People have deployed ginger for culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years since the plant’s first documented use in Southeast Asia.
It’s been valued for the spicily warm taste it adds to everything from stir-fry to baked goods, but maybe even more so for its legendary effectiveness in relieving digestive ailments and nausea, as well as fighting pain from arthritis, symptoms of the flu and common cold and more.
This has helped lead to more recent research of the potential health benefits of ginger and its active ingredients, particularly gingerol. The results have been promising on several fronts and many have elevated it to “superfood” status, a term as powerful as it is vague.
The findings that have been reported about ginger, plus its lack of severe side effects, make it a safe bet for most people to incorporate it into their diet.
Consult your medical provider before going on a ginger regimen if you are pregnant and have had a previous miscarriage or are close to giving birth or if you are taking certain blood-clotting medications.
It turns out one of ginger’s most common traditional uses is also the one that has the most scientific support. A systematic review of a dozen studies conducted between 1991 and 2012 found the spice to be more effective than a placebo in treating nausea during pregnancy. Another review suggested it can be effective for many people experiencing nausea, with a divided daily dosage of 1,500 milligrams showing the most benefit.
Research has found gingerol-6 has several anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, blunting the effect of inflammatory substances including some proteins and oxidation from free radicals. Inflammation is a risk factor for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, bowel disease, Alzheimer’s and other conditions.
Promotes weight loss
An extensive analysis of 14 randomized trials concluded that overweight patients who took ginger supplements lost weight, though not enough to affect their body mass index. These patients also had improved waist-to-hip ratio, fasting glucose, insulin resistance and HDL (good) cholesterol. The association between ginger and weight loss has been stronger in some animal studies.
Eases chronic indigestion
Indigestion causes pain and discomfort in the upper stomach and is believed to be caused by delayed emptying of food from the stomach. Studies have shown ginger can speed this process up, including one small trial involving people with functional dyspepsia, or chronic indigestion with no known cause.
Mitigating menstrual pain
Multiple studies have found ginger performs as well as pain medications including NSAIDs, ibuprofen and acetaminophen in reducing menstrual cramps, without the potential side effects of those drugs. Larger studies are called for to confirm these effects.
Improving brain function
Indigestion causes pain and discomfort in the upper stomach and is believed to be caused by delayed emptying of food from the stomach.