Ginger and her cousin Turmeric are proud members of the zingiberaceae family and grow in sub-tropical, volcanic soils in the southern hemispheres. The plant is thought to have originated in tropical Asia and is widely cultivated in the Caribbean and Africa. many cultures report similar uses of this plant. It has been used as a favorite “diffusive” circulatory tonic and warming agent, to calm occasional nausea, and to aid in a healthy immune respiratory response. It has also been used to support a normal inflammatory response. Ginger is one of the most widely consumed aromatic spices on the planet.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a flowering plant whose rhizome, ginger root or ginger, is widely used as a spice and a folk medicine. It is a herbaceous perennial which grows annual pseudo-stems (false stems made of the rolled bases of leaves) about one meter tall bearing narrow leaf blades. The inflorescence bear pale yellow with purple flowers and arise directly from the rhizome on separate shoots.
Ginger is in the family Zingiberaceae, which also includes turmeric (Curcuma longa), cardamom (Elettaria cardamom um), and galangal. Ginger originated in Island Southeast Asia and was likely domesticated first by the Austronesian peoples. It was transported with them throughout the Indio-Pacific during the Austronesian expansion (c. 5,000 BP), reaching as far as Hawaii. Ginger is one of the first spices to have been exported from Asia, arriving in Europe with the spice trade, and was used by ancient Greeks and Romans. The distantly related dicots in the genus Asarum are commonly called wild ginger because of their similar taste.
What is Ginger Used for?
The fresh rhizome in Ginger is less hot and contains more of the flavor components such as triterpenoids and volatile oils which act on the peripheries of the body. The dried rhizome is quite hot from its concentration of pungent nonvolatile compounds known as gingerols and acts centrally to dispel what are referred to in Traditional Chinese Medicine as “Cold-Wind” conditions. Ginger has shown in numerous clinical trials to support a healthy inflammatory response and as a beneficial nausea aid. It is thought that Ginger promotes normal production of inflammatory markers which would explain its action on the immune system as well as its ability to promote healthy circulation and inflammatory responses.
Why is ginger good for you?
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People have used ginger in cooking and medicine since ancient times. It is a popular home remedy for nausea, stomach pain, and other health issues.
People typically use fresh or dried ginger in cooking, and some take ginger supplements for their possible health benefits.
Antioxidants and other nutrients in ginger may help prevent or treat arthritis, inflammation, and various types of infection. Researchers have also studied its potential to reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, and other health problems.
In this article, learn more about the possible health benefits of ginger and the research behind them.
Ginger may have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and other healthful properties. Below are some of the possible medicinal uses of ginger.
Some research indicates that ginger can help alleviate morning sickness and relieve nausea following cancer treatment.
One small study from 2010 examined the effects of ginger root powder supplements on nausea in 60 children and young adults who underwent chemotherapy. The analysis showed that the supplement led to reduced nausea in most of the people who took it.
Authors of a 2011 review of studies arrived at similar conclusions. They reported that taking a divided daily dosage of 1,500 milligrams (mg) of ginger extract helped alleviate symptoms of nausea.
They also called for further studies in humans to fully understand the effects of ginger on nausea and other gastrointestinal issues.
Easing a cold or the flu
Many people use ginger to help recover from a cold or the flu. However, the evidence supporting this remedy is mostly anecdotal.
In 2013, researchers studied the effects of fresh and dried ginger on one respiratory virus in human cells.
The results indicated that fresh ginger may help protect the respiratory system, while dried ginger did not have the same impact.
Also in 2013, a small study set out to investigate the popularity of herbal medicine as a cold or flu treatment.
After polling 300 pharmacy customers in two different locations, the researchers determined that 69% of those polled used herbal medicine and that most of this group found it effective.
However, while ginger was among the most popular ingredients in these remedies, some of the participants may not have used it.
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Researchers behind a small study, which included 74 volunteers, found that a daily dosage of 2 grams (g) of raw or heated ginger reduced exercise-induced muscle pain by about 25%.
Meanwhile, a 2016 review of studies concluded that ginger may help reduce dysmenorrhea — pain right before or during menstruation. However, the authors acknowledge that the included studies were often small or of poor quality.
One group of researchers concluded that taking ginger by mouth is “modestly efficacious and reasonably safe” for treating inflammation caused by osteoarthritis.
However, they noted that the studies included in their meta-analysis were small and may not represent the general population.
Meanwhile, a 2017 review of 16 clinical trials determined that the petrochemical properties in ginger may combat inflammation. These authors also called for further research into the most effective dosages and types of ginger extract.
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Supporting cardiovascular health
There is some evidence that ginger extract may help with cardiovascular disease.
For example, one review found that a dosage of 5 g or more can cause significant, beneficial anti platelet activity.
The authors acknowledge that many investigations included in their analysis did not involve human participants or that participant numbers were too small to ensure reliable results.
However, they suggest that, with further research, ginger could prove to be a safe form of treatment for cardiovascular disease.
Meanwhile, one small study found that ginger extract helped reduce the occurrence of heart abnormalities among rats with diabetes. The authors noted that this reduction may stem, in part, from the antioxidant properties of the extract.
Lowering cancer risk
Ginger does not provide protein or other nutrients, but it is an excellent source of antioxidants. Studies have shown that, for this reason, ginger can reduce various types of oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress happens when too many free radicals build up in the body. Free radicals are toxic substances produced by metabolism and other factors.
The body needs to eliminate free radicals to prevent them from causing cellular damage that can lead to a range of diseases, including cancer. Dietary antioxidants help the body get rid of free radicals.
In a 2013 trial, researchers gave 20 participants either 2 g of ginger or a placebo for 28 days. The participants all had a high risk of developing correctional cancer.
Biopsies showed that the participants who had consumed the ginger had fewer negative changes in healthy colon tissue. This group also had reduced cellular proliferation. The findings indicate that ginger could play a role in preventing colorectal cancer.
11 Proven Health Benefits of Ginger
Ginger is among the healthiest (and most delicious) spices on the planet.
It is loaded with nutrients and bioactive compounds that have powerful benefits for your body and brain.
Here are 11 health benefits of ginger that are supported by scientific research.
1. Ginger Contains Gingerol, a Substance With Powerful Medicinal Properties
It belongs to the Zingiberaceae family, and is closely related to turmeric, cardamom and galangal.
The rhizome (underground part of the stem) is the part commonly used as a spice. It is often called ginger root, or simply ginger.
Ginger has a very long history of use in various forms of traditional/alternative medicine. It has been used to help digestion, reduce nausea and help fight the flu and common cold, to name a few.
Ginger can be used fresh, dried, powdered, or as an oil or juice, and is sometimes added to processed foods and cosmetics. It is a very common ingredient in recipes.
The unique fragrance and flavor of ginger come from its natural oils, the most important of which is gingerol.
Gingerol is the main bioactive compound in ginger, responsible for much of its medicinal properties. It has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects (1Trusted Source).
2. Ginger Can Treat Many Forms of Nausea, Especially Morning Sickness
Ginger appears to be highly effective against nausea (2Trusted Source).
For example, it has a long history of use as a sea sickness remedy, and there is some evidence that it may be as effective as prescription medication (3Trusted Source).
Ginger may also relieve nausea and vomiting after surgery, and in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).
But it may be the most effective when it comes to pregnancy-related nausea, such as morning sickness.
According to a review of 12 studies that included a total of 1,278 pregnant women, 1.1-1.5 grams of ginger can significantly reduce symptoms of nausea (6Trusted Source).
However, ginger had no effect on vomiting episodes in this study.
Although ginger is considered safe, talk to your doctor before taking large amounts if you are pregnant. Some believe that large amounts can raise the risk of miscarriage, but there are currently no studies to support this.
3. Ginger May Reduce Muscle Pain and Soreness
Ginger has been shown to be effective against exercise-induced muscle pain.
In one study, consuming 2 grams of ginger per day, for 11 days, significantly reduced muscle pain in people performing elbow exercises (7Trusted Source).
Ginger does not have an immediate impact, but may be effective at reducing the day-to-day progression of muscle pain (8Trusted Source).
These effects are believed to be mediated by the anti-inflammatory properties.
4. The Anti-Inflammatory Effects Can Help With Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a common health problem.
It involves degeneration of the joints in the body, leading to symptoms like joint pain and stiffness.
In a controlled trial of 247 people with osteoarthritis of the knee, those who took ginger extract had less pain and required less pain medication (9Trusted Source).
Another study found that a combination of ginger, mastic, cinnamon and sesame oil, can reduce pain and stiffness in osteoarthritis patients when applied topically (10Trusted Source).
5. Ginger May Drastically Lower Blood Sugars and Improve Heart Disease Risk Factors
This area of research is relatively new, but ginger may have powerful anti-diabetic properties.
In a recent 2015 study of 41 participants with type 2 diabetes, 2 grams of ginger powder per day lowered fasting blood sugar by 12% (11Trusted Source).
It also dramatically improved HbA1c (a marker for long-term blood sugar levels), leading to a 10% reduction over a period of 12 weeks.
There was also a 28% reduction in the ApoB/Apia-I ratio, and a 23% reduction in markers for oxidized lipoproteins. These are both major risk factors for heart disease.
This graph shows what happened:
However, keep in mind that this was just one small study. The results are incredibly impressive, but they need to be confirmed in larger studies before any recommendations can be made.
6. Ginger Can Help Treat Chronic Indigestion
Chronic indigestion (dyspepsia) is characterized by recurrent pain and discomfort in the upper part of the stomach.
It is believed that delayed emptying of the stomach is a major driver of indigestion.
Interestingly, ginger has been shown to speed up emptying of the stomach in people with this condition.
After eating soup, ginger reduced the time it took for the stomach to empty from 16 to 12 minutes (12Trusted Source).
In a study of 24 healthy individuals, 1.2 grams of ginger powder before a meal accelerated emptying of the stomach by 50% (13Trusted Source).
7. Ginger Powder May Significantly Reduce Menstrual Pain
Menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea) refers to pain felt during a woman’s menstrual cycle.
One of the traditional uses of ginger is for pain relief, including menstrual pain.
In one study, 150 women were instructed to take 1 gram of ginger powder per day, for the first 3 days of the menstrual period (14Trusted Source).
Ginger managed to reduce pain as effectively as the drugs mefenamic acid and ibuprofen.
8. Ginger May Lower Cholesterol Levels
High levels of LDL lipoproteins (the bad cholesterol) are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
The foods you eat can have a strong influence on LDL levels.
In a 45-day study of 85 individuals with high cholesterol, 3 grams of ginger powder caused significant reductions in most cholesterol markers (15Trusted Source).
This is supported by a study in hypothyroid rats, where ginger extract lowered LDL cholesterol to a similar extent as the cholesterol-lowering drug atorvastatin (16Trusted Source).
Both studies also showed reductions in total cholesterol and blood triglycerides.
9. Ginger Contains a Substance That May Help Prevent Cancer
Cancer is a very serious disease that is characterized by uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells.
Ginger extract has been studied as an alternative treatment for several forms of cancer.
The anti-cancer properties are attributed to 6-gingerol, a substance that is found in large amounts in raw ginger (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).
In a study of 30 individuals, 2 grams of ginger extract per day significantly reduced pro-inflammatory signalling molecules in the colon (19Trusted Source).
However, a follow-up study in individuals at a high risk of colon cancer did not confirm these findings (20Trusted Source).
There is some, albeit limited, evidence that ginger may be effective against pancreatic cancer, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. More research is needed (21Trusted Source, 22, 23Trusted Source).
10. Ginger May Improve Brain Function and Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease
Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation can accelerate the aging process.
They are believed to be among the key drivers of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline.
Some studies in animals suggest that the antioxidants and bioactive compounds in ginger can inhibit inflammatory responses that occur in the brain (24Trusted Source).
There is also some evidence that ginger can enhance brain function directly. In a study of 60 middle-aged women, ginger extract was shown to improve reaction time and working memory (25Trusted Source).
There are also numerous studies in animals showing that ginger can protect against age-related decline in brain function (26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).
11. The Active Ingredient in Ginger Can Help Fight Infections
Gingerol, the bioactive substance in fresh ginger, can help lower the risk of infections.
In fact, ginger extract can inhibit the growth of many different types of bacteria (29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source).
It is very effective against the oral bacteria linked to inflammatory diseases in the gums, such as gingivitis and periodontists (31Trusted Source).
Fresh ginger may also be effective against the RSV virus, a common cause of respiratory infections (32Trusted Source).
How Ginger Is Used
Ginger has many different uses and applications. Because ginger has a peppery, warm, and slightly sweet taste as well as a strong aroma, it has been popular for many centuries and used in various ways.
As ginger is used mostly as a spice, it is used most often in its fresh, dried, and powdered or ground forms.
Both the immature and mature stems, or rhizome, of fresh ginger are used. Dried ginger, which then may be ground into powder, is usually made from more mature plants. Preserved ginger often uses more immature rhizomes.
In areas where ginger is grown and cultivated, it is mostly consumed in its fresh form. Fresh ginger is used in Southeast Asian cooking, as a spice or herb or eaten as a cooked vegetable.
Young ginger rhizomes can be eaten raw. Fresh ginger is often used to make ginger tea, ginger ale, and other beverages.
The dried, ground, powdered, and preserved forms of ginger are traded internationally. Ground ginger as a cooking ingredient is used around the world. It is also used in food processing as a flavoring agent.
Ginger can also be found often in baked goods and desserts. Preserved ginger is also often used in baked goods, candies, jams, and marmalade’s.Conclusion:
Ginger is used globally as a spice and flavoring agent. It is most often enjoyed in its fresh, dried, and powdered forms.
Nutritional Value of Ginger
Ginger is a good source of vitamins A, B, C, and E, as well as minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc.
Only 80 calories are found in 100 grams of fresh ginger, along with 2 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, and 2 grams of fiber. (1)
This herb is also known to help with nausea, coughing, and chest congestion. It is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiseptic, anti fungal, and antiviral.