With its zesty, peppery flavor and its extensive list of health benefits, ginger root is equal parts delicious and nutritious. It’s one of the most used dietary condiments in the world today, versatile, easy to add to recipes 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. In fact, more than approximately 100 compounds have reportedly been isolated from ginger. They give it not only antioxidant abilities, but also anticancer, neuroprotective and cardiovascular protective ones, too.
Available in fresh, dried, ground, capsule and juice form, this spice is easy to add to your diet and can have a lasting impact on just about every system in the human body.
What Is Ginger?
Ginger, also known as Zingiber officinale, is a flowering plant that is closely related to turmeric and cardamom. The underground stem, or rhizome, of the ginger plant is commonly known as the ginger root and is well-known for its medicinal properties.
Ginger has been used across the globe as a natural remedy for thousands of years due to its medicinal properties. In fact, ancient Chinese, Roman, Greek, Arabic and Sanskrit texts have all documented the use of this spice to help improve general health and well-being.
What are popular uses of ginger? You can find it in fresh, ground or capsule form — or even as ginger essential oil — and can use it as a culinary spice, digestive aid, tea or for aromatherapy.
Research is just beginning to scrape the surface when it comes to the multitude of benefits associated with ginger root. From fighting infections to decreasing cholesterol and enhancing weight loss, it’s clear that adding ginger root to your diet could have a powerful effect on health.
What are the health benefits of ginger? This spice contains a diverse array of many important compounds, vitamins and minerals — such as gingerol, which studies show has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Here’s more about how this common spice can promote digestive health and beyond:
1. Helps Treat Nausea and Morning Sickness
Used historically as a natural remedy for sea sickness and morning sickness, ginger is perhaps most well-known for its ability to treat nausea and vomiting.
One review looked at the results of 12 studies composed of 1,278 pregnant women and found that ginger was effective at decreasing symptoms of nausea with minimal risk of side effects.
Plus, another study from the University of Rochester Medical Center showed that ginger helped reduce severity of nausea in patients receiving chemotherapy.
2. Fights Fungal Infections
Fungal infections cause a wide variety of conditions, from yeast infections to jock itch and athlete’s foot. Fortunately, ginger helps kill off disease-causing fungi due to its powerful antifungal properties.
A 2016 test-tube study found ginger extract to be effective against two types of yeast that commonly cause fungal infections in the mouth. Another test-tube study measured the antifungal effects of 29 plant species and found that ginger was among the most effective at killing off fungus.
3. Protects Against Stomach Ulcers
Several studies have found that ginger could help prevent the formation of stomach ulcers, which are painful sores that form in the lining of the stomach and cause symptoms like indigestion, fatigue, heartburn and abdominal discomfort.
In fact, one 2011 animal study showed that ginger powder protected against aspirin-induced ulcers by decreasing levels of inflammatory proteins and blocking the activity of enzymes related to ulcer development.
4. Eases Menstrual Pains
Unfortunately, symptoms like pain, period cramps (dysmenorrhea) and headaches are commonly associated with menstruation for many women. While some turn to over-the-counter medications to provide symptom relief, natural treatments like ginger can be just as useful at easing menstrual pain.
A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicines showed that ginger reduces menstrual pain as effectively as drugs like ibuprofen and mefenamic acid. Another study in 2009 had similar findings, reporting that it decreased both the intensity and duration of pain.
5. May Inhibit Cancer Growth
One of the most impressive effects of ginger is its anti-cancer properties thanks to the presence of a powerful compound called 6-gingerol. A 2018 study found that ginger derivatives, in the form of an extract or isolated compounds, exhibit relevant antiproliferative, antitumor, invasive and anti-inflammatory activities. Add it to your list of cancer fighting foods.
Test-tube studies show that this spice’s components may be effective in blocking cancer cell growth and development for ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancer. However, more research is needed to determine how well it can inhibit cancer and how it may translate to humans.
6. Can Help Regulate Blood Sugar and Fight Obesity
Research shows that ginger helps promote normal blood sugar. That means it may be helpful for reducing negative symptoms associated with high blood glucose levels, such as frequent urination, headaches (including migraines) and increased thirst.
According to one 2018 study, it can improve lipid profiles and benefit glucose control, insulin sensitivity and glycosylated hemoglobin to protect against development of type 2 diabetes.
In one 2015 study, ginger supplementation actually reduced fasting blood sugar by 12 percent and improved long-term blood sugar control by 10 percent.
A 2021 study conducted on mice found that ginger also has anti-obesity effects and may play a role in modulating development of adipocytes (fat tissue). When mice were fed a high-fat diet, ginger supplementation significantly reduced weight gain, hyperglycemia, hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) and hepatic steatosis (liver fat) without altering food intake.
It’s believed to have this effect due to its ability to fight oxidative stress and inflammation that interfere with metabolic health.
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, including from osteoarthritis.
One study showed that daily consumption resulted in moderate to large reductions in muscle pain caused by exercise-induced muscle injury. Another study found that ginger extract helped decrease knee pain and the need for pain medication in individuals with osteoarthritis.
8. Helps Lower 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 and triglycerides to reduce your risk of heart problems.
A study conducted at Babol University of Medical Sciences in Iran found that ginger capsule supplementation (3 g/day in 3 divided doses) was able to significantly reduce bad LDL cholesterol and raise beneficial HDL cholesterol compared to a placebo.
An animal study also showed that ginger was nearly as effective in lowering cholesterol (improving cholesterol markers) as atorvastatin, a drug commonly prescribed for high blood cholesterol.
9. Supports Brain Function
Ginger is a great food for the brain. 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 evidence that ginger extract could help protect against brain aging and cognitive decline. Not only that, but a 2012 study also found that ginger extract helped improve cognitive function and attention in middle-aged women.
10. Helps Fight Bacterial Infections
In addition to its antifungal properties, ginger boasts the ability to fight off bacterial infections as well, such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia and bronchitis.
According to one test-tube study, the compounds found in this spice could help inhibit the growth of certain strains of bacteria that cause gum disease. Another test-tube study showed that ginger extract was effective against several strains of drug-resistant bacteria as well.
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.
One review in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine noted that ginger extract is an anti-inflammatory food and may help inhibit the synthesis of certain markers of inflammation. According to a 2020 meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, there’s evidence demonstrating a significant impact of ginger in lowering circulating inflammatory mediators, including C-reactive protein (CRP), hs-CRP and TNF-α levels.
There is also a possibility that ginger benefits include preventing blood clots (thus reducing risk of heart attack) due to its natural acids that thin the blood, but studies so far are inconclusive.
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 helps speed up the emptying of the stomach by 25 percent compared to a placebo in people with indigestion. Another study even found that taking ginger capsules with a meal actually doubled the speed of gastric emptying.
As mentioned above, ginger is full of protective compounds, most notably gingerol, but also:
- organic acids
- raw fibers
According to the USDA, 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of raw ginger contains approximately:
- 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 thiamine.
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.
How to Use
You can find ginger in a variety of forms and can easily incorporate into your daily routine each day.
When purchasing fresh ginger, look for roots that have thin, shiny skin that can easily be scraped with your fingernail. The root 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.
Ginger root can be eaten fresh, ground, juiced or infused into your favorite beverages. Pills are also available in tablet or capsule form to supply you with a quick and concentrated dose of antioxidants.
Studies have found that doses of about 1500 milligrams per day, taken in divided doses, are beneficial for nausea relief and other common digestive issues.
Additionally, ginger essential oil is also available and can be applied topically or taken internally for a boost of gingerol.
You can also use this spice to make a homemade cough syrup, add a few tablespoons to a relaxing hot bath or mix it into a soothing foot soak.
How to Eat Ginger
This spice has a unique, sharp, peppery flavor and distinct aroma that makes an excellent addition to many different dishes. In fact, there are a myriad of recipes available that use it, ranging from main courses to desserts and beyond.
Try cutting the root into thin slices and adding a bit to smoothies or vegetable juices for an extra bit of zing. It can also be grated and added to soups, salads, stir-fries or even sweets to increase the flavor and nutrition content.
It makes a tasty addition to sauces, stews, marinades and curries as well.
Ginger Tea and Ginger Water
A nice cup of ginger root tea or ginger water is the perfect remedy for a queasy stomach or a long, stressful day. Best of all, it’s easy to prepare both of these beverages right from the comfort of your own kitchen by using fresh ginger.
Simply wash a two-inch knob of fresh ginger root, and cut it into very thin slices. Add the slices to hot water, and boil for 10–30 minutes, depending on how strong you want it to be.
Remove from the heat, strain, discard the pieces and add in your choice of lemon or lime juice to enhance the flavor. You can enjoy your drink hot or cold based on your personal preference.
What happens if you drink ginger tea every day? Ginger tea and water benefits include relaxing the body, soothing the gastrointestinal tract and alleviating nausea. It’s generally safe and health-promoting to drink one to three cups daily.
Ginger Juice and Ginger Shots
Another easy way to get in your daily dose of ginger is by juicing it. Do this by either using a juicer or peeling and grating a knob of the root, then using a cheesecloth to squeeze out the juices.
Another option is gulping down a ginger shot straight or mixing it with other fresh vegetable juices for a surge of extra nutrients. Recipes like this orange ginger carrot juice, for instance, are great for supplementing your diet with the vitamins and minerals that you need to function and thrive.
Ginger juice is also a staple ingredient in many types of Asian cuisine and can be added to classic dishes like ginger beef or cashew chicken.
Lastly, try ginger shots, a DIY recipe that’s loaded with healthy ingredients.
How to Store Ginger
To get the most use from this spice, store it unpeeled in a plastic bag and put it in the crisper compartment of the refrigerator. Refrigerated roots can last around three to four weeks or even longer with proper storage.
You can also freeze slices of the root to stretch its shelf life even further. This works especially well if you plan to grate it.
Simply wrap your slices or the whole root n a plastic bag, and store it in the freezer. If you’re using it to make juice, you can grate it and extract the juice without defrosting it first. Alternatively, try chopping or mincing it before freezing it to make preparation a breeze.
Risks and Side Effects
What might ginger be bad for? In moderation, it’s generally safe and unlikely to cause any adverse side effects in most people. However, for some people it’s capable of causing reactions including abdominal discomfort, a bad taste in the mouth, heartburn and diarrhea, especially when consumed in large amounts.
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 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.
If you take any prescription drugs or are undergoing treatment for a chronic disease, such as cancer, talk to your doctor before beginning any herbal supplementation. It’s generally safe to use during pregnancy (and is often encouraged for morning sickness), but get your doctor’s advice before introducing it to your routine.
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is one of the most commonly used dietary condiments in the world. Research shows it contributes to human health by supporting digestion, decreasing morning sickness and easing menstrual pains, in part because it’s full of antioxidants, including gingerol.
- Other ginger benefits for men and women include reducing inflammation, fighting fungal and bacterial infections, treating ulcers, improving brain function, and decreasing pain associated with osteoarthritis.
- Try cooking with fresh ginger or using it in ground form in recipes, including herbal tea, soups and stir-fries. You can also take a supplement daily, brew up a cup of herbal tea or use it in essential oil form to take advantage of this superstar spice.