Unexpected health benefits of ginger
Posted on July 26 2019
You already know that ginger works well as a zesty spice in cooking, but its role in food dishes is just the start. It’s used throughout the world as an alternative medicine and has been a go-to remedy for thousands of years. From stomachache to nausea, colds to arthritis, this tropical plant is used to treat all kinds of ailments. Let’s take a look at how this powerful root can perk up your health.
It boosts digestion
Ginger has long been used in herbal medicine as a ‘digestive’, and for good reason. It can help you break down your food comfortably and ease that weighed down feeling when you’ve eaten too much. It also stimulates saliva and gastric enzymes to help speed the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine.1 With this increased movement in your digestive system it’s less likely that uncomfortable sensations like heartburn or indigestion will follow after eating.
It eases nausea
Whether it’s motion sickness, morning sickness or just feeling queasy, nausea is not nice to experience. Enter ginger. The gingerols (anti-inflammatory compounds) and shogaols found in this tropical root can help ease feelings of sickness. They work by interacting with the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and serotonin in your body.2 Acetylcholine triggers involuntary stomach contractions, while serotonin can stimulate the vomiting reflex.3 4 By preventing these chemicals from working, ginger can reduce nausea and get you back to your usual self. Ginger juice is good to sip on when you’re feeling worse for wear, but if it’s a bit strong for you, try blending it into a smoothie.
It relieves pain
The same gingerols that help ease sickness can also help reduce pain in joints and muscles. Whether you’re dealing with post-workout soreness, or something more serious, ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties can help. It works by lowering levels of certain tissue hormones called prostaglandins that can induce pain and inflammation.5
Ginger’s potent pain fighting properties have been shown to help relieve discomfort caused by osteoarthritis, with studies conducted on patients with arthritis in their knees. A recent study published in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage found that not only did participants' subjective pain decrease, but swelling in their knees, an indicator of inflammation, also dropped significantly in the patients treated with ginger.6
As ginger root’s effects seem to be most beneficial over time, you’ll find it more effective for reduced joint and muscle pain if you work it into your daily routine. Fresh ginger freezes well, so it’s easy to keep plenty in stock. Chopping, thinly slicing or grating the root makes it easy to add into salad dressings, marinades or stir fries. You can even add it into some mint tea for a calming drink. As well as fresh ginger, you can use both ginger extract and ground ginger, which can be taken in capsules if you’re not keen on the flavour.
What to remember
Ginger has been shown to offer up a number of powerful health perks. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties work throughout your body to benefit your health and wellbeing. It’s easy enough to work into your diet or routine as it’s so versatile – it can be used in everything from sweet treats to sushi! With all the health benefits ginger has to offer and all the different ways to consume it, making it a part of your daily life should be top of your to-do list.
1 Nikkhah Bodagh, M., Maleki, I., & Hekmatdoost, A. (2018). Ginger in gastrointestinal disorders: A systematic review of clinical trials. Food science & nutrition, 7(1), 96–108.
2 Jin, Z., Lee, G., Kim, S., Park, C. S., Park, Y. S., & Jin, Y. H. (2014). Ginger and its pungent constituents non-competitively inhibit serotonin currents on visceral afferent neurons. The Korean journal of physiology & pharmacology : official journal of the Korean Physiological Society and the Korean Society of Pharmacology, 18(2), 149–153.
3 Kuo, I. Y., & Ehrlich, B. E. (2015). Signaling in muscle contraction. Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology, 7(2), a006023.
4 Minami M, Endo T, Hirafuji M. [Role of serotonin in emesis]. Nihon Yakurigaku Zasshi. 1996 Nov;108(5) 233-242. PMID: 8974084.
5 Mashhadi, N. S., Ghiasvand, R., Askari, G., Hariri, M., Darvishi, L., & Mofid, M. R. (2013). Anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of ginger in health and physical activity: review of current evidence. International journal of preventive medicine, 4(Suppl 1), S36–S42.
6 Bartels, E.M. et al. (2015). Efficacy and safety of ginger in osteoarthritis patients: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, Volume 23, Issue 1, 13 - 21.