The health benefits of ginger in your diet include soothing nausea and calming other stomach woes. Some health benefits of ginger may help cancer patients, too.
Ginger is a tropical plant (known to botanists by the Latin name, Zingiber officinale) with green-purple flowers and a fragrant underground stem called a rhizome. Both fresh and dried ginger, made from the rhizome, are used to flavor foods and beverages and to scent soaps and cosmetics.
But ginger also has another use. While many people just like the pungent taste or soothing aroma of ginger, others point to the supposed health benefits of ginger and take the spice in supplements, beverages, and liquid extracts.
In fact, the idea ginger can be beneficial to health is anything but new. The health benefits of ginger were discussed in ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese, Sanskrit, and Arabian texts. Dried ginger has been a staple of Asian medicine as a treatment for nausea, diarrhea, and stomach ache for thousands of years, too, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).
The NCCIH points out modern-day research suggests there really are health benefits of ginger, especially for the gastrointestinal tract.
Health benefits of ginger: soothing nausea
You’ve probably heard ginger ale, or a cup of ginger tea, can help calm an upset stomach. And when it comes to soothing nausea and vomiting, these health benefits of ginger have the most evidence to back them up so far, according to the NCCIH.
For example, a study by Australian researchers, published in the journal Women and Birth, found ginger supplements significantly helped pregnant women calm morning sickness, compared to women who were given a placebo. Other research, reported in the Canadian Family Physician journal , concluded taking ginger supplements (about a gram a day, in divided doses) eased pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting within six days for one in three pregnant women studied.
Ginger appears to be safe in pregnancy for moms and their unborn babies, according to several studies, including the large Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort study, which followed the pregnancies of 68,522 women who took ginger while expecting.
However, it’s uncertain taking ginger is always safe for all pregnant women, the NCCIH explains — so expectant moms should discuss any supplements they are taking, including natural herbs and spices like ginger, with their doctors.
Ginger also may be useful for cancer patients who experience nausea related to chemotherapy, especially when used along with anti-nausea medication, according to the NCCIH. A double-blind study by University of Rochester Medical Center researchers involving over 500 cancer patients found those taking one half to one gram of ginger daily significantly reduced nausea, starting on the first day of chemo, compared to cancer patients given placebos.
The health benefits of ginger may include calming nausea after surgery and from motion sickness, too, but the NCCIH says more evidence is needed.
More potential health benefits of ginger
Although much less is known about other uses of ginger for health conditions other than nausea, research suggests spicing up your diet with ginger might have a beneficial impact on metabolism. A review of studies into the potential benefits of ginger, published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, concluded the spice holds promise for helping control weight and possibly lowering the risk for metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions including high blood sugar, hypertension, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Researchers are also taking an interest in whether ginger might play a role in preventing colon cancer and arthritis.
Suzanna M. Zick, ND, a research assistant professor at the University of Michigan Medical School, and colleagues gave research subjects two grams of ginger root supplements daily for 28 days. Then they measured markers of colon inflammation, which have been implicated in previous research as precursors to colon cancer.
The results showed the volunteers who took the ginger, compared to those taking a placebo, had significantly reduced signs of colon inflammation. This ability to decrease inflammation may also explain why some studies have found that ginger also can reduce the inflammation associated with arthritis.
Ginger’s possible side effects
Using ginger in cooking or enjoying a cup of ginger tea is believed to be safe. However, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health explains there are a few potential downsides to ginger:
- Some people experience mild side effects, such as abdominal discomfort, gas, heartburn, and diarrhea from ginger (especially when taken in large quantities).
- Ginger may increase your flow of bile, and some gallbladder experts recommend people with gallstone disease use caution with ginger.
- It is not definitely known if ginger has an impact on any medications, but concerns have been raised the spice might possibly interact with anticoagulants (blood thinners). So, if you take this type of medication, talk to your doctor before taking ginger.
July 26, 2018
Janet O’Dell, RN