Earthy with a kick, ginger has been used for millennia to spice food and treat ailments.
Ginger is native to Asia and is the flowering plant of the Zingiberaceae family. Its root, or stem, adds flavor to many types of cuisine, but is also an ancient herbal remedy for a host of ailments. Drinking ginger tea may help with everything from motion sickness to cancer prevention.
Here are just some of the known and suspected benefits of ginger tea.
Folk medicine suggests that ginger tea can help calm motion sickness symptoms like dizziness, vomiting, and cold sweats. Most research has not been able to show any effectiveness; motion sickness medication works best.
One older study did show that ginger helped decrease motion sickness. If you suffer from queasiness in moving vehicles, trying ginger probably can’t hurt.
Some experts believe the active components in ginger — volatile oils and phenol compounds called gingerols — can help relieve nausea caused by pregnancy, chemotherapy, or surgery. (Check with a doctor before using ginger after surgery, as it may interfere with clotting.)
Researchers suggest that ginger might be a worthwhile alternative to traditional anti-nausea drugs in people who are pregnant or undergoing chemotherapy and can’t have or tolerate the standard drugs.
A 2012 study from Columbia University involving 10 overweight men found that drinking hot ginger tea (in this case, ginger powder dissolved in hot water) increased their feelings of fullness and reduced hunger.
A review of the research suggests that ginger may be effective in managing obesity. However, most of the experiments have been rat studies, which suggest that ginger may help prevent obesity and obesity-related complications.
Ginger may help improve blood sugar control, reduce A1C, insulin, and triglycerides among people with type 2 diabetes, some research suggests.
Ginger has been used to treat inflammation for centuries and this practice now has a body of scientific evidence behind it. It’s been shown in several studies to help relieve pain from osteoarthritis of the knee in particular.
Ginger tea may also help alleviate headaches, menstrual cramps, sore muscles, and other types of pain.
It’s believed that the antioxidants in ginger can help strengthen your immunity and reduce stress. Inhaling the steam from ginger tea may also help relieve nasal congestion and other respiratory issues from the common cold or environmental allergies.
Research has even shown that ginger may help prevent cancer. In laboratory research ginger has been shown to fight several different types of cancer cells, including pancreatic cancer and colon cancer.
Here is an easy-to-follow recipe for making your own ginger tea. You’ll need:
- 4 to 6 thin slices of peeled, raw ginger (add more slices for stronger ginger tea)
- 2 cups of water
- juice from half of a lime or lemon, and honey or agave nectar to taste (optional)
First, wash and scrub the ginger root. Then, peel the ginger and slice thinly. Fill a medium pot with 2 cups of water. Place the ginger slices in the water and let boil gently for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how strong and spicy you like your tea.
Remove from heat. Add lime or lemon juice and honey (or agave) to taste, if desired.
You can also make ginger tea with milk. Boil your ginger root slices in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes, then remove from heat and add 2 cups of milk. Simmer the milk and ginger for five minutes. Serve in your favorite mug.
Drinking ginger tea can have side effects, but you’re unlikely to experience problems unless you consume very large amounts.
People most often report gas, bloating, heartburn, and nausea as ginger-related side effects. Since ginger may lower blood pressure and may have a blood thinning effect, people on blood thinners or blood pressure drugs, should consult their doctor before consuming extra ginger.
Although you probably shouldn’t go overboard with it, ginger tea is an easy, delicious, and all-natural way to promote good health. In addition to the many health benefits, you can also simply sit back with a warm mug, breathe in, sip slowly, and enjoy.
Annamarya Scaccia is a freelance multimedia journalist who has reported extensively on public health issues including reproductive rights and sexual health. Her work has appeared in the New York Daily News, Philadelphia City Paper, Philadelphia Weekly, and at RollingStone.com, City Limits, RH Reality Check, Next City, and the Raw Story. Follow her on Twitter at @annamarya_s.