The Health Benefits of Ginger

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition
Fresh slices of Ginger on wooden cutting board.

You might know of ginger as the spice that gives gingerbread it’s warm flavor or ginger ale it’s distinct taste. However, this zesty superfood has so much more to offer than its flavor. Keep reading to learn more about the health benefits of ginger.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, ginger is native to Southeast Asia and India.1 It’s from the same “plant family” as other popular spices like turmeric and cardamom.2 For thousands of years, ginger has been used for medicinal purposes in China.3

In addition to the pastoral history of ginger’s medicinal uses, some scientific studies have also turned their focus on this super plant, finding evidence for ginger as an anti-inflammatory agent, anti-nausea compound and anticancer agent. Here’s what the research says about the health benefits of ginger:

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Anti-Inflammatory

Fresh chopped ginger root and ground ginger powder in wooden spoon on wooden rustic table.

The National Arthritis Foundation cites a University of Miami study, stating that ginger extract could possibly become an alternative for nonsteroidal ant-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They explain, “The study compared the effects of a highly concentrated ginger extract to placebo in 247 patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. The ginger reduced pain and stiffness in knee joints by 40 percent over the placebo.”4

Researchers theorize that ginger may provide these benefits due to the effects it has on certain inflammatory processes. It has anti-inflammatory properties, as well as antioxidants.4 Medical News Today further backs up this notion, saying that, “Ginger may help prevent and manage arthritis due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.”5

A review of 16 clinical trials, published in 2017, also determined that ginger may help stave off inflammation. However, the scientists did state that more research is needed to determine the proper amount and types of ginger extract that are most beneficial.6

According to Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition., one study found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis or general muscular discomfort reported relief from pain and swelling when taking a powdered ginger supplement for at least three months or up to two years. It is theorized that this anti-inflammatory property is due, in part, to ginger’s modification of calcium levels through a particular receptor subtype that signals heat and pain sensitivity.2

Research studying ginger for pain and inflammation has had mixed results and more studies are needed.2

Anti-Nausea

Ginger on a table grated and sliced

In addition to its potential ant-inflammatory powers, ginger is commonly thought to have the ability to stop the feeling of nausea. Ginger’s possible ability to alleviate symptoms of nausea and vomiting is probably its most famous purpose.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, ginger contains the antioxidant 6-gingerol. This compound is thought to be the reason why ginger may help alleviate nausea and vertigo symptoms.1

Research cited in Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition., indicates that “ginger and its constituents accumulate in the gastrointestinal tract, which supports the many observations of ginger’s effectiveness as an antinausea agent and as a possible colon cancer-preventing compound.”2 It is believed that ginger’s effectiveness is due to its carminative effect. This breaks down and gets rid of intestinal gas.  However, the studies are still inconclusive on how ginger effectively relieves nausea.

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Cooking With Ginger

soup with fresh ginger and limes

It’s clear that ginger has many potential health benefits. It’s also been shown to possibly support cardiovascular health, decrease the risk of cancer and improve digestion.6 While more research is needed on ginger and its effects, it’s clear that it’s a healthy ingredient that you can add to many different meals on your low-carb diet. It’s rich in antioxidants and also contains vitamin C, magnesium and potassium.1

According to Medical News Today, “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider ginger to be safe to include in the diet, but they do not guarantee or regulate its use as a medicine or supplement. Researchers have not investigated many of the compounds in ginger. Also, scientific evidence does not support some claims about ginger’s healing qualities. Before adding more ginger to the diet or taking a ginger supplement, consult a healthcare provider. A supplement may interact with medications or cause other health complications.”

You can find it in your supermarket fresh, dried, ground, powdered, candied or pickled.2 It can also be found as a dietary supplement, but speak to your doctor trying any new diet or supplement. If you’re following a low-carb diet, try to avoid any forms of ginger that include the addition of added sugar.

Ginger is a great way to add depth and warm flavor to soups, stir fries, smoothies and more. Looking for some healthy ways to include ginger in your diet? Check out the tasty recipes below that feature this spicy root:

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Sources: 

  1. https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/exploring-aromatics
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/
  3. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/ginger
  4. http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/health-benefits-of-ginger/
  5. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319106
  6. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265990