Ginger is an ancient spice that is notorious for the long list of health benefits it can provide. Scientific research continues to provide us with insights into this healing spice.
Ginger is known as a flowering plant, but it is the root used widely as a spice for cooking and medicinal value. Ginger root is considered a rhizome (an underground stem) of a plant, which is what gives ginger its unusual shape. The rhizome has a waxy outer coating and soft, spicy inside.
Gingerol, the most bioactive compound found within the ginger root, is known to exert its pharmaceutical and physiological effects. Gingerol is the prominent compound that comes from fresh ginger and shogaol is the primary compound from dried, ground ginger. Zingiberaceae is the family from which ginger, along with turmeric and cardamom, originate. The production of ginger occurs largely in India and China, as well as other Asian countries and tropical Africa.
The dried forms of ginger are used for a variety of symptoms and clinical conditions. The essential oil of ginger is also used greatly as an analgesic (pain reliever). Nutritionally, raw ginger is comprised of a large portion of water and vitamins and minerals like vitamin B6, magnesium and manganese.
Some studies have suggested potential drug interactions regarding high quantity consumption of ginger with drugs like warfarin (Shalansky et al., 2007) and nifedipine (Jia-Xuan et al., 2015), while other studies negate this. This is just something to be aware of.
Overall, ginger is a potent, health-promoting spice that should be added to your dietary and wellness routine.
Read below for the top eight health benefits of ginger:
- Natural blood thinner
- In a clinical trial study, patients with coronary artery disease who were given 10 grams of powdered ginger and it resulted in a significant reduction in platelet aggregation (Bordia et al., 1997).
- Another study concluded that gingerol has anti-platelet (anti-clotting) properties due to its direct effects of inhibiting thromboxane (hormone that causes platelet aggregation) formation (Guh et al., 1995).
- Lowers blood pressure
- Ginger has been shown to help lower blood pressure through its physiological effects of blocking voltage-gated calcium channel pathways (Ghayur et al., 2005), elucidating its cardioprotective properties.
- This mechanism of blocking calcium channels happens to be the basis of how typical blood pressure drugs work. When a calcium channel is blocked in a muscle cell (like the heart) it results in a deactivation event and a “relaxed” state.
- A component of ginger was found to inhibit the angiotensin receptor, similar to a whole class of pharmaceuticals.
- Reduces inflammation
- One study found that compounds in ginger were associated with inhibiting the expression of pro-inflammatory proteins that contribute to chronic inflammation over time including tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukin-1β (IL-1β) (Mozzaffari-Khosravi et al., 2016).
- Furthermore, ginger supplementation was also found to have longitudinal effects on nitric oxide (NO) and hs- C reactive protein (CRP) markers.
- A twelve-week clinical trial analyzed the effects of ginger powder supplementation on elderly patients with knee osteoarthritis (Naderi et al., 2015). The study found that after twelve weeks, the patients given ginger had significant decreases in serum concentrations of inflammatory markers of NO and CRP (Naderi et al., 2015).
- Aids digestion
- There is evidence for ginger to help in assisting with proper digestion by stimulating key digestive enzymes like trypsin and pancreatic lipase, which are required for normal breakdown of food (Platel et al., 2000).
- Ginger has also been found to aid in gastric emptying and motility (Wu et al., 2008).
- Protects against cancer
- A study found ginger to be protective and anti-carcinogenic based upon its ability to inhibit the NF-κB pathway and reduce the presence of inflammatory markers (Habib et al., 2008). Improper regulation of the NF-κB pathway is associated with cancer.
- Furthermore in this study, the extract of ginger was found to decrease the concentration of elevated inflammatory markers in rats with liver cancer (Habib et al., 2008).
- Combats motion sickness
- The use of ginger as a natural remedy for motion sickness has long been acknowledged.
- Ginger is a modality to be used for the treatment and prevention of motion sickness due to its unique physiological effects (Lien et al., 2003). When ginger was administered to patients with a history of motion sickness who were undergoing circular vection (simulated motion), there was a significant decrease in nausea and a reduced release of vasopressin (Lien et al., 2003).
- Increased release of plasma vasopressin, a hormone, has been linked to contributing to the development of nausea (Kim et al., 1997). Furthermore, vasopressin neurons have been activated in nausea associated with motion (Koch et al., 1990).
- Helps arthritis
- One review study concluded that the anti-inflammatory agent, ginger, is able to inhibit the NF-κB pathway and other chemical signaling pathways in the body (Al-Nahain et al., 2014). This helps to decrease inflammation and ultimately the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis (Al-Nahain et al., 2014).
- Along with this, ginger helps to regulate the expression of inflammatory genes (Al-Nahain et al., 2014), which is importantn as Rheumatoid Arthritis is largely an inflammatory disorder.
- Protects the brain
- Oxidative stress is associated with neurodegenerative diseases as it can wreak havoc on brain tissue along with memory and learning processes.
- Ginger has been continuously associated with decreasing oxidative markers.
- In one study from the Neurobiology of Aging, aged rats were administered extracts of both ginger and ginkgo balboa and then analyzed. This study found that age-related biomarkers of oxidative stress in brain tissue were reduced in rats, along with improved spatial learning, when these extracts were administered (Tani et al., 2002).
Now that you’ve learned about the health-boosting benefits and healing properties of ginger, here’s a recipe for Ginger Tea and a recipe for a Ginger/Kale Detox Smoothie!
Al-Nahain et al., 2014: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4058601/
Bordia et al., 1997: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9175175
Ghayur et al., 2005: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15613983
Guh et al., 1995: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7791032
Habib et al., 2008: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2664283/
Jia-Xuan et al., 2015: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4338259/
Kim et al., 1997: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9142918
Koch et al., 1990: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2229284
Lien et al., 2003: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12576305
Liu Q et al 2013: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23479389
Mozzaffari-Khosravi et al., 2016: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27559855
Naderi et al., 2015: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27419081
Platel et al., 2000: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10702999
Shalansky et al., 2007: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17723077
Tani et al., 2002: http://www.neurobiologyofaging.org/article/S0197-4580(01)00241-X/fulltext
Wu et al., 2008: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18403946