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Ginger: A savory solution

Unveiling Ginger's Healing Powers: From Kitchen Spice to Digestive Remedy

Discover the ancient origins and modern applications of ginger, a versatile spice renowned for soothing nausea, easing pain, and reducing inflammation, backed by both tradition and scientific research.


Culinary Medicine

ginger


Did your grandmother tell you to sip ginger ale when your stomach was queasy? It was good advice. Ginger, which gives ginger ale its spicy flavor, has been used for centuries in folk and traditional medicine as a remedy for digestive complaints. [1] Today it is among the most commonly used herbal medicines. [2] 


Ginger, a spice we enjoy in savory stir-fries and curries and in sweets like ginger breads and cookies, originated in Southeast Asia. Although often called ginger root, ginger is not actually a root, but a rhizome, which is an underground horizonal stem from which the roots grow. It can be purchased fresh in the produce section of your grocery store, or dried and ground in the spice aisle, as well as in teas, candies, and supplements. [2] Ginger contains a variety of nutrients including niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin C, iron, and potassium, but it is generally consumed in such small amounts that it does not contribute much to overall nutrient intake. However, ginger is a source of numerous phytochemicals, including gingerols and shogaols. These phytochemicals are believed to provide antinausea and antiemetic effects; they also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. [3,4]


Ginger helps with nausea

For over 5000 years traditional Chinese medicine has used ginger as a nausea remedy and the ancient Greeks used it as a digestive aid. Today, modern science is evaluating the effectiveness of ginger in reducing nausea and vomiting due to motion sickness, pregnancy, and chemotherapy.  A dose of 160 g of dried ginger has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of motion sickness; this is the equivalent to 1/8 tsp of powdered ginger, one cup of ginger tea, or a small piece of crystalized ginger. [3,5]  Ginger is a popular treatment for morning sickness -  the nausea and vomiting that frequently occur during early pregnancy. Meta-analyses have found ginger to be better than placebo at relieving the symptoms of morning sickness. [3]  While studies varied in the dosage, timing, and duration of the ginger used as a treatment for morning sickness, in general 1 gram of ginger divided into doses over the course of the day for four days was effective at reducing symptoms.  Ginger has also been used to reduce nausea and vomiting caused by many types of chemotherapy used in cancer treatment. In an analysis of seven well-controlled studies of the effectiveness of ginger at reducing symptoms, five studies showed some benefit of ginger. [3] Although more research is needed to determine the optimal dose, this evidence shows that ginger is an effective and inexpensive treatment for nausea and vomiting.


Ginger for pain and inflammation

ginger supplements

Ginger has also been used in the management of pain and inflammation. [2]  For example, ginger is often used to soothe a sore throat. Ginger reduces sore throat pain and swelling due to its anti-inflammatory effects as well as to antimicrobial properties that may help fight infections that cause sore throats. [6] Ginger’s anti-inflammatory role has been investigated for its effectiveness in relieving pain from muscle overuse, osteoarthritis, migraines, and menstrual cramps showing some benefit. [2,7]  Research on ginger supplementation has shown mixed results in managing diseases involving chronic inflammation including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel and neurodegenerative diseases. [2,7,8] There is also some evidence that ginger is beneficial in metabolic conditions related to chronic inflammation including type 2 diabetes and obesity. Ginger supplementation causes a slight reduction in blood glucose and blood pressure levels in adults with diabetes.[7] In obese women, ginger supplements showed a minor benefit on weight reduction and heart disease risk factors that accompany obesity. [7]


Safety

When consumed in food, a daily intake of up to 4 grams of ginger is categorized as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. [9] While it would be unusual to consume this amount when used as a spice, doses that exceed 4 grams can easily be consumed from crystalized ginger, ginger candies, teas, and supplements. Although the GRAS designation only applies to food, ginger supplements in this amount have been used safely in many research studies. [10]  Higher intakes may cause mild abdominal discomfort, heartburn, diarrhea, and irritation of the mouth and throat. Research studies using ginger for morning sickness have shown it to be safe for pregnant women; most studies evaluated doses of 250 mg taken four times daily for a total 1 g per day. [11] Ginger may increase the risk of bleeding so should be used with caution by those taking blood thinning medications, such as Eliquis, Coumadin, and aspirin. [6]  


Bottom Line 

This savory spice will add a kick to your recipes and also has medicinal benefits. Ginger is best known for its ability to reduce nausea and vomiting, but it also has beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. To reap these benefits, add it to stews, casseroles, and salad dressings, bake it into snaps and muffins, or enjoy a cup of ginger tea. Bring some crystalized ginger or ginger cookies on your next car, boat, or plane excursion to stave off motion sickness. Unfortunately, many commercial ginger ales contain very little ginger.


 

Not sure how to cook with ginger? Try our healthy ginger, turmeric, rice recipe.

 

References

[2] Ballester P, Cerdá B, Arcusa R, Marhuenda J, Yamedjeu K, Zafrilla P. Effect of Ginger on Inflammatory Diseases. Molecules. 2022;27(21):7223. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27217223

[3] Lete I, Alluέ J. The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy and Chemotherapy. Integrative Medicine Insights. 2016;11:11-17. doi:https://doi.org/10.4137/imi.s36273

[4] Mao QQ, Xu XY, Cao SY, et al. Bioactive Compounds and Bioactivities of Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe). Foods. 2019;8(6):185. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/foods8060185

[5] Nunes CP, Rodrigues C, Mendel Suchmacher, et al. A Combination of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, Glutamic Acid, Calcium, Thiamine, Pyridoxine, and Cyanocobalamin vs Ginger Extract in the Management of Chronic Motion Sickness: A Clinical Evaluation. Current therapeutic research. 2023;99:100719-100719. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.curtheres.2023.100719

[6] Ginger for Sore Throat: Benefits, Uses, and Recipe. Healthline. Published August 10, 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health/ginger-for-sore-throat#4

[7] Anh NH, Kim SJ, Long NP, et al. Ginger on Human Health: A Comprehensive Systematic Review of 109 Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2020;12(1):157. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010157

[8] Arcusa R, Villaño D, Marhuenda J, Cano M, Cerdà B, Zafrilla P. Potential Role of Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) in the Prevention of Neurodegenerative Diseases. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2022;9. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2022.809621

[9] Modi M, Modi K. Ginger Root. PubMed. Published 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK565886/

[10]  National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Ginger. Published December 2020. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/ginger

[11]  Stanisiere J, Mousset PY, Lafay S. How Safe Is Ginger Rhizome for Decreasing Nausea and Vomiting in Women during Early Pregnancy? Foods. 2018;7(4):50. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/foods7040050



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