Ginger Health benefits

13 Health Benefits of Ginger – Natural Food Series

Ginger is a root vegetable that is featured in a variety of cultural cuisines as a spice and health food. It is in the same family as turmeric, which we have also reviewed. Traditionally, ginger has been used for the treatment of low-level nausea and dizziness. It has also gained a reputation as a testosterone booster within fitness circles, when applied in relatively-large quantities. This article will discuss the scientific evidence for the uses ascribed to ginger, as well as those which research have demonstrated beyond the original uses.

1. Nausea

As a traditional cure for nausea, ginger has been utilized in a variety of products, from herbal remedies to formal medicines, for off-setting symptoms of illness. Whether in the form of a lemon and ginger tea or a powdered supplement, the evidence strongly suggests that ginger can reliably effect nausea – especially those associated with pregnancy, sea-sickness or regular travel sickness [1]. This is varied based on the quantity, but testing suggests anywhere between 1 and 3g can be consumed without negative effects, affecting symptoms and can be incorporated into either food or liquid beverages.

2. Anti-inflammatory

Ginger, like its cousin turmeric, has a profound effect on the inflammatory processes of the body – especially those associated with osteoarthritis. Ginger appears to suppress inflammatory processes during/after consumption, but can also be applied as a topical liquid treatment for pain, especially associated with joint soreness [2]. The effects are not comparable to heavy painkillers, but bear a statistical significance similar to that of the NSAID ibuprofen – without the stomach irritation!

3. Osteoarthritis Relief

Fresh ginger

The specific implications for osteoarthritis are clear to see, when it is remembered that the effects of ginger-based salves are specifically effective for joint-based conditions. Whilst it has been shown to be similar to ibuprofen on general pain, it is slightly less effective than ibuprofen in the treatment of the symptoms of osteoarthritis themselves [3]. Even so, we must consider the fact that it was superior to placebo and does not have the harmful side-effects associated with Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen.

4. Gut Health and Wellness

Ginger, like many other root spices (and the closely-related turmeric), has profound positive effects on the way that the body digests foods and can positively effect long-term gut health, including reducing the risk of serious concerns such as cancer. The consumption of ginger is associated with two major factors in the digestion of foods: inflammation protection of the gut and the increase speed of “gastric motility”. Simply put, ginger causes us to digest food more quickly whilst also protecting the gut from the negative effects of high usage [4].


5. Cancer Prevention

The effects of it are not just short-term, however, with some early evidence suggesting that it can protect us from colonic/colorectal cancers [5]. This form of cancer is associated with a variety of dietary factors (such as low dietary fiber intake, low consumption of leafy greens or the excessive intake of primarily-processed red meats), meaning that those who are more at-risk due to their diets will benefit more from the positive effects of ginger consumption.

6. Period Pains and Cramps

Period Pain

One of the most practically-helpful health benefits of ginger is the effect it may have on dysmenorrhea, or ‘period pain’. As mentioned before, pains such as this are often treated with NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen – compounds which have severe gastro-intestinal health effects. The negative effects of such compounds can accumulate over time and, with the regular and cyclical onset of menstrual pain, this can cause near-chronic damage to such tissues [6].

7. Alternative to NSAIDs

When we replace these substances with natural remedies such as ginger, whose anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties have already been noted, we see a comparable effect on pain without any side effects or digestive problems [7]. In fact, as mentioned above, this food can actually improve gut health – something that we may need if we are accustomed to solving problems with ibuprofen. The interesting thing is that this study used very slight quantities of ginger compared to other clinical trials: dysmenorrhea pain was treated with only 1g of ginger whereas nausea-related illnesses are typically treated with 1-3g. It seems plausible that further research, focusing on the administration of greater, supplemental qualities may yield further insights into dose-dependent effects. Simply put, it may be possible that more ginger results in more pain relief.

8. Blood Health: Cholesterol Management

Early studies suggest that it can decrease total blood cholesterol [8], improving blood health and reducing the chances of developing severe heart complications associated with hypertension, heart attack, stroke, aneurism and general arterial plaque problems. The regular consumption of ginger, when considering the dietary effects, anti-inflammatory processes and the regulation of blood cholesterol, may make a serious difference to the health and longevity of our hearts.

9. Blood Health: Other Lipids

Aside from simply affecting cholesterol levels, the study [8] touches on the fact that it’s consumption can also reduce levels of almost all other lipids in the bloodstream. HDL, LDL and triglyceride levels were shown to decrease in-line with the reductions in cholesterol when ginger was consumed. Again, this will reduce blood pressure and have positive effects on the heart’s health – whilst there is disagreement about the degree of effect associated with triglyceride in the bloodstream, it has been acknowledged that their presence increases the chance of heart attacks. Anything that reduces these, such as dietary ginger intake, is a positive change.

10. Memory

Aside from simply improving the risks associated with Alzheimer’s disease, it can actively improve the memory of healthy individuals. Whist the results appear to be minor, cognitive abilities and memory are improved by ginger consumption among middle-aged women [9]. These were reported on doses lower than 1g, so we may assume that there are some positive effects to a greater dietary intake.

11. Muscle Soreness

The anti-inflammatory processes that have been ascribed to ginger may also be able to improve athletes and fitness enthusiasts’ recovery from training. Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) are a common response to exercise and can be incredibly unpleasant: they include soreness of muscles, tightness, creaky joints and general difficulty in movement. The consumption of ginger has only been demonstrated in limited studies and circumstances [10], but there are hypothetical reasons to suppose that this would occur. Improvements in blood health, anti-inflammatory effects and the micronutrients included in ginger will all have positive impacts on the muscles and could improve recovery.

12. Antibacterial Effects

Gingerol, an active ingredient in ginger and clearly named for the spice, has profound anti-bacterial effects [11]. The consumption of dietary ginger can lower the odds of contracting bacterial infections and has been linked to digestive, dental [12] and soft-tissue resistance to disease. There are a variety of different mechanisms for this, but for the consumer, the important part is simply that an increased role for ginger in the diet will correlate with less illness and infection.

13. Micronutrient Profile

Finally, but definitely one of the most important aspects, is the micronutrient and phytonutrient content of Ginger. Whilst the specific effects of many of these compounds have been discussed above, the general intake of nutrients is one of the most important parts of structuring a diet and it is important to know the practical uses. Ginger’s main active nutrients are Chromium, Magnesium, Zinc and Potassium. Between them, these nutrients play important roles in blood circulation, proper growth, tissue repair, reproductive health, bone density and metabolic health. For example, ginger has a comparable per-100g rate of potassium to bananas – a food that has had a reputation for potassium content for decades. Whilst we might not consume large quantities of ginger, the presence of a variety of effective micronutrients only makes it a more attractive and effective “superfood”.

Disputed: Does Ginger increase Testosterone?

Ginger has some low-viability myths surrounding the effects it may or may not have on reproductive functions, testosterone and various sport-related concerns. The problem with these is specifically their low-viability and the sketchy methods used to promote them. These all stem from a single study [13], which used undisclosed quantities of ginger to affect reproductive and hormonal health in men who are already infertile. The problems associated with this study are clear. Firstly, it deals with a population that cannot be representative of the wider, general population. Those who are infertile are already suffering some form of reproductive/hormonal deficiency or disorder and it may well be the case that the effects of ginger are only relevant to those who are already below necessary thresholds. If you’re deficient, ginger may help.

Secondly, the study that suggests the effectiveness of ginger in the improvement of serum testosterone levels did not include a quantity in their research methods. This just means that the already-flawed study provides no reliable way of increasing testosterone or reproductive health, because we cannot simply guess the dosage of a nutrient. Additionally, there was no double-blind control, meaning that the study could easily have mis-reported findings. Overall, it seems that ginger has a variety of effects on human health, but testosterone levels does not appear to be on this list, based on the existing evidence.

Bottom Line

Ginger, as a medicinal supplement or foodstuff, is strongly-recommended. Aside from the effects it has on the taste of food, it also provides us with a wealth of anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. Reducing pain and improving universal wellbeing is a great reason to eat anything, but for those suffering with chronic joint problems or aches and pains, it can have even more pronounced effects. The versatility of ginger makes it an easy food to consume and it is a wonder that such root-spices are not more widely used in foods and dietary supplements.

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[1] Ernst and Pittler (2000): ‘Efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials’. British journal of anaesthesia, 84(3), pp.367-371[2] Zalmatkash and Vafaeenasab (2011): ‘Comparing analgesic effects of a topical herbal mixed medicine with salicylate in patients with knee osteoarthritis’. Pakistani journal of biological sciences, 14(13), pp.715-719[3] Bliddal et al (2000): ‘A randomized placebo-controlled, cross-over study of ginger extracts and ibuprofen in osteoarthritis’. Osteoarthritis and cartilage, 8(1), pp.9-12[4] Hu et al (2011): ‘Effect of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia’. World journal of gastroenterology, 17(1), pp.105-110[5] Zick et al (2011): ‘Phase II study of the effects of ginger root extract on eicosanoids in colon mucosa in people at normal risk for colorectal cancer’. Cancer prevention research, 4(11), pp.1929-1937[6] Graham et al (1988): ‘Prevention of NSAID-induced gastric ulcer with misoprostol: multicentre, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial’. The Lancet, 332(8623), pp.1277-1280[7] Ozgoli et al (2009): ‘Comparison of effects on ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen in women with primary dysmenorrhea’. Journal of alternative and complementary medicines, 15(2), pp.129-132[8] Alizadeh-Navaei et al (2008): ‘Investigation of the effect of ginger on the lipid levels. A double blind controlled clinical trial’. Saudi medical journal, 29(9), pp.1280-1284[9] Saenghong et al (2012): ‘Zingiber officinale improves cognitive function of healthy, middle-aged women’. Evidence based complementary and alternative medicine.[10]  Black and O’connor (2008): ‘Acute effects of dietary ginger on quadriceps muscle pain during moderate-intesity cycling exercise’. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 18(6), pp.653-664[11] Karuppiah and Rajaram (2012): ‘Antibacterial effect of allium sativum cloves and zingiber officinale rhizomes against multiple-drug resistant clinical pathogens’. Asian pacific journal of tropical biomedicine, 2(8), pp.597-601[12] Park et al (2008): ‘antibacterial of [10]-gingerol and [12]-gingerol isolated from ginger rhizome against periodontal bacteria’. Phytotherapy research, 22(11), pp.1446-1449[13] Mares and Najam (2012): ‘The effect of ginger on semen parameters and serum FSH, LH and testosterone of infertile men’. Tikrit medical journal, 18(2), pp.322-329