Ginger is a plant — known by the botanical name Zingiber officinale — that is most commonly used for its roots. The rhizome of the ginger plant can be used to brew fresh ginger tea by adding it to hot water. Ginger root and ginger powder are also used to flavor culinary dishes. Fresh ginger root boasts a spicy and bold flavor that is tingling. In addition, ginger extract is sold as a ginger supplement to help boost health.
Ginger is a staple of Asian holistic medicine including Indian Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. It’s also popular in home remedies as a treatment for the common cold and flu. Its essential oil is used to treat pain topically and to reduce nausea when used in aromatherapy. Read on to find out more about purported ginger benefits.
Top Health Benefits of Ginger
1. Pain Management
Ginger has natural anti-inflammatory properties that may help ease symptoms of pain. Compounds such as gingerol and shogaol in ginger help to decrease inflammation, reducing pressure on joints.
A recent study published in the Journal of Pain examined the effects of ginger on muscle pain in a total of 74 participants. Volunteers in the experimental group ate two grams of raw ginger while the placebo group received a placebo for 11 days. Participants in the experimental group demonstrated a 25 percent decrease in pain compared to the placebo group 24 hours after activity (1).
Ginger may also offer benefits when it comes to menstrual cramps. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary medicine compared ginger to ibuprofen in a pain study. The double-blind clinical trial found that ginger was just as effective as ibuprofen in treating menstrual pain (2).
Ginger can also help people who suffer from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. A 2001 study examined 261 patients who had osteoarthritis in their knees. After the conclusion of the 6-week study, researchers found that participants who took a highly concentrated ginger extract had a moderate improvement in knee pain (3).
Ginger may help to ease the symptoms of nausea caused by morning sickness, motion sickness, and medical treatments such as chemotherapy. Ginger helps digestion by increasing the production of bile that is used to break down food. The anti-inflammatory effects of this root also help to soothe irritated stomach muscles that cause cramps, bloating, and nausea.
One scientific review published in the Nutrition Journal took a look at the effects of ginger on pregnant women who suffered from morning sickness. Researchers examined twelve studies consisting of 1278 pregnant participants. The scientists found that ginger helped to significantly decrease feelings of nausea when used daily (4).
Ginger may also be a useful natural remedy to support cancer patients as they recover from symptoms of chemotherapy. A study published in Supportive Care in Cancer highlighted these benefits. The study consisted of 744 cancer patients who were given either a placebo or ginger. Researchers found that ginger intake resulted in a significant decrease in nausea on the first day of chemotherapy (5). In addition, some small studies have shown ginger may inhibit the growth of certain types of cancer cells including those present in colorectal cancer and ovarian cancer (6).
3. Heart Health
Millions of Americans suffer from heart disease. Ginger benefits may supplement the medical treatment of cardiovascular diseases and may also help prevent the occurrence of heart problems.
Taking ginger regularly may help to decrease your risk of heart disease. Compounds in ginger work to reduce cholesterol levels to prevent cardiovascular complications. A 2008 study published in the Saudi Medical Journal found that ginger significantly reduced LDL cholesterol compared to a placebo (7).
4. Brain Function
Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties and high concentration of antioxidants may help protect brain health. Chronic inflammation is a serious condition that can cause a host of problems including oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s (8). Compounds in ginger may decrease inflammation, preventing oxidative stress from occurring. In addition, antioxidants fight free radicals that can also cause oxidative stress (9).
A 2013 animal study found that ginger root extract may be beneficial for rats suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers found that rats treated with ginger showed significant improvements in memory recall and improved learning compared to placebo (10).
A human clinical trial published in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found similar impacts of ginger on human neurological health. Researchers found that middle-aged women who took ginger daily had significantly improved cognition and working memory compared to a placebo (11).
5. Immune System
Ginger contains high concentrations of vitamin C, which may help boost immunity. Many people use ginger at the first signs of a cold to help lessen symptoms. Research backs up this practice by showing that the plant contains natural antibacterial properties that can fight off pathogens (12). Additional research shows that ginger boasts antifungal properties that can prevent infection as well (13).
6. Blood Sugar
Some research shows that ginger may help to regulate blood sugar levels — something particularly beneficial for people who have type 2 diabetes.
Research published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research examined the effects of ginger on 41 patients with diabetes. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed that ginger significantly reduced fasting blood sugar levels (14).
Side Effects of Ginger
Ginger may interact with some medications, particularly those that regulate blood sugar levels. Seek medical advice from a qualified healthcare professional before using ginger if you have a medical condition or are taking any medications.
Pregnant women should consume ginger in moderation. Check with your midwife or doctor before using ginger if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Ginger may cause digestive upset if consumed in large amounts. Since it increases bile production, it may also increase the chance of heartburn and indigestion.
Ginger may also cause allergic reactions, particularly when used topically for pain relief. If using ginger essential oil, make sure to apply the oil with a carrier oil such as coconut or olive oil. If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction when using ginger, stop use immediately.
Using Ginger and Reaping Its Benefits
Add fresh ginger root to a stir-fry or brew it up in a cup of hot tea. You can also opt for a refreshing glass of cold ginger juice. Grow ginger in your own backyard for easy at-home use or simply pick up a few roots from your local grocery store. The versatile flavor makes this root the perfect addition to everything from soups to curries.