Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a tropical flowering plant whose fragrant underground stem, or “rhizome” – known as ginger root or just ginger – has been widely used for centuries as a spice as well as an alternative medicine. Ginger is also widely used as a flavoring or fragrance in foods, beverages, soaps, and cosmetics.
Belonging to the same family (Zingiberaceae) as turmeric, cardamom, and galangal, ginger is believed to have originated on the Indian subcontinent. Ginger was first exported to Europe in the 1st century AD and was reportedly used extensively by the Romans.
Ancient Sanskrit, Chinese, Greek, Roman, and Arabic texts discuss the use of ginger for health-related purposes. In Asia, dried ginger has been used for thousands of years to treat stomach ache, diarrhea, and nausea.
Ginger Root Benefits
Ginger is a potent aromatic herb and a good natural source of vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese.
Just a few slivers of fresh ginger can be used to make a restorative tea. When ground to a paste or dry powder, it can be added to soups, sauces, marinades, and many other dishes to add both flavor and a pungent taste.
For cooking, fresh ginger root is usually best, but powdered ginger or ginger paste are both great alternatives that can be conveniently stored for long periods of time, as can ginger essential oil.
What Do Researchers Know About the Health Benefits of Ginger?
The main bioactive ingredient in ginger is -gingerol – also known as just gingerol. It is chemically related to capsaicin (the main bioactive ingredient in chili peppers) and piperine (the main bioactive ingredient in black pepper).
Gingerol has been extensively studied and is known to potently neutralize harmful free radicals and help support healthy inflammation levels in the body.
However, more recent studies suggest that another bioactive family of naturally occurring compounds in ginger known as shogaols may have even more potent activity relative to gingerol and related compounds.
Modern day usage of ginger includes being used to ease nausea as a result of motion sickness, chemotherapy, and pregnancy; and to lower pain and stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, among many other heath-related uses.
Ginger Health Benefit #1: Heals the Gut & Relieves Nausea
Ginger has a long and proven history of helping to ease stomach and gut ailments. In traditional herbal medicine it is known to aid digestion and promote the release of intestinal gas, while also calming and relaxing the stomach and gut.
Ginger also provides relief from morning sickness. For instance, research shows that taking one gram of ginger daily helps to reduce nausea and vomiting in pregnant women, along with relieving morning sickness.
Further, it has been used successfully to counter nausea and GI upset after surgery or during chemotherapy.
Studies have also shown that ginger can effectively suppress symptoms of motion sickness (including seasickness) such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweats.
Ginger also helps to stimulate emptying of the stomach without any negative side effects. Additionally, ginger prevents the growth of H. pylori – a type of bacteria in the digestive system which can cause ulcers in the lining of the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine, and which sometimes leads to stomach cancer.
Ginger Health Benefit #2: Helps to Strengthen the Immune System
According to the ancient healing system of Ayurvedic medicine, ginger strengthens the immune system because it helps to break down toxins in the body’s organs, thereby cleansing the body’s lymphatic system.
In this way ginger prevents the accumulation of toxins in the body that increase susceptibility to infections, especially in the respiratory system.
Combining ginger oil and eucalyptus oil is said to be an effective remedy to boost immunity and improve breathing.
Ginger Health Benefit #3: Helps to Ease Pain & Support Healthy Inflammation Levels
Numerous studies show that ginger helps with pain relief. In one study, participants were given either two grams of raw or heat-treated ginger supplements for 11 consecutive days. They then performed numerous elbow exercises with a heavy weight specifically designed to induce a moderate level of muscle injury.
Pain and inflammation levels were tested before the exercise and for three days afterwards. Both types of ginger gave good results, although raw ginger was slightly more effective, reducing exercise-induced pain by 25% within 24 hours.
Ginger’s ability to assist with pain relief is likely a result of its many potent compounds, including gingerol and shogaol.
Further, ginger extracts have been shown to prevent joint swelling in animal models by lowering levels of inflammation. Even non-gingerol components of ginger were able to enhance the activity of the better known gingerol.
In another study, nearly 250 patients with moderate to severe knee pain were enrolled in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in which they received ginger extract or a control twice daily for 6 weeks. At the end of the study, more patients in the ginger extract group experienced a moderate reduction in knee pain on standing relative to those in the control group.
Health Benefit of Ginger #4: Helps to Lower Cholesterol Levels
According to the results of a 2008 clinical trial of 85 people with high cholesterol, taking three grams of ginger powder daily in three divided doses caused significant reductions in most cholesterol markers, including triglycerides, cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol).
In other words, ginger demonstrated a significant lipid-lowering effect.
Health Benefit of Ginger #5: Helps to Ramp Up Metabolism
Ginger may increase thermogenesis in the body – when the body burns stored up fat to create heat – with beneficial effects on overall metabolism and fat storage.
Research suggests that consuming thermogenic ingredients such as ginger may boost metabolism by up to 5 percent and increase fat burning by up to 16%. According to a recent review published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, ginger may protect against many of the consequences of metabolic syndrome, one of which is weight gain.
Health Benefit of Ginger #6: Supports Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial looking at the effects of ginger on fasting blood sugar of 41 participants showed that 2 grams of ground ginger supplement taken daily for 12 weeks reduced their levels of fasting blood sugar by an impressive 12%, on average.
Health Benefit of Ginger #7: Helps to Support Memory
Ginger has been shown to help support memory, along with other brain functions. One study examined the benefits of ginger extract on various aspects of brain function in 60 middle-aged, healthy women. These women were randomly assigned to receive either ginger extract or control once daily for 2 months.
These participants were evaluated for memory and brain function at three different time points – before starting the study, after one month, and after two months. Ginger extract, reported the study researchers, “enhances both attention and cognitive processing capabilities, with no side effects.”
10 Recipes That Use Fresh Ginger
If you’re inspired to add more fresh ginger root into your cooking, check out these 10 healthy and delicious recipes:
- Anti-Inflammatory Blueberry Turmeric Smoothie
- Chaga Chai Tea Recipe
- Creamy Turmeric Spice Tea
- Golden Carrot Turmeric Smoothie
- Gut Repair Shake
- Hot & Sour Shiitake Soup
- Quick & Tasty Bone Broth Mushroom Miso Soup Recipe
- Raw Hemp Butter, Ginger, Turmeric Spice Soup
- Spicy Kale Vitamin Smoothie
- Wheatgrass Lassi