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Ginger is a flowering plant whose rhizome, or subterranean root, is the plant’s most commonly consumed part. Known by the scientific moniker Zingiber officinale, ginger is mostly used as a spice or as an ingredient in homeopathic medicines. Ginger is grown commercially throughout Asia, South America, Africa, and Central America; as a result, it’s domestically available year-round at local supermarkets. Ginger has a pungent flavor with both spicy and sweet undertones. Ginger is most commonly used in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisines, yet many countries tout recipes using ginger. Some popular American food and drink items containing ginger include ginger ale, ginger beer, ginger snap cookies, gingerbread cookies, and carrot ginger soup to name a few. The best part about consuming ginger at mealtime is that it has loads of nutrients with incredible health benefits. Check out some of the ways eating ginger may improve your health.
Important Note: All of the assertions made herein are representative of the most current scientific research at the time of this publication.
Treats Symptoms of Nausea and Morning Sickness
Ginger has long been effectively used as an antidote to nausea and morning sickness. Although there are many human studies where science is concerned, anecdotal observations suggest that consuming ginger root, or products featuring it as an ingredient, relieves nausea and vomiting. Moreover, for decades ginger has been used to naturally combat morning sickness in pregnant women. A dozen or so studies revealed that pregnant women who consumed small amounts of ginger experienced a reduction in symptoms associated with morning sickness.
General Consensus: 3/5 and here is why. While a few studies on this topic suggest that a small 1.5-gram serving of ginger can remediate nausea, there are too few human studies to draw this conclusion with confidence.
Supportive of Weight Loss
Some studies suggest that regularly consuming ginger may result in lower body fat, reduced overall weight, and a lowered hip-waist ratio in obese individuals. One study of women with obesity revealed that ginger can help to reduce body mass index as well as blood sugar levels. Furthermore, a study of health-beneficial foods revealed that regular ginger consumption had a positive outcome on weight loss. Finally, animal studies showed that rats and rice that were fed ginger extract experienced a reduction in overall body weight. Scientists believe that ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties may be the cause of its outcome on weight loss.
General Consensus: 3/5 and here is why. Although this is a promising topic of study, much of the research on the effect of ginger on weight loss employs animal subjects; human studies are indicated.
Treats Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is the degradation of the cartilage that cushions bones and joints; this is a painful, degenerative condition for which there is no cure. Dealing with osteoarthritis is best achieved by finding the best combination of medicines, exercise, and supplements. Scientific studies suggest that consuming ginger root may help to remediate symptoms of osteoarthritis. One telling study revealed that a ginger-rich diet reduced osteoarthritis pain and disability. Notably, subjects of this study with the best success rates received up to 1 gram of ginger per day for up to 12 weeks. Furthermore, a subsequent study revealed that ginger combined with other anti-inflammatory natural ingredients such as cinnamon and sesame oil worked to successfully reduce knee pain in individuals with osteoarthritis.
General Consensus: 4/5 and here is why. A number of scientific studies indicate that consuming ginger has a positive effect on osteoarthritis symptoms.
Lowers Blood Sugar
Another incredible benefit of consuming ginger is that it can effectively lower blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. Although the study of ginger’s anti-diabetic properties is a young one, it certainly shows promise. One study concluded that individuals with type-2 diabetes experienced lower fasting blood sugar when they consumed a ginger root supplement. Additionally, the same study showed a reduction in subjects’ A1C when ginger was consumed over time; A1C is a marker for long-term sugar management in diabetics. Furthermore, other markers and risk factors associated with diabetes saw improvement with the consumption of a ginger root supplement.
General Consensus: 2/5 and here is why. While the implications of ginger consumption on diabetic sugar control are promising, there are fewer than five studies on this topic as of yet; more research is necessary.
Reduces Symptoms of Indigestion
Like its palliative effects on nausea, ginger is a useful antidote to symptoms of indigestion. One of the primary causes of indigestion is a delay in the emptying functions of the stomach; significantly, ginger has been shown to improve this process thereby remediating the symptoms of indigestion. A handful of significant scientific studies attest to this phenomenon, showing that subjects who consumed a ginger pill experienced stomach emptying at a much quicker rate than those who did not. Again, as the speed of stomach emptying is a prime indicator of indigestion, consuming ginger can positively benefit individuals who suffer from indigestion.
General Consensus: 4/5 and here is why. Study after study shows that eating ginger speeds up stomach processes that might otherwise cause the discomfort associated with indigestion.
Treats Menstrual Cramping
Dysmenorrhea, which is the medical term for the abdominal cramping experienced during a woman’s menstrual cycle, can be treated with ginger. In a study of 150 women, researchers discovered that women who consumed a ginger supplement during their menstrual cycle experienced similar relief to those who treated cramps with ibuprofen. Similar studies concluded that ginger treated menstrual cramping just as well as acetaminophen. While these studies are promising, they are two of only a handful of studies researching the effects of ginger on dysmenorrhea.
General Consensus: 2.5/5 and here is why. Although early studies indicate a link between ginger intake and the remediation of menstrual cramping, more research is needed to make this claim with confidence.
High cholesterol levels are one of the leading precursors to heart disease; research suggests that eating a ginger-rich diet may help you to better manage cholesterol levels and thereby avert cardiovascular disease. In one study, subjects with pre-existing high cholesterol saw a 17% reduction in their bad cholesterol levels after consuming a ginger extract a for an extended duration. This and other similar findings are supported by animal studies showing that ginger extract reduced bad cholesterol levels as well as the leading prescription medicine.
General Consensus: 3/5 and here is why. Despite conclusive links between ginger and cholesterol reduction in both human and animal studies, there are very few total studies on this topic; more research is warranted.
Reduces Risk of Cancer
Interestingly, ginger has been researched as an all-natural remedy for many cancer types. Ginger contains high levels of gingerol, a phenolic plant compound that has powerful antioxidative properties. In a study of participants at risk for cancer, ginger extract drastically reduced the inflammatory indicators for a cancer diagnosis. Cursory studies of ginger and its effect on cancers of the colon, pancreas, stomach, and liver indicate that ginger may prevent oxidation of the free radicals that would ultimately lead to these cancers. Other studies indicate a possible connection between ginger intake and a reduced risk for both breast and ovarian cancers as well.
General Consensus: 2/5 and here is why. Much of the research concerning ginger’s cancer-reducing properties is limited; more research is needed to be sure of this benefit.
Unlikely Benefits: Further Research Needed
General Consensus: 2.5/5 and here is why. Some studies indicate that the gingerol content in ginger may inhibit the growth of bacteria but there are too few studies on this topic for now.
Enhances Brain Health
General Consensus: 2/5 and here is why. There’s some indication that the bioactive compounds in ginger may reduce oxidative stress in the brain, however, research is quite limited.