What Is Ginger?
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a flowering plant that belongs to the Zingiberaceae family. It is native to Southeast Asia, but is now a widely cultivated plant that is used around the world. The rhizome, or underground stem, is the part of ginger that is used as food and medicine. Ginger is closely related to turmeric, cardamom, and galangal, and is one of the world’s healthiest herbs.
What Is Ginger Used for?
Ginger is most commonly used around the world as a culinary spice. It offers a unique and delicious flavor that enhances many dishes, and is popular in Indian and Asian cuisine. Though it is most often used as a spice, ginger has incredible health benefits and is also used medicinally. Ginger can be used fresh, dried, powdered, or as an oil or juice.
What Are the Health Benefits of Ginger?
Ginger May Improve Digestive Health
Ginger has long been praised as a potent carminative, a substance that is known to sooth the intestinal tract and promote the elimination of excess gas from the digestive system. Ginger helps prevent the buildup of gases in the gastrointestinal system and also breaks up and gets rid of the intestinal gases that can cause pressure, cramping, and the urge to vomit.
Ginger also helps food move through the digestive system, which further prevents the buildup of gas. Researchers theorize that the spice actually stimulates the digestive tract. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why, but in some studies, ginger is associated with an increase in the digestive enzymes trypsin and pancreatic lipase. Plus, ginger is linked to elevated saliva flow and improved gastric motility. Together, these factors keep food moving through the system so that problems like fermentation in the gut or gas buildup are less likely to occur.
Interestingly, in Ayurvedic medicine, India’s traditional medical system that dates back thousands of years, ginger has long been used as a remedy for digestive ailments. It is a common Ayurvedic practice to drink ginger tea with meals to promote better digestion and to prevent gas after meals. Another tip for enhancing digestion in Ayurveda is to drink a small amount of ginger and lemon juice 30 minutes before a meal.
Studies on ginger show that ginger and its metabolites tend to collect in the digestive tract. Researchers believe that this is why so many of ginger’s health benefits are related to the gastrointestinal system.
Ginger May Reduce Indigestion
Another significant way that ginger promotes digestive health is by helping to prevent and relieve indigestion. Ginger helps move food through the digestive system, increases certain digestive enzymes, and prevents the formation of gas, all of which contribute to indigestion.
It is believed that a delayed emptying of the stomach is a huge contributing factor to indigestion. Ginger has been shown to speed up the emptying of the stomach, and therefore, can drastically reduce indigestion.
In a small study in 2011, people with chronic indigestion were given either ginger capsules or a placebo one hour before a meal. For the people that consumed the ginger capsules, it took 12.3 minutes for the stomach to empty. For those that took the placebo, it took 16.1 minutes. In the study, it was shown that ginger sped the emptying of the stomach by nearly 4 minutes.
In a similar study in 2008, 24 healthy individuals were given ginger capsules or a placebo one hour before a meal. In this study, the results were significantly more enhanced. It appeared that it took only 13.1 minutes for the stomach to empty in those who received ginger before their meal, while it took 26.7 minutes for the people who received a placebo.
Both of these studies suggest that ginger dramatically improves the speed of digestion, and therefore has excellent potential as a natural remedy for indigestion.
Ginger May Help Fight Infections
Ginger also has great potential for fighting off various types of infections. Studies show that ginger extract can inhibit the growth of many different types of bacteria, and according to one study, ginger is very effective against the oral bacteria linked to gingivitis and periodontitis—both inflammatory gum diseases. Research shows that fresh ginger may also be effective against the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common cause of respiratory infections. Researchers believe that gingerol, a major active compound in ginger, is responsible for its ability to help lower the risk of infections.
Ginger Has Been Used to Treat Candida Infections
Candida is a common type of yeast infection that many people suffer from—most of whom have no idea they have it. Candida infections (candidiasis) are significantly underdiagnosed, and they can lead to a wide range of health issues, from minor candida symptoms like digestive discomfort and skin rashes to life-threatening illnesses.
Candida are a type of yeast, which themselves are a type of fungus. Yeast are single-celled fungi, and ginger contains compounds that exhibit strong antifungal properties that may be able to kill off Candida and other types of fungal infections.
Ginger contains antifungal compounds called gingerol and shagelol as well as potent anti-inflammatory agents. Studies show that ginger can inhibit the growth of the common Candida albicans strain. In one study, an antifungal cream containing ginger was more effective at relieving yeast infections than the antifungal cream without ginger. Another study showed that Ginger extract successfully inhibited biofilm formation by A. baumannii, B. cereus, Candida krusei, and Candida albicans.
Because of ginger’s potent anti-fungal and anti-Candida properties, we’ve included it in our Candida Cleanse Tonic, along with 6 other anti-fungal herbs that have powerful candida-killing properties. When taken alongside an anti-candida diet, this formula may significantly support the elimination of Candida overgrowth and may help people suffering from a Candida infection restore their health.
Ginger May Lower Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is one of the most damaging and widespread health issues that most people face today, and it is at the root of many major diseases. Ginger contains chemicals that are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory, and studies show that it can help ease severe inflammation in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
Ingerols, shogaol, and paradols—bioactive compounds in ginger—have been shown to have powerful antioxidant effects. Antioxidants play a major role in reducing inflammation. Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in your body.
Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules with an uneven number of electrons. The uneven number allows them to easily react with other molecules. Free radicals can cause large chain chemical reactions in your body because they react so easily with other molecules. These reactions are called “oxidation.”
Oxidation is a normal and necessary process that takes place in your body. However, oxidative stress occurs when there’s an imbalance between free radical activity and antioxidant activity. This can result in damaged cells is one of the major contributors to inflammation in the body.
Antioxidants help to eliminate free radicals and reduce oxidative stress, therefore reducing inflammation as well. As ginger contains potent antioxidant compounds, it is also very effective at naturally reducing inflammation in the body. Due to ginger's anti-inflammatory properties, our team included ginger freeze dried powder in our Liposomal Curcumin Tonic, a potent anti-inflammatory tonic
Ginger May Help Treat Nausea & Morning Sickness
Ginger has also been shown to be highly effective at treating various types of nausea. It has been shown to help relieve nausea and vomiting for people undergoing certain types of surgery, as well as those undergoing chemotherapy. However, it appears to be most effective at treating pregnancy-related nausea such as morning sickness.
According to numerous studies on over 1,200 pregnant women, 1-1.5 grams of ginger has been shown to significantly reduce nausea symptoms. While ginger is considered safe for pregnant women, it is still recommended to talk with your doctor before taking large amounts of ginger if you’re pregnant.
Ginger May Help with Menstrual Pain
Pain felt during the menstrual cycle is common, and often women seek for some type of quick relief from this discomfort. Ginger is one natural remedy that may do the trick. One of the traditional uses of ginger is for pain relief, and this also includes relief from menstrual pain.
A 2009 study on 150 women was performed that helps support this traditional use. The women were instructed to take either a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug or ginger for the first 3 days of their menstrual period.
The three groups received four daily doses of either ginger powder (250 mg), mefenamic acid (250 mg), or ibuprofen (400 mg). According to the study, ginger managed to reduce pain as effectively as the two nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. More recent studies have also concluded that ginger is more effective than a placebo and equally as effective as certain pain relief medications.
Ginger May Help with Weight Loss
Weight loss is one of the world’s biggest health topics, and obviously one that many people are interested in. While there are many different diets and trends that aim to promote weight loss, it is always best to approach it from a holistic perspective and analyze one’s caloric intake, amount of exercise, sleep, hydration, stress levels, and of course, nutrition.
Ginger is one nutritious food that may play a role in weight loss, according to numerous studies conducted on both humans and animals. A 2019 review concluded that ginger supplementation significantly reduced body weight and the hip ratio in people who were obese or overweight. Another study of 80 women with obesity found that ginger could also help reduce body mass index (BMI) and blood insulin levels, which are associated with obesity.
While human studies are promising, the evidence of ginger’s role in preventing obesity is much stronger in animal studies. According to one study on rats and mice, those who consumed ginger water or ginger extract consistently saw decreases in their body weight, even in instances where they’d also been fed high fat diets.
Ginger May Lower Blood Pressure
Ginger may also be able to reduce blood pressure. Research on ginger’s ability to lower blood pressure is relatively new, but some studies suggest that ginger may have anti-diabetic properties.
One study involving 41 participants with type 2 diabetes showed that taking 2 grams of ginger powder per day lowered fasting blood sugar by 12%. It also dramatically improved hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a marker for long-term blood sugar levels. Another 2019 review also concluded that ginger significantly reduced HbA1c in people with type 2 diabetes.
While more research is needed, the results shown in the studies on ginger for lowering blood pressure are promising, and it appears that ginger may be able to help people suffering from diabetes.
Ginger May Lower Cholesterol
When it comes to cholesterol, there are 2 types that are often called the “good” cholesterol and the “bad” cholesterol. While this area of health is actually a bit controversial, it does appear that high levels of LDL cholesterol (considered the “bad” type of cholesterol) are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, whereas HDL cholesterol (considered the “good” type of cholesterol) are considered to help improve cardiovascular health.
One of the primary influences on your cholesterol are the foods that you consume. Ginger may be one food that can reduce the “bad” cholesterol, and therefore may improve cardiovascular health.
In a 2018 study of 60 people with high levels of fat particles (lipids) in the blood, 30 were given 5 grams of ginger-pasted powder, and the other 30 were given a placebo. The 30 people who received 5 grams of ginger-pasted powder each day saw their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels drop by 17.4% over a 3-month period, while the placebo control group saw no drop in cholesterol levels.
In a 2008 study, people who received 3 grams of ginger powder (in capsule form) each day also saw significant reductions in LDL cholesterol levels, with their levels dropping by 10% over 45 days. An animal study on rats also showed that ginger extract lowered LDL cholesterol to a similar extent as atorvastatin, a cholesterol-lowering drug.
Ginger May Improve Brain Health
Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are damaging to the entire body, but they can also accelerate the aging process and lead to cognitive decline. Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are believed to be among the key drivers of many age-related cognitive disorders. As ginger contains potent antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress and lower inflammation, it may also help to protect the brain and improve cognitive health. Some animal studies suggest that the compounds in ginger can inhibit inflammatory responses that occur in the brain.
There’s also some evidence that ginger can help enhance brain function directly. In one study, healthy middle-aged women taking daily doses of ginger extract were shown to improve reaction time and working memory. Numerous animal studies also show that ginger can help protect against age-related decline in brain function.
What Are the Active Compounds in Ginger?
The health benefits of medicinal plants are largely attributed to the bioactive compounds that they contain. Research shows that these active compounds hold the most medicinal benefit, and ginger is a plant that is rich in active compounds, several of which are unique to this plant. The major active components in ginger are: 6-gingerol, 6-shogaol, and 6-paradol. The aromatic constituents include zingiberene and bisabolene, while the pungent constituents are known as gingerols and shogaols. These compounds exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial effects, and appear to be the major reason why ginger has so many positive health benefits.
Is Ginger Safe?
Ginger has been used as a medicinal and culinary herb for thousands of years, and modern research verifies it is a safe and effective herb for most people. Unlike many medicinal herbs, ginger is considered to be safe for use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. It is also considered safe for children as well.
However, everyone reacts to herbs differently, and for some, ginger may cause certain mild side effects, especially in high doses. Some of the mild side effects observed from taking ginger include heartburn, diarrhea, burping, and general stomach discomfort.
Ginger is a flowering plant in the Zingiberaceae family that is native to Southeast Asia, but is now cultivated and used around the world. The rhizome, or underground stem, is the part of ginger that is used as food and medicine. Ginger is closely related to turmeric, cardamom, and galangal, and is one of the world’s healthiest herbs.
Ginger is most commonly used around the world as a culinary spice, but it also offers many incredible health benefits. Ginger may improve digestive health, reduce indigestion, help fight infections, support the elimination of Candida, lower inflammation, help treat nausea and morning sickness, help to reduce menstrual pain, aid in weight loss, lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, offer pain relief and improve brain health.
The many health benefits of ginger are attributed to the bioactive compounds that it contains, namely gingerol, shogaol, and paradol. Ginger is truly a powerful plant that has long been recognized for its soothing qualities, as well as for its properties of improving digestion and supporting overall health and wellness. Used for centuries as a culinary spice and a home remedy for various ailments, ginger has proven itself to be a wonderful herb with many medicinal uses.