By Dr. Mercola
Ginger is one spice that I recommend keeping on hand in your kitchen at all times. Not only is it a wonderful addition to your cooking (especially paired with garlic) but it also has enough medicinal properties to fill several books.
Fresh ginger root keeps well in your freezer. If you find yourself nauseous or with an upset stomach, mince up a small amount (about the size of your fingernail) and swallow it. You'll be amazed at the relief it provides. Yet this is only the beginning…
Therapeutic Health Benefits of Ginger Noted for Thousands of Years
The medicinal uses of ginger have been known for at least 2,000 years in cultures all around the world. Although it originated in Asia, ginger is valued in India, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean, among other regions.
The most commonly used medicinal part of the plant is the rhizome, the root-like stem that grows underground. It's a rich source of antioxidants including gingerols, shogaols, zingerones, and more. Ginger actually has broad-spectrum antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-parasitic properties, to name just several of its more than 40 pharmacological actions.1
Ginger Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties That May Rival Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
For instance, ginger (like many natural plant compounds) is anti-inflammatory, which makes it a valuable tool for pain relief. In 2001, research showed that ginger oil helped reduce knee pain in people with osteoarthritis.2
In 2013, a study also found that women athletes taking three grams of ginger or cinnamon daily (that's less than one teaspoon) had a significant decrease in muscle soreness.3 Ginger has even been found to be as effective as ibuprofen in relieving pain from menstrual cramps in women.4
The pain-relieving potential of ginger appears to be far-reaching. Along with help for muscle and joint pain, ginger has been found to reduce the severity of migraine headaches as well as the migraine medication Sumatriptan – with fewer side effects.5
Another recent study, which was presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference, found that adding ginger compounds to isoproterenol, a type of asthma medication called a beta-agonist, enhanced its bronchodilating effects. Because ginger enhances bronchodilation, it may provide a much safer alternative, or at least complement, to current asthma medications on the market.
Ginger Shows Promise as a Cancer and Diabetes Fighter
Ginger's anti-inflammatory properties no doubt make it beneficial for many chronic inflammatory diseases including cancer. Indeed, research published in the British Journal of Nutrition6 has demonstrated the in vitro and in vivo anticancer activity of ginger, suggesting it may be effective in the management of prostate cancer.
Other research shows it has anti-tumor activity that may help defeat difficult-to-treat types of cancer, including lung, ovarian, colon, breast, skin, and pancreatic.7 Furthermore, because ginger helps prevent the toxic effects of many substances (including cancer drugs), it may be useful to take in addition to conventional cancer treatments.8
As for diabetes, ginger appears to be useful both preventively and therapeutically via effects on insulin release and action, and improved carbohydrate and lipid metabolism.
According to one comprehensive review, a clinical trial that was performed found that after consuming three grams of dry ginger powder for 30 days, diabetic participants had a significant reduction in blood glucose, triglyceride, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol.9 It's thought that ginger has a positive effect on diabetes because it:
- Inhibits enzymes in carbohydrate metabolism
- Increases insulin release and sensitivity
- Improves lipid profiles
Ginger also has also been established to have a protective effect against diabetes complications, including offering protection to the diabetic's liver, kidneys, central nervous system, and eyes.
The Power of Ginger for Nausea, Motion Sickness, and Digestive Upset
No article about ginger would be complete without highlighting its wonderful use for digestive upsets. In my book, it is one of the best natural remedies if you struggle with motion sickness or nausea (from pregnancy or chemotherapy, for example), ginger should be a staple in your diet. Research shows:
- Taking one gram of ginger daily may help reduce nausea and vomiting in pregnant women, and ginger has been shown to work better than a placebo in relieving morning sickness10
- Daily ginger supplementation reduces the severity of chemotherapy-induced nausea11
- Ginger may help reduce vomiting and other symptoms of motion sickness12
Ginger is also a must-have if you struggle with indigestion, and it does more than simply relieve pain. Ginger helps to stimulate the emptying of your stomach without any negative effects,13 and it's an antispasmodic agent, which may explain its beneficial effects on your intestinal tract. Additionally, ginger inhibits H. pylori, which may help prevent ulcers, while also protecting gastric mucosa.14
From Heart Health to Weight Loss: 12 More Uses for Ginger
What else is ginger good for? Ginger is a metabolism boosting substance that may temporarily increase thermogenesis in your body, where your body burns stored up fat to create heat, with beneficial impacts on overall metabolism and fat storage. Research suggests that consuming thermogenic ingredients like ginger may boost your metabolism by up to 5 percent, and increase fat burning by up to 16 percent.15
Ginger may even help counteract the decrease in metabolic rate that often occurs during weight loss. This suggests ginger may be useful for weight loss, and that's not all. Ginger may also be useful for:
Improving cognitive function in middle-aged women18
Protecting against respiratory viruses19
Enhancing fat digestion and absorption21
Protecting against toxic effects of environmental chemicals, such as parabens22
Helping prevent heart attacks23
Relieving arthritis pain as well as Indomethacin, an anti-inflammatory drug commonly used to treat it24
Preventing and treating nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)25
Drug-resistant bacterial and fungal infections26
Reducing damage and memory loss associated with small stroke27
Protecting against the DNA-damaging effects of radiation exposure28
Fighting bacterial diarrhea29
Ginger Tea, Fresh Ginger, or Extract: What's the Best Way to Use Ginger?
This depends on what you're using the ginger for. If you have a serious issue, work with an experienced natural health practitioner who can guide you on proper dosages and forms. For the most potent medicinal properties, ginger extract may be necessary, although there is also therapeutic benefit from fresh or even dried ginger.
Many people enjoy ginger tea on a regular basis, and this is one of the simplest ways to use it. Simply chop off a couple of inches of ginger root and let it steep in hot water for fresh ginger tea. You can also peel the root using a paring knife and then slice it thinly (or grate it or mince it) to add to tea or cooked dishes. You can't go wrong by adding ginger to stir fries or even your favorite homemade chicken soup.
When left unpeeled, fresh ginger can be stored in your refrigerator for at least three weeks or in your freezer for six months or longer, making it incredibly easy to keep on hand. Try experimenting by adding fresh ginger and other warming spices, like cinnamon, to a cup of tea in the morning, evening, or after a meal… and see if you notice any of the health benefits I've just described. You can even try mixing a teaspoon of organic powdered ginger into a gallon of iced tea for added punch and health potential.