Ginger is one of the most widely used spices around the world that is known for its pungent taste. But did you know that ginger is also one of the healthiest of foods loaded with bioactive compounds and nutrients that have numerous benefits of the entire body?
Ginger has been used for centuries in Chinese and Indian traditional medicine as a treatment for digestive disorders.
Modern scientific research has revealed that Gingerol, the oily resin present in fresh ginger root has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and it is responsible for most of its medicinal properties.
These properties of ginger helps to relieve arthritis pain, prevent certain forms of cancer, improve brain functions and provide protection against degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
In this article, we have shortlisted some of the most effective health benefits of ginger, the most important components in ginger and ways to include ginger in your daily diet.
Important Components in Ginger:
Ginger constitutes a complex mixture of compounds including capsaicin, beta-carotene, curcumin, cafffeic acid, etc.
The principal compounds of ginger include gingerol, shogaol and zingerone that render the pungency to ginger.
Gingerol is the active component in ginger and most of the health benefits of ginger are attributed to this component. Zingerone is produced when gingerol is cooked and shogaol is produced when gingerol is dried.
10 Effective Health Benefits of Ginger:
1. Treat nausea and morning sickness
Ginger is an effective natural cure for all forms of nausea which works as good as prescription medication. The therapeutic chemicals in ginger influence the brain and nervous system to control the effects of nausea. Ginger can relieve nausea caused by morning sickness during pregnancy, dizziness and nausea due to vertigo, motion sickness, nausea and vomiting after surgery and nausea in cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy.
A review of 12 studies done on a total of 1278 pregnant women showed that taking 1.1 to 1.5 grams of ginger can reduce the symptoms of nausea significantly. Another review published in the Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine tested the efficiency of ginger oil to reduce stress and nausea after surgery. It was seen that inhaling ginger oil was effective enough to reduce nausea. A study done on cancer patients found that supplementing a daily dose of 0.5 to 1 gram of ginger before taking the chemo significantly reduced the severity of acute nausea in 91% of the participants.
2. Provide Gastrointestinal Relief
Ginger can help treat all types of gastrointestinal issues right from chronic indigestion to gastrointestinal irritation, bloating, flatulence, etc. Chronic indigestion or dyspepsia causes recurrent pain in the upper part of the stomach. One of the main reasons for indigestion in delayed emptying of the stomach. Ginger helps to speed up the emptying of the stomach. In a study conducted on 24 healthy individuals, 1.2 grams of ginger power before meals accelerated stomach emptying by almost 50%.
Ginger also reduces inflammation of the digestive track and supports the digestive system health. The prebiotic content in ginger supports digestion by promoting the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Ginger is also an excellent carminative that promotes elimination of gas and relieves flatulence. In a study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research it has been discovered that ginger can also help to treat ulcers and GERD and it works more effectively than Prevacid, the medicine used to treat GERD.
3. Protect against cancer
Ginger extract has been studied extensively as an alternative treatment for cancer and it was found that ginger is especially effective in treating colorectal cancer and ovarian cancer. The anti-cancer properties of ginger is attributed to 6-gingerol, a bioactive substance found in large quantity in raw ginger. In a study conducted on 30 individuals, administering 2 grams of ginger extract per day significantly reduced pro-inflammatory molecules in the colon. It shows that ginger compounds may be effective chemopreventive or chemotherapeutic agents for colorectal cancer. In lab experiments done at the 97th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer it was shown that gingerols can kill ovarian cancer cells by inducing apoptosis and autophagocytosis.
4. Relieve arthritis pain
The anti-inflammatory effects of ginger helps to relieve the symptoms of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and improves range of motion. Arthritis is condition that involves degeneration of the joints which causes joint pain and stiffness. Gingerol works on the vanilloid receptors located on the sensory nerve endings and helps to relieve inflammation and numb pain. In a study conducted at the University of Georgia, consuming a ginger supplement on a daily basis reduced exercise-induced muscle pain by 25% in 74 participants. In another controlled trial of 247 people with osteoarthritis of the knee, it was seen that those who took ginger extract experienced less pain and required fewer pain medications.
5. Boost the immune system
Ginger has been used in Ayurvedic medicine as a remedy for compromised immunity which helps to treat cold and flu. It also helps to treat infection of the upper respiratory tract, cough, sore throat and bronchitis. The thermogenic properties or warming effect of ginger on the body helps to break down the accumulated toxins in the organs, promotes healthy sweating and aids cleaning of the lymphatic system. Researchers in Germany have recently discovered that sweat contains a powerful germ-fighting agent that helps to fight off infection. Researchers have named this gene as dermicidin. Dermicidin is produced by the sweat glands and transported to the skin surface where it provides protection against harmful bacteria and fungi such as E.coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans.
6. Improves Diabetes
Gingerols present in ginger has the capacity to improve diabetes naturally by enhancing insulin sensitivity in the body, inhibiting enzymes in carbohydrates metabolism and improving lipid profiles. A 2006 study published in the journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry stated that gingerol could also suppress accumulation of sorbitol in the human blood cells and sugar-fed rats. Research conducted at the University of Sydney in Australia found that ginger was effective for glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes. Another study published in the journal Planta Medica showed that ginger extract can promote glucose uptake in muscle cells without using insulin. All these studies prove that ginger not only prevents and reverses diabetes, but also provides protection against other complications associated with diabetes such as diabetic retinopathy.
7. Treat bacterial and fungal infections
Gingerol, the bioactive substance present in ginger inhibits the growth of different types of bacteria and fungus and reduces the risk of infections. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Microbiology and Antimicrobials tested the effectiveness of ginger in boosting immune function. It compared the ability of ginger with conventional antibiotics to destroy Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. It was seen that ginger was the clear winner thanks to its natural antibacterial power. Fungal infections are more difficult to control compared to bacterial infection because they are becoming increasingly resistant to conventional medicine. But ginger essential oil has the capacity to kill all types of fungus.
8. Improve heart health
Stroke and heart disease are two of the most notorious killers of the modern world. But including ginger in your daily diet can provide protection against stroke and heart attack thanks to its anti-blood-clotting ability. A recent study done in 2015 on 41 participants with type 2 diabetes found that administering 2 grams of ginger powder per day reduced ApoB/ApoA-I ratio by 28% and markers for oxidized lipoproteins by 23%. Both of these are considered major risk factors for heart disease. In another 45-day study of 85 participants with high cholesterol, it was seen that consuming 3 grams of ginger powder per day caused significant reduction in almost all the cholesterol markers including total cholesterol and blood triglycerides.
9. Improve brain functions and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s
Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress caused by free radicals are two of the main causes of age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies suggest that ginger has a protective effect against age-related brain damage and it also helps to improve brain function (working memory and reaction time) in elderly people. Certain studies conducted in animals suggest that the antioxidants and bioactive substances in ginger inhibit the inflammatory responses in the brain and directly improve brain function.
10. Aid weight loss
Ginger helps in weight loss in several ways. First of all, ginger helps to stabilize blood sugar. Sudden fluctuations in blood sugar causes cravings, extreme hunger pangs and insulin desensitization – all of these factors cause overeating. Daily consumption of ginger helps to reduce insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels which in turn promote weight loss. Secondly, ginger helps to reduces appetite and makes you stay satiated for longer, which in turn makes it easier to cut down calories. A study published in the journal Metabolism in 2012 stated that a hot ginger beverage containing 2 grams of ginger powder consumed after a meal reduced hunger for up to 6 hours. And it also increased the number of calories that is used by the body to digest the meal. Thirdly, ginger improves the level of hormone leptin, which controls satiety and insulin which makes it an effective natural treatment for obesity.
Side Effects of Using Ginger:
Ginger is considered safe when taken by mouth as per recommended dosage and it is safe when applied to the skin appropriately for short term.
- Mild side effects of ginger include heartburn, diarrhea, heartburn and stomach upset.
- Ginger can cause excess menstrual bleeding in some women.
- Use of ginger during pregnancy is controversial. While it is safe for medicinal uses but there are reports of miscarriage during the 12th week of pregnancy.
- It is best not to use ginger close to a woman’s delivery date, because, ginger might increase the risk of bleeding.
- People with bleeding disorder should avoid using ginger because it may increase the risk of bleeding.
- High doses of ginger may worsen certain heart conditions.
- People with diabetes should be careful while using ginger because it may increase the insulin level or lower the blood sugar level.
Ways to Use Ginger:
There are various ways to include ginger in your daily diet to make the most out of its nutrients.
- Raw ginger – You can put a few slices of raw ginger in your smoothie or juice every morning.
- Ginger tea – Ginger tea is commonly used to relieve cough, sore throat, nausea and vomiting. Just crush a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger and steep it in a cut of hot water for 10 minutes. Add a teaspoon of honey and lemon to it and enjoy.
- Ginger essential oil – This is the most potent form of ginger and contains the highest concentration of gingerol. Ginger essential oil can be consumed to address digestive disorders or applied topically to treat pain.
- Ginger powder – Adding ground ginger powder to your foods in an excellent way to include more ginger in your daily diet. You can use it to prepare vegetable curry, chicken, pies, breads and biscuits.
- Ginger supplement – You can also take ginger in the form of supplement capsule. The daily recommended dose is 1000 milligrams.
Ginger is a true superfood that contains 115 different chemical components that act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents and help to improve digestion, reduce the symptoms of nausea and reduce pain and the best thing is that ginger works more effectively compared to conventional medication.