Ginger has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments. This versatile root has numerous health benefits, including reducing inflammation, aiding digestion, and even potentially preventing certain types of cancer. In this ultimate guide, we'll explore the many benefits of ginger and how you can incorporate it into your diet.
What is ginger and where does it come from?
By the 1st century, traders had taken ginger into the Mediterranean regions3. Eventually, it became a popular spice in Rome3. Unfortunately, the use of ginger fell from use once the Roman Empire fell3. At this point, ginger’s worth had increased3.
Ginger is a rhizome that has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties and as a spice2.
It has a pungent aroma and a slightly sweet and spicy flavor2.
Ginger is used in many cuisines around the world and is an important ingredient in many dishes such as gingerbread, ginger ale, and ginger tea1.
The Various Health Benefits of Ginger
Ginger has been shown to have numerous health benefits, including reducing inflammation, aiding digestion, and relieving nausea.
It contains compounds called gingerols and shogaols, which have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce pain and swelling.
Let's take a look at some of the other reported health benefits of ginger:
Ginger has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for nausea and vomiting4.
It has anti-inflammatory properties and may improve digestion and promote the release of hormones that regulate blood pressure, which can calm the body and reduce nausea5.
Eating fresh ginger can help with various forms of nausea, including morning sickness, motion sickness, and the side effects of some chemotherapy regimens6.
Ginger appears to be highly effective against nausea and may help relieve nausea and vomiting for people undergoing certain types of surgery4.
Ginger contains a compound called gingerol which has antioxidant properties and reduces inflammatory enzymes6.
As a result, ginger is beneficial for inflammatory-related conditions and pain relief, specifically menstrual cramps and also arthritis-based conditions6.
Ginger was shown to reduce inflammation when taken in high doses for four weeks7.
In one 2010 study, ginger was an effective pain reliever for human muscle pain resulting from an exercise-induced injury7. Participants who ingested two grams of either raw ginger or heated ginger experienced reduced pain and inflammation7.
Ginger inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory substances and reduces oxidative stress8. The phytochemicals in ginger, gingerols and shogaols, inhibit the synthesis of molecules that promote inflammation9.
Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
Ginger reduces enzymes that break down carbohydrates and helps with glucose (sugar) metabolism6.
Over the years, ginger has been shown to help reduce blood sugar levels and help regulate insulin response in people with diabetes10.
In one 2014 animal study, obese rats with diabetes were given a mix of cinnamon and ginger. These rats experienced a wealth of benefits, including reduced body weight, reduced body fat mass, decreased blood sugar levels and increased insulin levels10.
Ginger has a potential blood-sugar controlling mechanism by inhibiting enzymes that affect how carbs are metabolized and insulin sensitivity as a whole, thereby leading to greater glucose absorption in the muscles11.
Improves Heart Health
Ginger may help manage cholesterol levels, reduce damage to the arteries, and lower high blood pressure – all of which benefit the heart and cardiovascular system12.
This is likely because ginger is an antioxidant and has potent anti-inflammatory effects13.
A 2017 study including 4,628 participants found that consuming 1 gram of ginger daily decreased people’s risk of high blood pressure and coronary heart disease by 8% and 13%, respectively14.
Boosts Immune System
Ginger has been shown to have several benefits for the immune system.
Ginger has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which help in keeping several ailments at bay and helps fighting infections15.
Due to its strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, ginger may boost immune health16.
Although acute inflammation is an important part of normal immune response, chronic inflammation can harm your immune system, potentially increasing your chances of illness16.
Relieves Menstrual Pain
One study found taking ginger powder 4 times a day for 3 days at the start of menstruation to be just as effective as ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory medication in relieving menstrual cramps17.
Ginger also has an antispasmodic effect that contributes to pain relief18.
Another study showed that students with primary dysmenorrhea who were given ginger for 5 days noticed a statistically significant relief in the intensity and duration of their period pain19.
Ginger could significantly reduce their total PMS score in terms of severity of mood, and physical and behavioral symptoms19.
Improves Brain Function
Ginger helps increase the levels of two chemical messengers in the brain: serotonin and dopamine20.
Ginger has been shown to benefit brain aging and inflammation, memory, attention, anxiety, depression, and more21.
Some studies in animals have found that antioxidants in ginger can prevent inflammation in the brain22.
Evidence also suggests that ginger can enhance brain function because ginger provides the building blocks to create new brain cells and brain chemicals21.
Furthermore, it helps to increase resilience to stress and avoid mental burnout thanks to its ability to supply the brain with the fuel it needs for mental energy21.
These are just some of the health benefits of ginger. However, it is important to note that ginger may interact with certain medications and should not be taken in large amounts6.
How to incorporate ginger into your diet, including recipes and supplements
There are many ways to incorporate ginger into your diet, from adding it to your favorite recipes to taking ginger supplements.
Let's take a look at some of the options below:
Ginger tea is very easy to make and an excellent beverage with many health benefits. We've included a recipe below.
Start by washing and peeling a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger.
Slice the ginger into a few pieces and place them in the bottom of a heat-resistant mug.
Add boiling water to the mug and let it steep for 5-10 minutes.
Add honey or lemon juice to taste, if desired.
Crystallized ginger is a great choice if you tend to feel ill during long flights or car trips. It's very easy to consume and can work quickly.
Massaging ginger oil onto sore muscles or adding it to a warm bath can help to relieve pain or reduce symptoms.
Ginger can be used as an additive when baking many different kinds of desserts! We've included a few options below.
Gingerbread cake: This cake is made with fresh ginger and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s perfect for the holiday season.
Ginger molasses cookies: These cookies are soft and chewy with a sweet and spicy flavor. They’re made with molasses, brown sugar, and ground ginger.
Ginger peach freeze: This dessert is made with fresh peaches, ginger ale, and lemon juice. It’s a refreshing treat for hot summer days.
Ginger grapefruit broil: This dessert is made by topping grapefruit slices with butter, brown sugar, and ground ginger. It’s then broiled for a few minutes to caramelize the tops.
Curries & Stir-Fries
Ginger can also easily be added to curries and stir-fries to enhance the nutrition and flavor. We've tried to provide a few tips for this process.
Fresh ginger: Fresh ginger is the best way to add ginger flavor to your curries and stir-fries. You can peel the ginger and then grate it or mince it finely before adding it to your dish.
Ground ginger: If you don’t have fresh ginger, you can use ground ginger instead. Use about 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger for every tablespoon of fresh ginger called for in the recipe.
Add it early: Ginger takes a while to release its flavor, so it’s best to add it early in the cooking process. Add it along with the onions and garlic at the beginning of your recipe.
Pair it with other spices: Ginger pairs well with other spices like cumin, coriander, and turmeric. You can add these spices along with the ginger for a flavorful dish.
Use it in marinades: You can also use ginger in marinades for meat or tofu. Combine grated ginger with soy sauce, garlic, and honey for a delicious marinade.
Fresh Ginger Lemonade
Who knew that ginger could also be used in an awesome summer drink? This lemonade tastes excellent and can provide some incredible health benefits.
Here's how to make it:
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup grated fresh ginger
6 cups water
In a small saucepan, combine the honey and grated ginger with 1 cup of water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for about 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large pitcher.
Add the lemon juice and remaining water to the pitcher and stir well.
Chill the lemonade in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.
Homemade Salad Dressing
Finally, you could include ginger into a homemade salad dressing. This process would look something like:
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
In a small bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, honey, soy sauce, grated ginger, and minced garlic.
Slowly whisk in the vegetable oil until the dressing is emulsified.
Taste the dressing and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Serve the dressing over your favorite salad.
Potential side effects and precautions to take when consuming ginger
While ginger has many health benefits, it is important to note that ginger can have side effects when consumed in excess or when taken with certain medications.
Some of the side effects of ginger include heartburn, diarrhea, and an increased risk of miscarriage when consumed in excess 23.
Ginger may also interact with certain medications such as blood thinners and lower blood pressure 23.
Ginger on the skin may cause a rash 24.
It is important to consult with a healthcare provider before consuming ginger if you are taking any medications.
The future of ginger research and its potential for treating various health conditions
While ginger has been used for centuries in traditional medicine, modern research is just beginning to uncover its potential for treating various health conditions.
According to a review of animal studies, ginger could increase testosterone production by enhancing blood flow, reducing oxidative stress, and increasing levels of luteinizing hormone which is involved in testosterone synthesis 25.
Ginger has also been found to have anti-inflammatory properties 26.
Ginger has been found to have a positive effect on blood pressure, weight management, dysmenorrhea, post-operative nausea, chemotherapy-induced vomiting, blood lipid profile, and anti-inflammatory and antioxidant biomarkers 27.
However, more research is needed to determine the full potential of ginger for treating various health conditions 28.
As research continues, we may discover even more potential health benefits of this powerful superfood.