Are the benefits of ginger’s health claims justified?
The health claims of ginger are wide-ranging, with the top 10 health benefits of ginger including a reduction in nausea, muscle pain, oxidative stress, risk of heart disease, obesity, and cancer risk and improved digestion, bone health, immune system functioning, and memory.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a well-known herbaceous plant that has been used as both spice and herbal medicine for centuries.
Ginger root can be consumed in many ways, including fresh, dried, powdered, and in the form of juice, each of which may have health benefits. Ginger is a common ingredient in Asian cuisines and is also used in sweets and alcoholic beverages, such as ginger biscuits, ginger beer, and wine.
The top 10 health benefits of ginger are reviewed below
Most of the clinical health benefits derived from ginger are due to the bioactive compound gingerol.
In addition to this powerful compound in ginger, it is rich in vitamins and minerals including – sodium, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin C, folate, and vitamin B6, which benefit health in multiple ways.
Here are the health benefits of ginger:
1. Relieves nausea
Ginger may be an effective remedy for nausea and the symptoms associated with nausea, including dizziness, vomiting, and cold sweating. Just one gram of fresh ginger can significantly help prevent numerous types of nausea, including morning sickness, motion sickness, chemotherapy-related nausea, and nausea after surgery.
Interestingly, ginger has been found to be more effective in relieving the severity of nausea than vitamin B6.
2. Reduces muscle pain
Ginger has powerful anti-inflammatory properties as it is rich in volatile oils that contain the potent compound gingerol. Due to this, regularly adding ginger to your diet may lead to reduced muscle pain (particularly following exercise-induced muscle injury) and improved mobility.
Additionally, ginger has been found to provide effective relief for pain related to periods, cramps, menstrual disorders, and migraines.
3. Aids digestion
It is usually beneficial to eat ginger or drink ginger tea if you are suffering from an upset stomach or diarrhea. Sipped ginger is known to be a digestive enhancer since it alleviates pain and discomfort in the stomach, soothes the intestinal tract, and aids with digestion.
Ginger provides relief for gastric dysfunction and indigestion as it speeds up the digestion process, leading to a protective effect on the gastrointestinal system.
4. Boosts bone health
Ginger consumption may improve bone health and relieve joint pain. For this reason, ginger can be used to provide relief for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Due to the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger, it can reduce swelling and improve movement.
5. Reduces oxidative stress
Ginger extract may help reduce oxidative stress as it is rich in antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are compounds that prevent stress and DNA damage.
Oxidative stress occurs due to an excessive level of free radicals in the body and can lead to chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Ginger may help overcome the impact of free radicals on the organs and promote brain functioning.
6. Strengthens the immune system
As ginger is high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, its regular intake may strengthen the immune system.
The gingerol compound found in ginger has antimicrobial and antifungal properties to help fight infections.
Ginger can also be used to treat colds and flu and regain lost energy.
A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that fresh ginger appears to show antiviral activity against respiratory tract infections.
7. Reduces the risk of heart disease
Ginger consumption may support blood health and circulation, as well as lowering blood sugar levels and total blood cholesterol. This can reduce the chances of developing blood clots and severe heart complications, such as heart disease, heart attacks, aneurysms, and strokes.
Dietary ginger intake may also decrease the levels of lipids in the bloodstream, reducing the possibility of heart attacks.
Using ginger in combination with a healthy and balanced diet can help maintain cardiovascular health.
8. Mitigates obesity
It may be possible to reduce your risk of obesity and accelerate weight loss through ginger consumption. Ginger boosts metabolism and can help manage certain risk factors for obesity, such as lipid levels, high blood pressure, diabetes, and metabolic syndromes.
A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that ginger supplements had a minor benefit on weight loss in obese women.
9. Prevents cancer
There is some evidence that ginger provides protection from certain cancer types, especially colorectal, pancreatic, ovarian, and breast cancers.
It has been suggested that gingerol has anticancer activity and inhibits the proliferation of cancer cell types.
A study published in PloS One found reduced tumor growth of pancreatic cancer cells due to the consumption of ginger extract.
Additional studies are required to confirm the implications of ginger on preventing cancer.
10. Improves memory
Ginger consumption actively improves memory and cognitive function, as well as the risks associated with neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
Ginger acts by reducing both inflammation and oxidative stress. A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that ginger significantly enhanced the cognitive function of healthy, middle-aged women.
Although ginger is relatively safe and recommended for many complaints (such as these 10 claimed benefits of ginger), it is a potent herb that acts pharmacologically so may be unsuitable for some people.
Always consult your doctor before taking any supplements, such as ginger, to see if they are safe for you.
Written by Albina Babu, MSc
Anh, N.H., et al. (2020). Ginger on human health: a comprehensive systematic review of 109 randomized controlled trials. Nutrients, 12(1), p.157. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7019938/
The health benefits of ginger (2019). BBC Good Food. Retrieved from: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/ingredient-focus-ginger
San Chang, J., et al. (2013). Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has anti-viral activity against the human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 145(1), pp.146-151.
Attari, V.E., et al. (2016). Changes of serum adipocytokines and body weight following Zingiber officinale supplementation in obese women: a RCT. European Journal of Nutrition, 55(6), pp.2129-2136.
Akimoto, M., et al. (2015). Anticancer effect of ginger extract against pancreatic cancer cells mainly through reactive oxygen species-mediated autotic cell death. PloS One, 10(5).
Saenghong, N., et al. (2011). Zingiber officinale improves cognitive function of the middle-aged healthy women. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012(383062).
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