Ginger originated in Southeast Asia. It’s been used to flavor foods and as an herbal medicine for ages in this area of the world. If you’ve ever reached for a ginger ale when you’ve felt queasy, you already know that ginger may have some feel-better qualities.
The benefits may go well beyond your upset stomach, however. Read on to learn about some benefits of ginger root you may not have heard before.
Helps motion sickness
Move over stomach bug, ginger may also help people who suffer with motion sickness. In a study from 2003 published by the American Journal of Physiology, researchers put ginger under the microscope.
They asked 13 people with a history of motion sickness to endure circular movement to induce nausea. After the baseline was established, some participants were given one to two grams of ginger before the motion. The results? The ginger effectively delayed the onset of sickness and also shortened the time it took to get over the episode.
Other studies comparing ginger to the popular drug Dramamine have shown the ginger to come out on top for this use. In one study from 2007, just one gram of ginger reduced seasickness for naval cadets.
Eases pregnancy nausea
Nausea and vomiting are an early sign of pregnancy. While there are anti-nausea drugs on the market, they’re usually not recommended unless nausea is severe.
A study on 508 pregnant women published by the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine shows that ginger may be an effective non-drug way to ease nausea. The women who consumed at least one gram of ginger per day for four days had a five-fold likelihood of improvement with their nausea symptoms.
Ginger root is at the center of Ayurvedic medicine — a holistic medical system originating in India. Some even call it the “medicine chest” for the many benefits it provides. There’s a verse that explains how people should eat ginger before lunch and dinner. Ayurvedic practitioners believe ginger not only helps with digestion and appetite control, but it may also improve the body’s absorption of nutrients.
The only things these practitioners do not recommend use of ginger for include extreme bleeding, menstruation, vertigo, and chronic skin diseases.
The International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Phytopharmacological Research shared a study suggesting that ginger may fight infection. How? Because it has natural antimicrobial qualities. The study examined the use of throat lozenges used against Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and other bacteria.
Other studies have compared ginger root’s power against medications. In one published by the Journal of Microbiology and Antimicrobials, the ginger was actually found to be more effective against cultured Staphylococcus and Streptococcus than drugs like chloramphenicol, ampicillin and tetracycline.
Lowers blood sugar
The Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research published a study showing that ginger root may be a powerful tool in helping people with diabetes. The 41 people in the study were divided into two groups. The researchers gave the test group two grams of ginger powder each day for 12 weeks. The results? The people in the test group saw significantly lower fasting blood sugar at the end of the 12 weeks. The people in the control group saw no change in their fasting blood sugar. While this study is small, it comes after others that have also shown ginger to decrease fasting blood sugar in lab rats.
Protects your heart
Researchers are looking into ginger’s potential to help with cardiovascular diseases. However, trials on animals are more convincing than those on humans at this point. In one study from 2011, ginger extract decreased aortic atherosclerotic lesions on the heart, triglycerides, and cholesterol, among other things.
Additional studies have echoed these results, with ginger doing anything from lowering lipid levels to reducing atherosclerosis. While more research is needed on human subjects, ginger does appear to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiplatelet, and other effects that may help protect the heart.
In a review published by the International Journal of Preventative Medicine, researchers discussed the potential for ginger to stop cancer before it starts. There have been various studies on this topic, focusing on the ginger’s active ingredients gingerol, shogaol, and paradol. The review concluded that ginger may very well fight cancer through its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, but that more research is needed before widely recommending this as a therapy.
Reduces pain and inflammation
Gingerol, found within ginger, is also a potent anti-inflammatory compound. People with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis have reported less pain and more mobility after eating ginger on a regular basis. In fact, a recent study on lab rats showed that ginger — both the gingerols and essential oils — does have anti-arthritic effects and is well tolerated.
Older studies on humans have shown similar results, with participants reporting not only less discomfort, but also less swelling in their joints.
A study published by the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture suggests that gingerol may help you stay trimmer. Lab rats were fed a high-fat diet and then given ginger to observe its effects on anything from body weight to insulin to lipids.
They were given different dosages of the ginger, and the highest dose produced the most dramatic results. In the end, the researchers concluded that ginger suppresses obesity related to a high-fat diet.
How to eat
You may find ginger products from fresh root to powdered spice to candied. Fresh is likely best when you’re looking to enjoy the health benefits. You can find fresh ginger root in the produce section in many grocery stores. Inspect the root to make sure it’s firm, smooth, and mold-free before purchasing.
Most of the ginger you will see at a standard store is what’s called mature ginger. This type has a thick skin that you should peel before eating. If you have access to an Asian market, you may find young ginger that does not need to be peeled.
You can store your unpeeled ginger root for up to three weeks in the refrigerator and six months in the freezer.
Ideas for adding ginger:
- Grate ginger root and combine it with lemon juice, water, and a bit of sweetener to make a ginger lemonade.
- Sprinkle grated ginger atop rice dishes. You can also add sesame seeds and nori strips for extra flavor and texture.
- Make a simple salad dressing using ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and olive oil.
- Add fresh ginger to sautéed vegetables or fruit, like baked apples.
Ginger has a lot of feel-good benefits that may be right for you, but you can have too much of a good thing. So, if you do choose ginger, do so in moderation.
Usually four grams or less is enough to have you feeling better without giving you any side effects, like stomach discomfort, heartburn, gas, and diarrhea.