by Rachael Link, MS, RD
As one of the most used dietary condiments in the world today, it’s no wonder that the benefits of ginger are pretty impressive. (1) It’s versatile, easy to use and has been associated with everything from beating motion sickness to better brain function.
The health benefits of ginger are largely due to its antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties and content of therapeutic compounds like gingerol, shogaol, paradol and zingerone.
So what is ginger good for and how can you incorporate it into your diet? Here’s what you need to know about this powerhouse of nutrition.
What Is Ginger?
Ginger, also known as Zingiber officinale, is a flowering plant that is closely related to turmeric and cardamom. Ginger comes from rhizomes, which are underground stems that grow horizontally and form roots downwards while leaves and new stems sprout on top. Buds then form at intervals along each stem.
The health benefits of ginger are well-documented and ginger has been used across the globe as a natural remedy for thousands of years due to its medicinal properties.
It can be found in fresh, ground or capsule form — or even as ginger essential oil — and it’s associated with an extensive list of ginger health benefits.
Ginger contains a diverse array of many important vitamins and minerals. It also contains gingerol, a compound with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that has been linked to many unique health benefits. (2)
100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of raw ginger contains approximately (3):
- 80 calories
- 17.8 grams carbohydrates
- 1.8 grams protein
- 0.7 grams fat
- 2 grams dietary fiber
- 415 milligrams potassium (12 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligrams copper (11 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligrams manganese (11 percent DV)
- 43 milligrams magnesium (11 percent DV)
- 5 milligrams vitamin C (8 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligrams vitamin B6 (8 percent DV)
- 0.7 milligrams niacin (4 percent DV)
- 34 milligrams phosphorus (3 percent DV)
- 0.6 milligrams iron (3 percent DV)
In addition to the nutrients listed above, ginger also contains a small amount of calcium, zinc, pantothenic acid, riboflavin and thiamin.
However, keep in mind that most people consume a very small portion of ginger, so it should be combined with a variety of other nutrient-dense foods to meet your micronutrient needs.
12 Benefits of Ginger
1. Helps Treat Nausea
Used historically as a natural remedy for sea sickness and morning sickness, ginger is perhaps most well-known for its ability to treat nausea.
One review looked at the results of 12 studies comprised of 1,278 pregnant women and found that ginger was effective at decreasing symptoms of nausea with minimal risk of side effects. (4) Plus, another study from the University of Rochester Medical Center showed that ginger helped reduce nausea severity in patients receiving chemotherapy. (5)
2. Fights Fungal Infections
Fungal infections cause a wide variety of conditions, from yeast infections to jock itch and athlete’s foot. Fortunately, ginger has powerful anti-fungal properties that can safely and successfully help kill off disease-causing fungi.
In one 2016 test-tube study out of Iran, ginger extract was found to be effective against two types of yeast that commonly cause fungal infections in the mouth. (6) Another test-tube study in Mycoses measured the antifungal effects of 29 plant species and found that ginger was the most effective at killing off fungus. (7)
3. Protects Against Stomach Ulcers
Stomach ulcers are painful sores that form in the lining of the stomach and cause symptoms like indigestion, fatigue, heartburn and abdominal discomfort.
Several studies have found that ginger could help prevent the formation of stomach ulcers. In fact, one 2011 animal study showed that ginger powder protected against aspirin-induced stomach ulcers by decreasing levels of inflammatory proteins and blocking the activity of enzymes related to ulcer development. (8)
4. Eases Menstrual Pains
Unfortunately, adverse side effects like pain, period cramps and headaches are commonly associated with menstruation for many women. While some turn to over-the-counter medications to provide symptom relief, natural remedies like ginger can be just as useful at easing menstrual pain.
A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that ginger was as effective at reducing menstrual pain as medications like ibuprofen and mefanamic acid. (9) Another study in 2009 had similar findings, reporting that ginger was able to reduce both the intensity and duration of pain. (10)
5. May Inhibit Cancer Growth
One of the most impressive benefits of ginger is its anti-cancer properties, thanks to the presence of a powerful compound called 6-gingerol.
Test-tube studies show that ginger and its components may be effective in blocking cancer cell growth and development for ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancer. (11, 12, 13) However, more research is needed to determine how the anti-cancer properties of ginger may translate to humans.
6. Regulates Blood Sugar
High blood sugar can cause many negative symptoms, from frequent urination to headaches and increased thirst. If left unchecked, it can even cause more serious problems like nerve damage and impaired wound healing.
Research shows that ginger may be able to help promote normal blood sugar to prevent these serious side effects. In one 2015 study, ginger supplementation actually reduced fasting blood sugar by 12 percent and improved long-term blood sugar control by 10 percent. (14)
7. Relieves Joint and Muscle Pain
Because of its ability to reduce inflammation, adding ginger into your diet could help treat both muscle pain and arthritis-related joint pain.
One study showed that daily consumption of ginger resulted in moderate-to-large reductions in muscle pain caused by exercise-induced muscle injury. (15) Another study found that ginger extract helped decrease knee pain and the need for pain medication in individuals with osteoarthritis. (16)
8. Lowers Cholesterol Levels
From producing bile to manufacturing hormones, cholesterol is essential to overall health. However, high levels of cholesterol can build up in the blood, causing blockages and increasing your risk of heart disease.
One of the biggest benefits of ginger is its ability to naturally lower cholesterol levels to reduce your risk of heart problems. A study conducted at Babol University of Medical Sciences actually found that ginger was able to significantly reduce bad LDL cholesterol and raise beneficial HDL cholesterol compared to a placebo. (17) An animal study also showed that ginger was nearly as effective in lowering cholesterol as atorvastatin, a medication commonly prescribed for high blood cholesterol. (18)
9. Improves Brain Function
Neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s have been linked to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation in the brain. With its wealth of antioxidants and potent anti-inflammatory properties, ginger is believed to play an important role in the health of your brain.
Several animal studies have found that ginger extract could protect against brain aging and cognitive decline. (19, 20) Not only that, but a 2012 study also found that ginger extract helped improve cognitive function and attention in middle-aged women. (21)
10. Blocks Bacterial Infections
In addition to its antifungal properties, ginger boasts the ability to fight off bacterial infections as well. Pathogenic bacteria are common culprits behind conditions like urinary tract infections, pneumonia and bronchitis.
According to one test-tube study, the compounds found in ginger could help inhibit the growth of certain strains of bacteria that cause gum disease. (22) Another test-tube study showed that ginger extract was effective against several strains of drug-resistant bacteria as well. (23)
11. Eases Inflammation
Although inflammation can be a normal, healthy immune response to injury and infection, chronic inflammation is believed to be a major contributor to conditions like heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer. (24)
One review in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine noted that ginger extract may help inhibit the synthesis of certain markers of inflammation. Besides gingerol, it also contains other anti-inflammatory compounds like shogaol, paradol and zingerone. (25)
12. Promotes Proper Digestion
One of the most powerful ginger benefits is its ability to support digestive health and prevent problems like dyspepsia, a common condition of impaired digestion characterized by symptoms like pain, heartburn, fullness and discomfort.
According to a study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, ginger was able to speed up the emptying of the stomach by 25 percent compared to a placebo in people with indigestion. (26) Another study even found that taking ginger capsules with a meal actually doubled the speed of stomach emptying (27).
How to Get the Best Ginger + Ginger Uses
Picking up a fresh knob of ginger from the grocery store can be a little intimidating, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Fresh ginger should have thin, shiny skin that can easily be scraped with your fingernail. It should also have a sharp, peppery and pungent aroma. Ginger that has gone bad, on the other hand, will have soft spots and a moist texture while cut ginger will begin to darken around the edges when it’s past its prime.
Wondering how to eat ginger and enjoy its many health benefits?
Raw ginger can be easily added to smoothies or vegetable juices for an added dose of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits. You can also even cook with ginger by grating it and adding into your favorite soups, salads or desserts. For best results, use an amount of ginger root approximately equivalent to the size of your thumb.
Using ground ginger powder in your cooking is another way to take full advantage of this super spice. Sprinkle it onto dishes like coconut curried chicken, add it into sweet treats and baked goods or mix it into your morning smoothie. For a quick and convenient option, ginger powder capsules are also available and can be taken in doses up to 1,000 milligrams daily.
Ginger essential oil contains a concentrated amount of gingerol and is typically considered the most potent form of ginger. There many different uses of ginger essential oil; it can be taken internally or combined with a carrier oil and rubbed onto areas of pain. Just two to three drops is all it takes to maximize its therapeutic potential.
Many people also enjoy brewing up a hot cup of ginger tea. The health benefits of ginger tea include relieving nausea, settling the stomach and relaxing the body. Add in a bit of honey or lemon to enhance the flavor and drink between one to three cups daily for the most ginger tea benefits.
In moderation, ginger is generally safe and unlikely to cause any adverse side effects in most people. Common symptoms reported include stomach discomfort, heartburn and diarrhea.
Although rare, some people may also have an allergy to ginger. If you experience any food allergy symptoms like hives, swelling or difficulty breathing, stop use immediately and talk to your doctor.
When applied to the skin, ginger essential oil may cause skin irritation in some people. It’s best to try a skin patch test by applying a small amount of oil first to make sure your skin is not sensitive.
Additionally, if taking ginger capsules, always start with a low dose and work your way up to assess your tolerance. Stick to the recommended dosage and decrease as needed if you have any negative symptoms.
- Ginger is one of the most commonly used dietary condiments in the world, but what does ginger do for you?
- Studies show that it may be effective at decreasing morning sickness and easing menstrual pains. Other ginger benefits for men and women include fighting fungal and bacterial infections, treating stomach ulcers, improving brain function and reducing inflammation.
- There are plenty of ginger benefits and side effects are generally minimal. Common issues include stomach discomfort, heartburn, diarrhea and skin irritation.
- Try cooking with ginger in fresh or ground form, taking a ginger supplement, brewing up a cup of ginger tea or using ginger essential oil to take advantage of this superstar spice.
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