Ginger, a flowering plant from Southeast Asia, is one of the healthiest spices on earth. It’s in the Zingiberaceae family and is related to turmeric, cardamom and galangal. The rhizome (underground part of the stem) is the piece that’s commonly used as a spice. It’s often called ginger root or, simply, ginger. It can be used fresh, dried, powdered, or as an oil or juice. It’s a very common ingredient in recipes. Healthline’s article “11 Proven Health Benefits of Ginger” lists 11 health benefits of ginger.
- It has gingerol—which has powerful medicinal properties. Ginger has a long history of use in various forms of traditional and alternative medicine. It’s been used to aid digestion, reduce nausea and help fight the flu and common cold, among other remedial purposes. In addition, ginger is high in gingerol, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- Ginger can treat many forms of nausea, especially morning sickness. It may help relieve nausea and vomiting for people undergoing certain types of surgery. It may also help chemotherapy-related nausea. It may be the most effective when it comes to pregnancy-related nausea, such as morning sickness. However, it’s recommended that pregnant women who are near to labor or who’ve had miscarriages avoid ginger. It’s also contraindicated with a history of vaginal bleeding and clotting disorders.
- It can help with weight loss. Ginger may play a part in weight loss, according to studies conducted in humans and animals. A 2019 literature review of functional foods found that ginger had a very positive effect on obesity and weight loss. However, they add that more studies are needed.
- Ginger can help with osteoarthritis. This is a common health problem which involves degeneration of the joints in the body, leading to symptoms, such as joint pain and stiffness. One literature review found that those who used ginger to treat their OA saw significant reductions in pain and disability.
- The root may drastically lower blood sugars and improve heart disease risk factors. This is a newer area of research. However, ginger may have powerful anti-diabetic properties. A 2015 study of 41 participants with type 2 diabetes found that two grams of ginger powder per day lowered fasting blood sugar by 12%. It also dramatically improved hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a marker for long-term blood sugar levels. HbA1c was reduced by 10% over a period of 12 weeks. There was also a 28% reduction in the Apolipoprotein B/Apolipoprotein A-I ratio and a 23% reduction in malondialdehyde (MDA), which is a byproduct of oxidative stress. A high ApoB/ApoA-I ratio and high MDA levels are both major risk factors of heart disease. However, note that this was just one small study.
- Ginger can help treat chronic indigestion. It’s thought that delayed emptying of the stomach is a major factor inf indigestion. Ginger has been shown to expedite emptying of the stomach. People with functional dyspepsia, which is indigestion with no known cause, were given either ginger capsules or a placebo in a small 2011 study. An hour later, they were all given soup. It took just over 12 minutes for the stomach to empty in people who received ginger. Compare that to more than 16 minutes in those who received the placebo.
- Ginger may significantly reduce menstrual pain. Dysmenorrhea is pain felt during the menstrual cycle, and a traditional use of ginger is for pain relief, including menstrual pain.
- It may help lower cholesterol levels. High levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, and what you eat can have a strong influence on LDL levels. In a 2018 study of 60 people with hyperlipidemia, the 30 people who received five grams of ginger-pasted powder each day had their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels drop by 17.4% over a 3-month period. Note that although this drop in LDL is impressive, study participants received very high doses of ginger.
- Ginger contains a substance that may help prevent cancer. Ginger’s anti-cancer properties are attributed to gingerol, which is found in large amounts in raw ginger. A form known as -gingerol is seen as especially powerful. A study of individuals at normal risk for colorectal cancer showed that two- grams of ginger extract per day significantly reduced pro-inflammatory signaling molecules in the colon. However, a follow-up study in individuals at a high risk for colorectal cancer didn’t produce the same results. In any event, there’s some limited evidence that ginger may be effective against other gastrointestinal cancers, such as pancreatic cancer and liver cancer.
- It may improve brain function and protect against Alzheimer’s disease. Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation can accelerate the aging process. These are among the key drivers of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline. Some animal studies show that the antioxidants and bioactive compounds in ginger can inhibit inflammatory responses that occur in the brain. There’s some evidence that ginger can help enhance brain function directly.
- Ginger can help fight infections. Gingerol can help lower the risk of infections, and ginger extract can inhibit the growth of many different types of bacteria.
Adding Ginger to Your Diet. If you want to add ginger to your diet, you can do it by trying the following:
- Chicken dishes with ginger, such as garlic-ginger chicken with cilantro and mint, spicy orange-ginger chicken, and lemon-ginger chicken;
- Fresh ginger and ginger root tea; and
- Malian ginger juice.
Reference: Healthline (March 19, 2021) “11 Proven Health Benefits of Ginger”