Health Benefits of Ginger

Benefits may extend well beyond nausea and indigestion

ginger nutrition facts and health benefits
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

For thousands of years, herbalists have used the root of the ginger plant to relieve stomach problems. With its natural anti-inflammatory effects, ginger is also commonly used to treat arthritis, high cholesterol, menstrual cramps, and other health conditions.

Ginger, used either fresh or as a powdered spice, is a common ingredient in many food recipes. It is also used for medicinal purposes. The spice is made from the root of the plant, which is widely grown throughout warmer parts of Asia, Africa, and South America.

Ginger has been used for centuries to treat a wide array of medical conditions, including:

Many alternative practitioners also believe that ginger can help prevent heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. Some of these claims are better supported by research than others.

Health Benefits

The health benefits of ginger can be broadly categorized as being either gastrointestinal, anti-inflammatory, or metabolic.

Gastrointestinal

A number of studies have supported ginger's stomach-soothing effects. In addition to easing post-surgery nausea and vomiting, the herb appears to reduce motion sickness and morning sickness symptoms. Perhaps the best proof of this anti-nauseal effect is in people undergoing cancer treatment.

A 2012 study from the University of Rochester found that ginger supplements decreased post-chemotherapy nausea by 40 percent. The largest reduction was seen in those who took between 500 and 1,000 milligrams (mg).

The benefits of ginger with other types of gastrointestinal illness are less clear. A 2014 study from the University of North Carolina concluded that ginger provided no greater relief of IBS symptoms than a placebo.

While ginger also appears to have minimal effect on acid reflux, according to a 2012 study from India, it may aid in the healing GERD-related gastric ulcers when used in combination with a probiotic.

Anti-Inflammatory

Ginger contains an anti-inflammatory substance known gingerol that may have help treat chronic or acute pain. Current research is split on how effective gingerol really is.

A 2015 review of studies concluded that ginger was only "modestly efficacious" in treating osteoarthritis. Similar results have been seen with rheumatoid arthritis and non-arthritis conditions like tendonitis and bursitis.

Although a 2016 review of studies suggested that ginger may perform as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in relieving severe menstrual pain, the researchers were quick to admit that the overall quality of the studies was poor.

What all of this suggests is that ginger may support, rather than replace, standard pain relievers used to treat arthritis and other chronic or acute disorders.

Metabolic

There is limited but compelling evidence that ginger can help treat conditions like high cholesterol or high blood sugar.

A 2008 study from Iran concluded that a daily 3-gram supplement of ginger, given over 45 days, improved the lipid profile of 45 people with high cholesterol.

Triglycerides, total cholesterol, and "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol were seen to decreased, while "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol increased significantly. The reduction of these values alone corresponds to an overall reduction in the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Similarly, a 2012 study from Iran reported that a daily ginger supplement improved many of key diagnostic measures for type 2 diabetes. After 12 weeks, people given a daily 2-gram supplement had a 12 percent decrease in their fasting glucose level and a 10 percent decrease in their HbA1c. Similar results were seen in a 2018 study from China.

Other Benefits

To date, there is limited evidence that ginger can either prevent or treat cancer. The current body of research is mainly limited to test tubes. While gingerol does appear to slow the growth of certain cancer cells in vitro (especially colorectal and ovarian cancer cells), it is hard to reach any reasonable conclusion at this stage.

The same applies to Alzheimer's disease. While 2017 research from Egypt suggests that gingerol may help prevent or slow the development of Alzheimer's, the anti-inflammatory effect on the brain was seen to equal to that of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug Celebrex (celecoxib).

Possible Side Effects

When used in spice form or sipped as a tea, ginger is considered safe for adults and children. In some people, ginger may cause mild side effects, including stomach upset, heartburn, diarrhea, and gas. Ginger is also known to increase the production of bile and may need to be avoided in people with gallbladder disease.

The long-term safety of ginger supplements and extracts is unknown. There is also limited research as to possible drug interactions, especially at higher doses.

Ginger can slow blood-clotting and may interfere with anticoagulant drugs such as aspirin, heparin, Coumadin (warfarin), Plavix (clopidogrel), Fragmin (dalteparin), and Lovenox (enoxaparin).

Dosage and Preparation

Ginger is available fresh and can either be eaten fresh, juiced, or brewed into a tea. Some people will even put slivers of ginger under their tongue to alleviate bouts of nausea.

Ginger is also available as a spice, tea, extract, or oral tablet or capsule. Ginger essential oil is mainly used for aromatherapy rather than oral consumption. There are even topical ointments infused with ginger used for warming massage.

There is no standardized dosage schedule for ginger supplements. Manufacturers will generally recommend a 500-mg dose, taken twice daily, to relieve nausea. Others will recommend 250-mg to 500-mg doses, taken two to four times daily, to treat morning sickness, menstrual cramps, and arthritis pain.

What to Look For

If you're going to take ginger in supplement form, you can usually find them at drugstores, health food stores, or stores that specialize in nutritional supplements. They can also be easily sourced online.

To ensure a ginger supplement is safe and produced to the highest standards, check to see if the brand has been tested and approved by an independent, third-party certifying body like the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, and ConsumerLab.

If you're thinking about using a ginger supplement in any form, speak with your doctor to ensure you're fully aware of the potential risks and benefits.

Other Questions

People often look for novel ways to incorporate ginger into a diet. While most are considered safe, be cautious when buying imported snacks or candies made with ginger. in 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a recall when a popular ginger candy from Vietnam, made of sugar-coated dehydrated ginger, was found to contain excessive levels of lead.

Similar recalls have issued for candied ginger product from Asia, often as a result of the undeclared or excessive use of sulfites as a preservative agent.

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