Ginger root has been utilized not only in cuisine but also Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. Ginger originated in Southeast Asia and has since become popular across the globe. Chemical analysis of ginger shows that it contains hundreds of compounds, which impart its unique flavors and may exert various health benefits.
Health Benefits of Ginger
Many people are aware of ginger’s most famous medicinal use, the easing of nausea and settling of the stomach. This is certainly its most established effect, and doses of 1-3g seem to be the most effective at accomplishing gastrointestinal relief. Ginger can also stimulate bowel motility, and thus may be helpful with certain conditions that involve a “slowed” digestive system. It may also help with intestinal cramping, gas and bloating.
Beyond aiding gastrointestinal distress, ginger has anti-oxidant, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties that may underpin its ability to help with other problems as well. Ginger may be helpful for PMS and menstrual pain. A randomized clinical trial found that ginger (taken at 250mg every 6 hours) was as effective as medication in relieving menstrual pain.
There have also been studies in which ginger lowered cholesterol, improved blood sugar, reduced biomarkers of inflammation, improved blood pressure, improved sperm quality and increased testosterone levels, and improved cognitive function.
Ways to Consume Ginger
There are a variety of different ways to consume the therapeutic ~1g amount of ginger root, as outlined in this helpful list from Examine.com:
A capsule that has 1g ginger extract in it
A teaspoon of fresh, grated, rhizome (the ginger root)
2 droppers (2mL) of liquid extract
2 teaspoons (10mL) of syrup
4 cups (8 oz each) ginger tea, steeping 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger for 5–10 min
8-oz cup ginger ale, made with real ginger (just watch the added sugar!)
2 pieces crystallized ginger, each 1 inch square, 1/4 inch thick
To be clear, ginger isn’t a miracle cure. Some of these studies need to be replicated, and some effects have been more proven than others—in particular the benefits to the gastrointestinal system.
However, as compared to something like a drug which blocks one specific biochemical pathway in the body, the nice thing about herbal and plant products is they often have the potential for multiple benefits simultaneously due to the hundreds of complex compounds they contain with unique and synergistic properties.
Not only do they add flavor to our diets, but the regular use of herbs and spices in our food can take the phrase “food as medicine” to a more literal place.
Andrew Graham is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner licensed to practice in the State of Arizona. He completed his Master’s in Nursing from Boston College after earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Nutritional Science from Brigham Young University. Before receiving his conventional training, he discovered and began studying functional and integrative medicine many years prior after dealing with health issues himself. Andrew is committed to thoroughly investigating patient’s health concerns in an effort to identify root causes, and then using the most effective combination of conventional and integrative modalities in order to optimize health and well-being. Particular interests include gut health, nutrition, blood sugar issues, hormonal imbalances and longevity medicine.