Native to southern China, ginger grows in warm climates worldwide. The spicy, aromatic root of the ginger plant has been used by many cultures in cooking and in medicine. Most people use it as a spice or eat it with sushi, but ginger can also be made into tea. All you need to do is steep a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger in a pint of boiling water, and you’ve got yourself two tasty servings!
Side effects, real and rumored
Ginger tea doesn’t seem to have serious side effects. For one thing, it would be difficult to drink enough of the tea to expose yourself to anything irritating or harmful. In general, you don’t want to consume more than 4 grams of ginger a day — that’s quite a few cups!
Many people think ginger can increase bile production, but there is no scientific evidence of this. Still, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before you use ginger tea if you have a history of gallbladder problems.
One possible minor side effect of drinking ginger tea is heartburn or stomach upset, similar to how you feel when you eat chilies or other spicy foods. You could mistake this irritation for a ginger allergy. However, you might have an allergy to ginger if you experience a rash or discomfort in your mouth or stomach after drinking ginger tea.
Ginger may help lower blood pressure, so you might experience lightheadedness as a side effect. Ginger also contains salicylates, the chemical in aspirin that acts as a blood thinner. This can cause problems for people with bleeding disorders. But again, you’d have to consume much more than the recommended 4 grams of ginger a day to experience that effect.
The health claims
Some say ginger tea can cure coughs and other respiratory problems. Studies show that ginger can reduce blood pressure and may be as effective as some typically used medications. Gingerol, a component of ginger, has been shown to suppress tumor growth in the lab. Many users claim ginger tea alleviates arthritis pain and muscle aches.
Ginger tea is also traditionally used for stomach problems, most famously for preventing or stopping nausea. It may help with nausea due to chemotherapy or surgery. Using ginger to relieve morning sickness during pregnancy is controversial.
Be sure to check with your doctor before taking anything to ease nausea if you’re pregnant, undergoing cancer therapy, or facing surgery.
The bottom line
Too much of anything — even something natural — is bound to cause problems. But if you’re generally in good health and you like the zing that ginger provides, drink up and don’t worry.