Ginger is a tangy, medicinal spice that comes from ginger root, a flowering plant that grows in Southeast Asia. It’s been used for centuries as both a spice for cooking and a medicine to heal ailments ranging from colds to digestive distress, to infections and high cholesterol. Ginger may also increase serotonin and dopamine levels, making it beneficial for alleviating depression and anxiety. So, what are the health benefits of ginger?
6 Health Benefits Of Ginger
- Promotes Brain Health
- Fights Infection
- Lowers Cholesterol
- Improves Digestion
- Reduces Menstrual Cramps
- May Fight Cancer
What’s The Benefit Of Consuming Ginger On Human Health?
Promotes Brain Health
Ginger is anti-inflammatory, which is essential for a healthy brain. Many brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, originate with inflammation. The anti-inflammatory compounds of ginger can help to reduce inflammation, and therefore, prevent these diseases. Also, ginger can increase neurotransmitters, which allows brain cells to communicate more effectively with one another, which leads to better cognition and memory.
Additionally, ginger extract has been shown to help ease anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Ginger can boost blood flow to the brain, which is a necessary part of maintaining brain health – adequate blood flow is needed to remove waste, toxins, and other harmful particles from the brain.
Ginger has antibacterial and antiviral compounds, making it a great home remedy for colds, flu, and some infections. This is especially true with fresh ginger, which can prevent bacterial growth for E. coli and RSV. This is largely due to gingerol, the main compound in raw ginger, which contains many healing, anti-inflammatory properties.
Ginger is great for almost any infection, as the underlying drivers of infections are inflammation and/or bacteria. For this reason, ginger is also shown to be effective for combating oral bacteria which can lead to gingivitis, an inflammatory gum condition.
Cholesterol is highly influenced by diet, and ginger can help in reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. This is important in preventing heart disease risk factors. One study showed a 17% drop in LDL cholesterol over three months in participants who added high doses of ginger to their diet. Similar studies have been performed on various groups of people, as well as lab rats, and found that ginger helped reduce cholesterol as well as blood triglycerides. Additionally, studies suggest that ginger may help boost HDL (“good”) cholesterol and blood sugar control.
Ginger can act as a prokinetic, which helps stimulate movement in the GI tract. This can help the stomach empty faster, leading to less indigestion, as well as help the bowels contract, which can alleviate constipation. Better motility means better digestion from start to finish. Ginger also helps calm nerves in the GI system, which can decrease the feeling of nausea, making it a great remedy for an upset stomach and morning sickness (this is how ginger ale came to be a household stomach soother). Additionally, ginger feeds the beneficial microbes that live in the gut, enhancing the healthy intestinal flora. This helps us digest and assimilate food, boost our immunity, and incur many other health benefits.
Reduces Menstrual Cramps
Ginger can promote pain relief, including the pain of menstrual cramps. Studies have indicated that ginger works as effectively as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as IBuprofen. Ginger is an all-around better alternative to NSAIDS because not only is it as effective at reducing cramps, but it promotes digestive health, as opposed to NSAIDs which can cause damage to the GI tract.
May Fight Cancer
Ginger’s medicinal properties extend to cancer treatment and prevention. The gingerol in ginger has anti-cancer compounds, which when consumed in adequate amounts (which should be prescribed by a health care professional), can make a significant difference. Some studies have been conducted that show ginger’s effectiveness at protecting against or reducing the risk of certain GI cancers, including colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and liver cancer, along with ovarian and breast cancer.
How Do People Consume Ginger?
Ginger is a versatile spice that can be used in a variety of ways. The most common way to eat ginger is by peeling it, and then dicing small amounts to add to food or beverages. You can chop ginger and add it to your stir fry while cooking, or throw some peeled pieces into boiling water to make ginger tea. Ginger also comes in powder form, which allows it to be easily sprinkled into dinner dishes, oatmeal, baked goods, and smoothies. It is also easily put into a juicer so that it can be added to any vegetable juice for additional taste and health benefits. Additionally, dried ginger, pickled ginger, ginger powder, ginger beer, and ginger pills are other ways of ginger consumption.
Eating ginger has a soothing effect on the nerves in the GI tract and has a reputation for reducing stomach cramping and nausea. For this reason, many people sip ginger tea, take ginger supplements, or chew ginger candy to soothe an upset stomach.
Because ginger has a strong, spicy taste (and smell), it is often distilled into an essential oil and/or dried and then mixed with other spices and flower petals to create potpourri. This offers a non-toxic, natural alternative to air fresheners and candles.
Nutrition And Dosage
Ginger comes from a plant, and may be eaten in many forms – fresh (peeled), dried, or ground into powder form. Ginger supplementation often comes in ginger powder form or is extracted into a liquid.
One tablespoon of fresh ginger contains 5 calories and 1 gram of carbs, but almost no fiber, protein, or sugar. Ginger contains many vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, zinc, iron, niacin, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, and phosphorus.
Ginger is generally safe for most individuals (though it should be avoided if you have certain medical conditions or are allergic to ginger). For the average person looking for good health and delicious food, it’s advised not to exceed 3-4 grams of ginger per day (or 1 gram per day for pregnant women), as too much ginger can cause adverse reactions. If you’re taking ginger for a specific medical condition, your doctor should prescribe the dosage, as this will vary depending on the illness and what other medications you may be taking.
How Does Ginger Help People With Weight Loss?
Ginger can help with weight loss, which can have cascading benefits on health – including less risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Ginger plays a role in our metabolism, appetite, and how we burn fat and lose body weight. It also prevents our digestive system from absorbing excess fat. Ginger influences how our bodies use insulin, and controls the blood sugar, making it more efficient at storing energy rather than fat.
Additional ways ginger can aid in weight loss include better digestion and less inflammation. When nutrients are absorbed correctly, food is less likely to sit in the GI system longer than it should, and since inflammation can drive weight gain, lowering inflammation can assist in the weight loss process.
How To Make Ginger Tea At Home?
Making ginger tea is as simple as boiling ginger in water. Take a small piece of fresh ginger (about one inch) and boil it in one cup of filtered water. You can increase the amount of fresh ginger and water depending on how many servings you want, but it should be a ratio of 1:1 – one inch of ginger for every cup of water (two inches for two cups, and so on). You can peel the ginger first if you wish, but it’s not necessary.
If you decide not to peel the ginger, be sure to scrub the outside of the ginger before boiling to remove any dirt. Place the ginger in the water and bring it to a boil. After that, you can let it simmer for five minutes or longer, depending on how strong you like the tea.
Once done simmering, strain the water. You can serve it hot or let it cool your choice. Add any flavorings you wish – lemon, cinnamon, honey, etc.
Ginger is a spice grown from a plant that originates in Southeast Asia and has been used for thousands of years to season food, as well as to heal from various illnesses. Ginger has been shown to be effective in weight loss, improving digestion and immunity, fighting illness, and lowering cholesterol, among many other things. It is generally considered safe for most individuals and can be added to most diets, but since it has strong medicinal properties, it’s always best to consult with your doctor before starting a ginger supplement.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Like all herbs and spices, ginger may negatively impact the way certain medications work. For example, ginger may increase the bleeding risk for those on blood thinners. It’s important to let your doctor know what medications you’re on before adding ginger to your diet.
Yes. Although ginger is generally safe and well tolerated, too much ginger (more than 6 grams per day, or more than 1 gram for pregnant women) can cause digestive distress including diarrhea and reflux. It’s best to start off with a small amount and increase up to 3-4 grams per day.
Ginger has been proven effective in treating, reducing, and preventing many illnesses, however, there are no guarantees. Ginger may be a welcomed addition to your diet to help manage or prevent certain diseases and may be part of your treatment plan prescribed by a doctor, but results will vary depending on the person.
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- Ballester, P., Begoña Cerdá, Raúl Arcusa, Marhuenda, J., Yamedjeu, K. and Zafrilla, P. (2022). Effect of Ginger on Inflammatory Diseases. Molecules, [online] 27(21), pp.7223–7223. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27217223.
- Asghari-Jafarabadi, M. and Khalili, L. (2022). The Effect of Ginger (Zingiber officinale) on Improving Blood Lipids and Body Weight; A Systematic Review and Multivariate Meta-analysis of Clinical Trials. Current Pharmaceutical Design, [online] 28(35), pp.2920–2943. doi:https://doi.org/10.2174/1381612828666220926093847.