Spicy cinnamon ginger roasted carrots

Maple gingerbread cookies

Winter vegetable soup

Cilantro-lime tuna burgers

Slow cooker Thai coconut curry

Cure-all juice

Possible health risks

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.

 

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One comment

  • Many years ago, I worked in a kitchen in the dormitories where I lived in school. Ginger ‘chips’ were added to rice, not for flavoring, but to keep rice from sticking together. There were only a few small chips in big volumes of rice, and they did not seem to have much flavor at all. It was almost as if they had been used for something else, and then recycled for the rice. We just plucked them out as we served. I have not heard of that technique since then.

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