Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a tropical plant native to Asia and of the same family as turmeric and cardamom. The root of the ginger plant (called the rhizome) is used in the kitchen for its pungent flavor, but it also has medicinal properties. Ginger contains vitamins and minerals such as chromium, magnesium, zinc, and potassium—and it is known for its powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
Ginger has been treasured by Asian populations for thousands of years. It was exported from India at the time of the Roman Empire for its value as a curative, and later it was imported to Europe where it flavored up sweets. These days, ginger is taken to cleanse the palate after eating different varieties of sushi or as a tea to tame tummy upset such as morning sickness and motion sickness. Turns out, ginger has many other health benefits to take advantage of!
Health Benefits of Ginger
Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory, and for this reason, it can be effective in the treatment and prevention of many health conditions.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, one in four people in the United States suffers from indigestion. Chronic indigestion, also called dyspepsia, is a broad term that describes different gastrointestinal symptoms such as discomfort in the upper abdomen and feeling full too soon while eating a meal.
One of the leading causes of indigestion is the delayed emptying of the stomach. Studies on the effect of ginger on gastric motility showed that ginger root speeds up stomach emptying in people who suffer from dyspepsia. A team of researchers studied volunteers who ingested ginger capsules followed by a low-nutrient soup. The results revealed that ginger improved gastrointestinal symptoms and reduced the time it took for the stomach to empty.
Indigestion can also be caused by stomach ulcers, which are painful sores in the lining of the stomach. A study conducted on rats found that ginger protects the stomach and may prevent the formation of stomach ulcers. The ginger powder protected mice against aspirin-induced stomach ulcers by decreasing the levels of agents that caused inflammation.
Clinical trials suggest that ginger can be beneficial for treating nausea and vomiting. In a comparison of seven commonly used agents used to treat seasickness, ginger root was as effective as other drugs.
Ginger may also help in the prevention of different types of nausea: nausea and vomiting that often occur after surgery, after chemotherapy, and during pregnancy. Studies demonstrated that a fixed dose of 1 gram of ginger may inhibit postoperative nausea, and additional research showed that ginger powder can help reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. A 1.1-1.5 gram dose of ginger can also reduce nausea during pregnancy, although pregnant women are advised to speak to a health care provider before taking large amounts of ginger.
Ginger contains a substance, called gingerol, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Gingerol may prevent the growth of many different types of bacteria. A study on the antibacterial effect of ginger showed that it can be used as an alternative or even supplementary medicine in poorer countries, such as Pakistan, where spices are commonly used. Ginger is also effective against the oral bacteria that cause diseases in the gums, such as gingivitis and periodontitis.
Studies have shown that fresh ginger may inhibit respiratory infections, and researchers have also found that ginger has anti-fungal properties. A vitro-study revealed that ginger extract has the ability to fight yeast that causes infections in the mouth. A team of researchers studied the effects of 36 extracts derived from 29 plant species, and discovered that ginger is the most effective plant at killing fungi.
High cholesterol may lead to heart disease, and what we eat can dramatically impact the risk of developing this condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 95 million Americans have total cholesterol levels greater than 200 mg/dL—and heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.
A group of researchers teamed up to investigate the effect of ginger on lipid levels and found that a daily dose of 3 grams of ginger powder lowered the levels of most cholesterol markers, including triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Similar results were confirmed by a study that showed that ginger extract lowered bad cholesterol in ways similar to drugs.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, and ginger can help with the treatment of different types of cancer thanks to the beneficial effect of 6-gingerol, a substance found in raw ginger.
A study on individuals at risk of developing colorectal cancer revealed that 2 grams of ginger extract might be helpful in reducing inflammation in the colon. Promising results have also been found regarding ovarian, pancreatic, and prostate cancers. Specifically, researchers found that ginger may prevent the growth of ovarian cancer. Another study demonstrated that 6-gingerol can cause cycle arrest and death of pancreatic cancer cells, and additional data gathered after studying the effect of ginger on mice suggested that daily oral feeding of ginger extract reduced the volume of tumors in the prostate.
Ginger is a common treatment for nausea among breast cancer patients, but research published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology suggests ginger may be more than just a palliative in the battle against breast cancer and may actually inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation play a key role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline. Studies suggest that ginger components could be used to develop anti-Alzheimer’s drugs because the antioxidants and bioactive properties of ginger may inhibit inflammation in the brain.
Additional research has been done to evaluate the effects of ginger on cognitive function in middle-aged healthy women, and the results confirmed that ginger can improve reaction time and working memory. Researchers conducted several studies on rats and concluded that ginger may also reverse behavioral dysfunction and may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Menstrual Cramps Alleviator
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, up to 20% of women suffer from severe menstrual cramping, also called dysmenorrhea. A study showed that 1 gram of ginger powder per day for the first 3 days of the menstrual period can be as effective as ibuprofen in relieving pain in women with dysmenorrhea.
Another study based on a sample of students with moderate or severe dysmenorrhea found similar results. The group who took ginger experienced a significant reduction in the severity and duration of pain compared to the group that took a placebo.
You may have heard that ginger can help with weight loss, and there are certain merits to this rumor. Made up of gingerols and shogaols, ginger’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help subdue the consequences of excess weight, such as an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Small clinical trials have demonstrated that ginger can help you feel fuller for longer, thereby reducing the calories you eat, and may also help lower your overall body weight and belly fat.
Gingerols in particular can speed up digestion and help regulate blood sugar levels, thereby promoting weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.
Other Health Benefits of Ginger
Ginger can help relieve sore muscles. A study conducted to analyze the effects of 11 days of raw and heat-treated ginger supplementation on muscle demonstrated that daily consumption of both types reduced muscle pain after exercise-induced muscle injury. Additional research revealed that a 2-gram dose of ginger does not affect exercise-induced muscle pain, but ginger may lower the day-to-day progression of muscle pain.
Ginger can also have beneficial effects on patients who suffer from osteoarthritis, a health condition that involves the degeneration of the joints in the body. A study of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee found that the group who consumed ginger extract did not suffer from as much pain, and another study on the analgesic effects of a topical herbal mixed medicine containing ginger revealed that the medicine could reduce pain in osteoarthritis patients. Preliminary evidence suggests that ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties may also help ease the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.
Meanwhile, researchers have been uncovering the anti-diabetic properties of ginger. They found that 2 grams of ginger powder per day lowered blood sugar levels by 12% and improved long-term blood sugar control by 10%.
Are There Side Effects of Natural Ginger?
Ginger is safe for consumption, however some people may experience mild stomach upset, heartburn, or diarrhea. The jury’s out on whether ginger is safe to eat during pregnancy, as there might be a slight potential of disruption to fetal sex hormones and an increased risk of bleeding, but cases such as these are rare. For this reason, monitor ginger consumption under the guidance of a doctor. Avoid use when breastfeeding. And be advised that ginger can interact with certain diabetes medications.
How to Consume Ginger
Ginger root has a unique, sharp, pungent taste, and it can add great flavor to many dishes, from stir-fries to dessert. Ginger is also an excellent ingredient for juices and smoothies—it adds a hint of spiciness and extra health benefits. It’s often a star ingredient in Indian recipes with curry, chicken, and lentils.
One of the best ways to consume ginger is to make ginger tea or ginger water. If you ate something heavy for dinner, for example, ginger drinks can help the digestion process. Tea producers create special blends of spices that offer different benefits, and ginger is often included in the mix.
You can also make your own ginger tea by adding ginger slices to hot water and bringing it to a boil so that the ginger can release its flavor. After discarding the pieces of ginger, add some honey to counterbalance the pungent taste. For even greater medicinal properties, boil fresh ginger root for 10 to 15 minutes, strain, add honey, sip, and enjoy!
You can also add fresh ginger to juices. Keep in mind that ginger has a strong flavor, and it can easily hide the taste of other ingredients if you use too much of it. A popular detox juice that includes ginger includes greens (e.g, kale, spinach), and something sweet to balance the taste, such as apple or pineapple.
Vegan Carrot Soup with Ginger
This vegan carrot soup is packed with flavors and nutrients. If you want to keep this recipe vegan, use trans-fat-free butter made with coconut oil. If you cannot find butter without artificial flavor in the grocery store, make your own.
This soup is the perfect comfort food during winter nights and is also an excellent choice year-round when you need something creamy that is also healthy. The addition of lemon, ginger, and extra virgin olive oil add extra flavor and freshness to the soup.
Ready In: 40 Minutes
- 1/4 stick vegan butter
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 cups chopped carrots
- 1 cup diced Roma tomatoes
- 2 cups veggie stock
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- A dash of extra virgin olive oil
- Black pepper
- Chop the onion and carrots.
- Mince the ginger and garlic.
- Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.
- Add onion to the pot and sauté for 5 minutes.
- Add ginger and garlic to the pot and sauté for a couple of minutes.
- Add chopped carrots and tomatoes, and continue to sauté for a few minutes.
- Add the veggie stock and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat, and let it simmer for around 20 minutes.
- Puree soup in a blender.
- Return soup to the pot, add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
- Add a dash of extra virgin olive oil for freshness before serving.
- Coconut oil: contains natural saturated fats that increase good cholesterol.
- Onion: full of sulfur compounds, which help prevent cancer and reduce the risk of diabetes.
- Ginger: contains gingerol, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Garlic: helps fight diseases, from common colds to infections.
- Carrot: contains beta-carotene which supports eye health.
- Tomato: features antioxidants, which reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
- Lemon: helps digestion and reduces high blood pressure.
- Extra virgin olive oil: lowers high blood pressure and supports brain health.