Ginger has been used over the centuries in traditional and alternative medicine apart from being added as a spice all over the world. It has been used to treat indigestion, reduce nausea and as an aid in fighting common cold and flu. There are many other health benefits of this rhizome or rootstalk.
Ginger is a flowering plant. It can be used fresh, dried form, powdered form, as an oil or juice. The most established use of this root throughout history has been in reducing the symptoms of nausea and vomiting. It has over 100 active compounds. There are over 1500 species of ginger though not all of them are edible. Zingiber Officinale is the species that produces rhizomes from which we get the edible ginger.
For thousands of years, ginger has been used to treat innumerable ailments, like cold, migraines, nausea, hypertension and arthritis. Research and review of this most common plant root have been extensive. It has pharmacological, chemical and medicinal properties.
Discussed below are 12 proven health benefits of ginger.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
12 Health Benefits of Ginger
Ginger Helps Treat Nausea
Nausea, or the feeling of vomiting, is a symptom that accompanies many medical conditions. However, the causes could range from abuse of alcohol, motion sickness, food poisoning to pregnancy, post-surgical condition, and drug side effects. It causes a significant burden for patients.
Ginger has given evidence of being a potential treatment for nausea. A study conducted in 2015 was a review of the clinical trials that examined the use of ginger to treat nausea and vomiting. The causes are varied in a clinical setting. It includes morning sickness, chemotherapy treatment, postoperative condition, and antiretroviral-induced nausea and vomiting.
Nine trials and seven reviews reported that ginger substantially reduced nausea and vomiting. There were certain limitations like the absence of standardized extracts and limited samples. Despite the limitations, the properties of ginger in these clinical studies are promising and can be recommended as a potential ingredient to reduce vomiting and nausea.
Summary: Studies have shown that ginger alleviates the symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
Ginger Works as a Pain Reliever
Two studies held in 2010 investigated the role of ginger as a pain-relieving agent for those involved in eccentric exercising. Eccentric exercises are the movements when the muscles get lengthened even as it’s getting contracted. For example, imagine the downward movement of a push-up or lowering of the body during a crunch. Other examples are a downward motion while squatting or lowering a weight during a shoulder press.
There are several benefits to eccentric exercising. The individual gains muscle faster with build and strength. The risk of injury is less and he or she experiences more flexibility.
A study required an 11-day consumption of either raw or heat-treated ginger supplementations to relieve pain. There were 34 and 40 participants who took up the test by consuming 2 grams of raw or heated ginger or placebo for the 11 days. Each of them undertook 18 eccentric motions of the elbow flexors to bring about pain and inflammation.
Measurements of pain intensity, perceived effort and plasma prostaglandin, arm volume, isometric strength, and range-of-motion were taken before and for 3 days after the training session. There were similar pain reductions among those who took raw and heat-treated ginger. Daily supplementation reduced muscle pain. An increase in pain-relieving effect was not noted among those who consumed the heat-treated ginger supplement.
Summary: The test showed that daily use of raw ginger or heat-treated ginger can reduce moderate to excessive pain following exercises.
Reduces Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that protects and cushions the ends of bones wears off over time. It usually occurs in joints of hands, knees, hips and the spine region. It is mainly an age-related condition. Repetitive use of joints long periods of time can also damage the cartilage between the joints.
Pain caused by this damage frequents during or after movement. The early signs of osteoarthritis are stiffness, tenderness, swelling, loss of flexibility, a grating sensation and bone spur (a bony growth on the bone that can cause pain when it presses against other bones, nerves, ligaments, and tendons)
An earlier investigation was directed to evaluate the potential of the concentrated extract of 2 species of ginger. Zingiber officinale and Alpinia galanga were used in patients who were suffering from knee osteoarthritis.
261 patients with moderate-to-severe pain took part in a 6-week study. They each consumed a ginger extract or placebo twice a day with acetaminophen (relieves pain and reduces fever). The efficacy variable was dependent on the number of responders who experienced a reduction in knee pain on standing. If the pain was greater than or equal to 15mm on a visual analog scale the patient was considered a responder to the treatment. An intent-to-treat analysis was used.
63% of patients who had taken the ginger extract experienced knee pain reduction while 50% in the other group had the same effect. There was also a considerable difference in knee pain reduction in the ginger extract group after walking a distance of 50 feet compared to the placebo group. The reduction in the use of rescue medicines (like acetaminophen) was more in the group that consumed the ginger extract.
Summary: Purified and standardized ginger extract has an appreciable effect on reducing symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. The use of ginger extract was considered safe although there were events of gastrointestinal problems.
Ginger Helps Relieve Menstrual Pain
Most women have experienced the symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea that is characterized by cramping pain in the lower abdomen. It occurs before or during menstruation. At least 90 percent of women have been through this phase. The first experience is at the adolescence stage.
A clinical trial from September 2006 to February 2007 was undertaken to differentiate the effects of ginger, ibuprofen and mefenamic acid (used in the short treatment of pain. It is also used to reduce blood loss and pain during menstruation) on women during the menstrual period.
150 women who were 18 years and above with the primary condition of menstruation were divided into 3 groups. The ginger group participants consumed 250mg of ginger rhizome powder in capsule form, 4 times daily for 3 days from the start date of their menstrual period.
The other groups took 250 mg of mefenamic acid or 400 mg of ibuprofen capsules,
An oral multifaceted scoring system assessed the severity of the condition, pain relief and satisfaction with the treatment. These were compared. There were no appreciable differences between the groups. All experienced a decrease in the condition. There were no adverse side effects to the treatment.
Summary: Ginger is as effective as ibuprofen and mefenamic acid in relieving pain among women with primary dysmenorrhea. This calls for further studies into the other aspects of the condition and its treatment.
Migraine Relief With Ginger
The neurological condition of migraine has many symptoms. The most prevalent being extremely painful headaches. It also includes difficulty in speaking, nausea, vomiting, tingling, and sensitivity to light and sound. There could be many in the family suffering the same condition. It affects all ages.
Migraine gets triggered by depression, shock, anxiety, tiredness, shoulder or neck tension, insufficient sleep, poor posture, jet lag, low blood sugar, and overexertion.
A 2014 clinical trial was conducted with the participation of 100 patients who were suffering from severe migraines. They received ginger powder or sumatriptan (medicine to treat migraines).
Patients noted the time of headache onset, severity, the interval between the start of the headache to intake of the drug with a self-estimation about the response to 5 subsequent episodes of migraine attacks.
After a month the efficacy of the treatment was evaluated and if they were willing to continue with the trial. The data deduced that in two hours’ time the severity of the headaches reduced substantially. The use of ginger was as effective as sumatriptan. Additionally, it was noted that the side effects of ginger were lesser. Patients were willing to continue with the trial.
Summary: The use of ginger proved to be equivalent to that of prescribed medication and with lesser side effects.
Ginger Tea May Relieve Constipation
For many decades herbalists have recommended ginger tea to treat constipation. The mild laxative effect promotes bowel movement. As an appetite stimulant, it strengthens the stomach and supports digestion. Two teaspoons or one gram of ginger powder or freshly grated ginger root should be added to a cup of boiling water to prepare ginger tea. This tea should be taken 2 to 3 times a day.
Diabetics should abstain from drinking ginger as it may interact with the medication for diabetes. Pregnant women should also consult their doctor before consuming ginger tea. Ginger can act as a blood thinner too and can prolong bleeding if taken with blood-thinning agents. People who have gallstones should consult their doctor before ingesting ginger.
Summary: Ginger-tea has a long traditional use of treating constipation. However, pregnant women and diabetics should consult their doctor before use.
Ginger May Reduce Risks In Diabetics
The most common endocrine disorder is diabetes mellitus. It can cause micro and macro-vascular diseases (damage to small blood and large blood vessels) This may lead to stroke, heart attacks and inadequate blood flow to the legs.
The properties of ginger have been studied to be anti-diabetic and hypolipidemic (treating high levels of fat in the blood, for example, cholesterol) Ginger is found to have anti-oxidative characteristics as well. An antioxidant prevents oxidative stress that can damage cells.
This study examined the influence of ginger on fasting blood sugar, Hemoglobin A1c, apolipoprotein B, (main component of LDL-bad cholesterol) apolipoprotein A-I (main protein part of HDL-good cholesterol) and malondialdehyde (an oxidative stress marker)in type 2 diabetic people.
41 diabetics were divided into two groups. 22 were in the ginger group and 19 in the control group. They received 2 grams of ginger powder or lactose (placebo) a day for a period of 12 weeks.
The serum concentrations of fasting blood sugar, Hemoglobin A1c, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein A-I, and malondialdehyde were measured before and after supplementation. It was found that ginger reduced these levels compared to baseline and the control group. It also increased the level of apolipoprotein A-I.
Summary: The trial proved that the oral administration of ginger powder improves levels of fasting blood sugar, Hemoglobin A1c, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein A-I, and malondialdehyde. It may prove to diminish the risk of diabetic complications.
The Ginger Effect On Gastric Emptying
Gastric emptying is the movement of the stomach contents to the part that is just beyond the stomach, called the duodenum. The objective of a test conducted in 2008 was to determine the effects of ginger on gastric emptying, antral motility, proximal gastric dimensions and symptoms like sweating, anxiety, and chills.
24 healthy adults took up an 8-hour fast after which they consumed 3 ginger capsules (total 1200 mg) or placebo. After an hour they had 500 ml of a low-nutrient soup. Antral and fundus (the bulging part of the stomach that is above the opening of the esophagus) area and the frequency of antral contractions were recorded by using ultrasound at intervals of 90 minutes approximately.
The gastric half-emptying time was measured. Analog questionnaires were used to note down gastrointestinal sensations and appetite. The antral area decreased quickly with the gastric half-emptying time being lesser after the ginger intake, compared to the placebo ingestion. The frequency of antral contractions was higher. The dimensions in the fundus area saw no change nor was there any difference in gastrointestinal symptoms.
Summary: Ginger consumption promotes quick gastric emptying and antral contractions.
Ginger May Decrease Low-density Lipoprotein Levels
A 2008 study demonstrated the effects of ginger on lipids. Patients with hyperlipidemia (high levels of lipids in the blood) were divided into 2 groups. The ginger group received 3 grams of ginger capsules per day in 3 doses, while the placebo group was given 3 grams lactose capsules 3 times a day.
The trial lasted 45 days. No one suffering from nephrotic syndrome, hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, peptic ulcer, pregnant women and those who were into alcohol drinking were included in the test. Lipid concentration before and after the test period was measured.
It was noted that a mean decrease in low-density lipoprotein levels and an increase in high-density lipoprotein levels in the ginger group took place, compared to the placebo group. The very low-density level was higher in the placebo group.
Summary: Ginger has a noteworthy lipid-lowering effect.
Ginger Compounds Kill Oral Pathogens
Periodontitis is the inflammation of the tissue around the teeth that cause gums to shrink and teeth to loosen. The gingerol component of ginger has antimicrobial and antifungal properties.
This study was undertaken in 2008. It demonstrated that ethanol and n-hexane extracts of ginger showed antibacterial activities against 3 anaerobic gram-negative bacteria (porphyromonas gingivalis ATCC 53978, porphyromonas endodontalis ATCC 35406, and prevotella intermedia ATCC 25611) that cause periodontitis. 5 constituents of ginger were evaluated for their antibacterial activity. Two high alkylated gingerols stalled the growth of the oral pathogens.
Summary: The gingerol component of ginger has antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Ginger can thus be used in the treatment of periodontitis.
Ginger May Lower Blood Pressure
A systematic review was taken up in June 2019, to evaluate the effects of ginger supplementation of blood pressure. Studies in PubMed, Scopus, Cochrane Library, Google Scholar, ISI Web of Science were searched. Clinical trials on humans that reported the effects of ginger on aortic and or brachial BP were added.
6 clinical trials that had 345 participants were taken for the meta-analysis. The whole analysis indicated that supplementation of ginger reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It was more pronounced where the mean age was below 50 years with a follow up of less than 8 weeks duration and where the dosage was equal to or greater than 3 grams per day.
Summary: Studies have strongly suggested that ginger has an apparent effect on blood pressure. More research is needed for standardization.
Ginger May Help With Weight Loss
A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials were conducted in February 2019. Its effect on weight loss, lipid profile, glycemic control in overweight participants was looked up in several databases.
The search was held in the month of November 2017. Relevant studies from EMBASE, MEDLINE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and Web of Science were pooled together.
14 trials that had 473 participants were taken for the meta-analysis. It was observed that the supplementation of ginger reduced body weight, waist-to-hip ratio, fasting glucose, hip ratio, and insulin resistance index with an appreciable increase in HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. It did not show any changes in insulin, body mass index, triglycerides, and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels.
Summary: Ginger supplements can influence weight loss and increase HDL while reducing fast glucose, hip ratio, and insulin resistance index.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Ginger
What Does Ginger Contain?
One tablespoon of fresh ginger contains 1.07 grams of carbs, 12 grams of dietary fiber, 11 grams of protein, 4.8 calories, 1 gram of sugar, and 05 gram fat.
Trace amounts of vitamins and minerals are also found in fresh ginger. They are vitamin B3 and B6, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium vitamin C, zinc, and folate, niacin, and riboflavin.
What Are the Ways to Include Ginger in Diet?
You could enjoy ginger in your tea, add it to sweet and savory food items. It is healthier to buy fresh ginger roots than opt for ginger powder. Gingerol content is higher in the root form.
Fish and meat can be marinated with a ginger-garlic paste adding spice to the dish. Ginger in pickles is delicious with sushi. Ginger powder can be included in baking.
Can I End Up Taking Too Much Ginger?
As part of a balanced diet, ginger is safe to consume. However, a high dose through extracts or capsules may lead to gastric issues, heartburn, and diarrhea.
Does Ginger Interact With Other Medications?
If you have any underlying medical conditions or on prescription drugs, it is necessary to consult your doctor before consuming a diet that has high ginger content or taking ginger powder or capsules.
Properties in ginger can relieve nausea in pregnant women. If you are planning to take it in capsule form or use an extract then it will be better to first check with your doctor. People who have gallstones or suffering from type 2 diabetes should abstain from taking ginger in high quantities.
How Much Ginger Can I Take In A Day?
A safe recommendation is 3 to 4 grams a day if you do not have any medical conditions and/or if you are not pregnant. It can be taken with honey in tea. Children below the age of 2 years should not consume ginger.
The Dosage and Side Effects of Ginger
One to three grams of ginger is used to prevent nausea. The same quantity can be used for treating morning sickness. 400 to 800 mg per day were used in clinical studies to boost cognition. 750 mg to 2 grams can reduce menstrual symptoms. 2 grams a day have been used to decrease inflammation.
A high dosage of ginger powder can cause mild heartburn, diarrhea and stomach discomfort. In extreme cases, a high oral dose can cause additional menstrual bleeding.
Applying ginger to the skin may cause skin irritation for some people. There is no clarity on the safety of ginger intake when pregnant. Fear of it affecting the sex hormones of the unborn child is a concern. The risk is not more than 1% to 3% of malformations in infants of women who had taken ginger when pregnant.
The concern of low birth weight or early birth is also present. It may cause bleeding and some doctors advise not to use it when closer to the delivery date. Oral intake is probably safe up to 4 days to the start date of periods for teenage girls.
There is not much information if ginger consumption is safe when breastfeeding. Avoid its use during that time. If you have a bleeding disorder it’s best to abstain from ginger consumption as it has blood-thinning properties. High doses of ginger can aggravate certain heart conditions.
The Final Note
There is no doubt that ginger has many health benefits to offer. Ginger has been used in traditional medicines of various cultures around the world. This spice is commonly used for cooking and is safe for consumption.
However, more research is needed to establish its health benefits especially in treating diseases. Nevertheless, the use of ginger in the treatment of certain ailments such as nausea, vomiting, morning sickness, and indigestion, has remained popular for generations. Though many studies have shown an affirmation on its use, standardization is lacking.