What is Ginger?
Ginger is a flowering plant whose rhizome, ginger root, or ginger, is widely used as a spice and folk medicine. It is a herbaceous perennial which grows annual pseudostems about one-meter tall bearing narrow leaf blades
There are over 1,300 species of plants in the Zingiberaceae (ginger plant) family. The spices turmeric, cardamom, and galangal are also in this family. But most varieties of ginger are ornamental, rather than edible.
Types of Ginger
The most common edible ginger roots are yellowish in color. However, there is also blue ginger, red ginger, and white ginger. And you can sometimes find different species of baby ginger, which are actually the young roots of a ginger plant and are often pink and cream-colored.
Origin of Ginger
Ginger plants prefer hot weather in tropical or subtropical climates. Most ginger originates in Southeast Asia, where it first grew wild in rainforests. Even though it’s now rare to find uncultivated ginger in Southeast Asia, most of the ginger consumed worldwide still comes from that region. China, India, Nepal, and Thailand are the largest producers of ginger.
Even the US imports nearly all of its ginger from Asia, although ginger does grow in abundance in Hawaii.
Nutrition Facts of Ginger
Ginger is high in vitamins C and B6, along with magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese. It’s full of both fiber and water, making it good for gut health and weight maintenance. It’s also low in calories and high in phytochemicals — the active compounds in whole plant foods that protect your health.
Most of ginger’s health benefits appear to come from its abundance of polyphenols, which protect the body against oxidative stress. Ginger contains three main polyphenols: gingerols, shoals, and parasols, in addition to being high in antioxidants
10 Benefits Taking Ginger Root
Ginger can soothe an upset stomach, help with menstrual cramps, and contribute toward weight loss.
Ginger may have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and other healthful properties.
Several studies have investigated ginger’s effects on the gasses that form in the intestinal tract during digestion.
Some research indicates that enzymes in ginger can help the body break up and expel this gas, providing relief from any discomfort.
Ginger also appears to have beneficial effects on the enzymes trypsin and pancreatic lipase, which are important for digestion.
In addition, ginger may help increase movement through the digestive tract, suggesting that it may relieve or prevent constipation.
2. Relieving nausea
Some research indicates that ginger can help alleviate morning sickness and relieve nausea following cancer treatment.
One small study from 2010 examined the effects of ginger root powder supplements on nausea in 60 children and young adults who underwent chemotherapy. The analysis showed that the supplement led to reduced nausea in most of the people who took it.
3. Relieving pain
Researchers behind a small study, which included 74 volunteers, found that a daily dosage of 2 grams (g) of raw or heated ginger reduced exercise-induced muscle pain by about 25%.
Meanwhile, a 2016 review of studies concluded that ginger may help reduce dysmenorrhea — pain right before or during menstruation. However, the authors acknowledge that the included studies were often small or of poor quality.
4. Reducing inflammation
One group of researchers concluded that taking ginger by mouth is “modestly efficacious and reasonably safe” for treating inflammation caused by osteoarthritis.
Meanwhile, a 2017 review of 16 clinical trials determined that the phytochemical properties in ginger may combat inflammation. These authors also called for further research into the most effective dosages and types of ginger extract.
5. Supporting cardiovascular health
There is some evidence that ginger extract may help with cardiovascular disease. For example, one review found that a dosage of 5 g or more can cause significant, beneficial antiplatelet activity.
The authors acknowledge that many investigations included in their analysis did not involve human participants or that participant numbers were too small to ensure reliable results.
However, they suggest that, with further research, ginger could prove to be a safe form of treatment for cardiovascular disease.
Meanwhile, one small study found that ginger extract helped reduce the occurrence of heart abnormalities among rats with diabetes. The authors noted that this reduction may stem, in part, from the antioxidant properties of the extract.
6. Lowering cancer risk
Ginger does not provide protein or other nutrients, but it is an excellent source of antioxidants. Studies have shown that, for this reason, ginger can reduce various types of oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress happens when too many free radicals build up in the body. Free radicals are toxic substances produced by metabolism and other factors.
The body needs to eliminate free radicals to prevent them from causing cellular damage that can lead to a range of diseases, including cancer. Dietary antioxidants help the body get rid of free radicals.
Placebo VS Ginger
In a 2013 trial, researchers gave 20 participants either 2 g of ginger or a placebo for 28 days. The participants all had a high risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Biopsies showed that the participants who had consumed the ginger had fewer negative changes in healthy colon tissue. This group also had reduced cellular proliferation. The findings indicate that ginger could play a role in preventing colorectal cancer.
7. May Protect Against Radiation
Radiation is a commonly used cancer treatment that has some very problematic side effects. One of them is that it increases oxidative stress within the body and can harm internal organs.
In an effort to mitigate these side effects, a none-too-kind animal study, performed in 2017, explored whether ginger might work as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent in the body.
In the study, ginger extract was given to rats as a pretreatment before radiation exposure. The rats who received this treatment saw protection against kidney damage and reduced inflammation.
The researchers recommended ginger extract over synthetic radioprotective compounds because of its lack of harmful side effects.
Many people use ginger to help recover from a cold or the flu. However, the evidence supporting this remedy is mostly anecdotal. In 2013, researchers studied the effects of fresh and dried ginger on one respiratory virus in human cells.
The results indicated that fresh ginger may help protect the respiratory system, while dried ginger did not have the same impact. After polling 300 pharmacy customers in two different locations, the researchers determined that 69% of those polled used herbal medicine and that most of this group found it effective.
However, while ginger was among the most popular ingredients in these remedies, some of the participants may not have used it.
9. Could Help Balance Blood Sugar
Ginger might also have value in supporting blood glucose control. A 2019 analysis of multiple research studies showed how ginger consumption impacts HbA1c levels (glycated hemoglobin).
Patients with type 2 diabetes saw a significant improvement in these levels while taking ginger, suggesting that ginger could have a long-term positive impact on blood sugar balance.
Neurologists and husband and wife team, Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai conducted research showing that up to 90% of Alzheimer’s cases may be preventable through diet and lifestyle. Well, now it seems that ginger might be one of those neuroprotective foods you’ll want to add to your diet.
In-vitro tests using one of the bioactive compounds found in ginger, gingerol, showed potential anti-inflammatory effects by acting on cells that essentially turn on cells and proteins within the brain that cause neuroinflammation.
5 Potential Side Effects of Ginger
Although the benefits of ginger outweigh potential side effects for most of us, there are still a few instances that call for caution.
1. Gastrointestinal Discomfort
Recommended doses of ginger and those amounts used in clinical trials are usually between 170mg to one gram of powdered ginger per day. Studies show that consumption of more than six grams of powdered ginger at a time can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, heartburn, and upset stomach.
But you’d have a hard time eating that much-powdered ginger outside of capsule form, anyway. While a tablespoon of ground ginger weighs about six grams ― that’s equivalent to about ⅔ cup of fresh ginger.
2. Allergic Reactions
As with almost any food, allergic reactions to ginger are possible. While uncommon, a possible external allergy symptom to ginger is contact dermatitis or eczema.
There are also cases of allergic reactions to ginger dust, such as that from powdered ginger.
However, no skin prick test currently exists to test for ginger allergies. If you think you might be allergic, the best course of action is to avoid ginger.
3. Can Prolong Bleeding
Warfarin is an anticoagulant (blood-thinning) drug given to people with known concern about blood clots and before certain surgeries. Research suggests that some foods, including ginger, potentiate the effects of warfarin and increase the risk of bleeding during surgical procedures.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, though, small amounts of ginger (think as a seasoning, not a major component of your diet) should be fine.
4. Central Nervous System Depression and Arrhythmia
Although ginger’s blood pressure-lowering effect is beneficial to some people, in others, it can cause blood pressure to drop too low. In both animal and human studies, ginger caused central nervous system depression and arrhythmia among a small number of individuals.
5. May Aggravate Gallbladder Disease
Research shows that ginger increases bile secretion, which might contribute to gallstone formation in some people. If you have gallbladder disease, it’s recommended you use caution when consuming ginger, and discuss its usage with your doctor.
Researchers have not investigated many of the compounds in ginger. Also, scientific evidence does not support some claims about ginger’s healing qualities.
Before adding more ginger to the diet or taking a ginger supplement, consult a healthcare provider. A supplement may interact with medications or cause other health complications.
Ginger supplements and other ginger products are available for purchase online here.
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Tell us in the comments.
1. Do you use ginger?
2. How does ginger benefit you?
3. How do you best like to use ginger in cooking?
Information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We encourage you to do your own research. Seek the advice of a medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet.
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