Ginger, also known as Zingiber Officinale, is considered one of the healthiest herbs on the planet. Ginger is from the same family as turmeric and cardamom.
8 Potential Benefits of Ginger
- Potent Antioxidant
- Improves Digestion
- Fights Inflammation
- Protects the Cells
- Reduces Muscle Pain
- Boosts the Immune System
- Prevents Nausea and Sickness
- Stabilizes Blood Sugar Levels
Ginger has been used in natural medicine for hundreds of years, dating back to extensive use in Indian and Chinese medicine. Even in Medieval times, ginger was used to make sweets and desserts.
For instance, ginger was added to buttermilk drinks in Western countries back in 11 AD, and ginger was also used for cooking meat and preparing ginger pastes.
While ginger was a rare commodity back in the 14th century–with a single ginger stem costing as much as a live sheep–Ginger is today, fortunately, much cheaper, and is available in most health food stores.
In recent years, ginger has garnered attention for its medicinal benefits as a digestive aid, cure for flu and the common cold, and its many anti-inflammatory properties.
Why Is Ginger So Potent?
Ginger comes in various forms; fresh, dried, grounded or powdered, candied or crystallized. Ginger’s spicy aroma comes from its many essential oils whose concentration varies with age.
In fresh ginger, you get higher concentrations of gingerols. Gingerol undergoes metabolism in the digestive system through oxidation to form glucuronide metabolites.
Research shows that these potent forms of ginger are easily absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract after oral consumption. This accumulation in the gut seems to be the reason why ginger is such a potent herb.
Ginger has multiple therapeutic benefits and is said to treat a variety of ailments. Although ginger has been used for millennia, it is only over the past few decades that science has started to prove that ginger’s benefits are real and valid.
Ginger’s Antioxidant Properties
Oxidative stress is linked to several diseases such as cancer, chronic fatigue, diabetes, and inflammatory disorders. These disorders are often caused by an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals in the body. Oxidative stress also plays a significant role in the aging process.
Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals. This is where ginger comes in handy. For instance, ginger contains a high level of antioxidants, which reduce the production of age-related oxidative stress markers such as ethanol-induced hepatotoxicity.
Studies suggest that ginger compounds suppress oxidative stress in leukemia cells and inhibit superoxide production and lipid peroxidation. These are forms of cellular metabolism stimulated by iron salts that lead to and erosion of cell structure and functioning.
In addition, gingerol has been found to inhibit nitric oxide production, a reactive nitrogen species that causes DNA damage.
Ginger and Muscle Pain
Ginger is a potent anti-inflammatory compound. When taken in large doses, ginger disrupts mitochondrial function leading to a drop in body temperature and metabolic rate. Thermoregulation plays a considerable role in the modulation of pain.
Ginger also modulates calcium levels by interacting with heat-and-pain sensitive receptors. Some studies show that supplementing with ginger reduces muscle pain as a result of eccentric exercise.
Furthermore, studies show that ginger oil can help prevent joint inflammation, mainly associated with osteoarthritis. Research on women with period pain found that ginger capsules were as effective as ibuprofen and mefenamic acid for relieving the pain.
Other studies have found that applying a combination of ginger, cinnamon, and sesame oil topically on affected joint areas can reduce pain among osteoarthritis patients.
Ginger for Nausea and Vomiting
Protection against nausea is one of the most established benefits of ginger. Ginger acts as an antiemetic by breaking up intestinal gas and accelerating its expulsion through antral contractions.
Ginger helps prevent vomiting and sickness through its ability to inhibit serotonin receptors. This has led to ginger being recommended to pregnant women and chemotherapy patients who experience increased nausea and vomiting.
Ginger for Blood Sugar and Heart Disease
Ginger has been found to lower blood sugar levels caused by fasting. In recent research, among type 2 diabetic individuals, ginger not only improved markers associated with high blood sugar level (HbA1c) but also oxidized lipoprotein markers.
Moreover, there has been an increased interest in the potential benefits of ginger for treating cardiovascular disease. This is after ginger extract was shown to help reduce arterial blood pressure when taken alongside anticoagulant drugs.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) has been linked to cardiovascular diseases. Some ginger extracts have been found to improve lipid metabolism and inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis. In addition, ginger has been found to inhibit platelets’ activation without the potential side effects of aspirin-induced therapy.
Ginger for Boosting the Immune System
Ginger has been found to protect the body against respiratory infections caused by the human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV). Furthermore, ginger’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects also play a significant role in immune health.
One recipe containing raw honey, fresh ginger root, sliced lemons, and water was reported to have antibacterial properties. These antimicrobial properties can treat infectious diseases caused by viruses while also controlling other diseases, such as ovarian cancer, gastric cancer, and hepatoma. Research performed on mice found that ginger reduces allergic symptoms, such as sneezing.
Ginger and Exercise Performance
Various studies show that ginger can reduce the signs of Delayed Onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) after exercise. DOMS is caused by post-workout oxidative stress on the muscles.
Intense training increases the level of inflammatory cytokines in the blood. One study examining endurance runners found that taking ginger can reverse cytokines levels, which helps with muscle recovery.
Another study examined 32 obese men who were given a ginger supplement while they took part in progressive resistance training. At the end of the study, the researchers observed that the men who took a ginger supplement and did progressive resistance training showed a reduction in oxidative stress when compared to the placebo group.
Studies show that ginger doses vary for different treatments. For chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, it is advisable to take 250 mg to 2 grams of ginger per day. The research didn’t find any improved efficiency in taking more than 2 grams per day.
For menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea); You can take 250 mg of ginger extract four times per day for 3 days after the start of your periods. If taken in grounded form, you can take up to 1,500 mg of ginger per day (3 doses of 500 mg) at the start of your period.
For osteoarthritis pain, apply a topical gel containing 1 gram of ginger four times a day for six weeks. Besides, taking 1 gram/day in supplemental form has been found to reduce inflammation and nitric oxide levels.
Safety and Side Effects
The FDA considers ginger a safe supplement. Although ginger side effects are rare, taking large doses can lead to heartburn, stomachache, and gas.
As with most herbal supplements, it’s always advisable to seek advice from your doctor before taking ginger, especially if you are already on other medications.
For instance, due to its effect on blood clotting, you should first talk to your doctor if you are already on blood-thinning medication. The same applies to pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as pre-surgery patients.
There have been reports showing certain ginger extracts such as gingerol can be active mutagens—these are agents that can change the structure of genetic material such as DNA.
Effectiveness of Ginger
Although there is a need for more research, it’s hard to refute ginger’s diverse array of benefits.
These benefits range from reducing cholesterol to lowering the risk of heart disease. Furthermore, the use of ginger as a potent anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant, especially among endurance athletes, makes it a super herb to treat various health conditions.