Ginger - what are the benefits?

I decided to start doing some posts about the health benefits of certain foods, drinks, herbs, spices, etc. Today, we have ginger on the docket. 

Ginger has been used in cooking since as early as the 13th century, and is a very diverse spice (Singletary, 2010). Asia, India, Europe and the Middle East have used it for healing purposes (i.e. to treat arthritis, asthma, diabetes, upset stomachs) for centuries (Singletary, 2010). I can recall many times growing up when my parents or grandparents would tell me that ginger was very good for me.

I don't know about everyone else, but for me it's been tough to find a ginger tea that I really liked. I've tried Stash's lemon ginger tea, which was not bad, but quite strong in taste, even if you take the teabag out immediately. I've tried Lipton, Tetley, you name it...they all tasted kind of "meh" to me. Last week, I attended a talk on gut health at the Restoration Health Clinic in North Vancouver, and was served the most delicious cup of ginger tea! I inquired, and found out it was made by one of my favourite companies, Traditional Medicinals. Their ginger tea has the perfect amount of spice and flavour.  I highly recommend it!  Click the picture below to learn more.

Ok, now back to the actual topic - what are the benefits of ginger? I did some research on Google Scholar, and found the following:

1. It's a phytochemically-dense food

What is a phytochemical? It's a plant chemical that has protective or disease preventive properties. In fact, one study found that the phytochemicals in ginger specifically targeted cholesterol and fatty acid oxidation in mice, which helped with obesity and high cholesterol (Beattie et al., 2011). Ginger is one of the many phytochemically-dense foods that can be incorporated into one's diet (Williams, 2006).

2. It can help alleviate nausea

In my first year of nursing school, I learned about many medications that would help with nausea (i.e. Gravol, Zofran, Maxeran). I also remember learning that ginger is a natural anti-emetic (aka anti-nausea/vomiting remedy). This made sense, as growing up I had often had ginger ale when I had the stomach flu or an upset stomach. Ginger can be effective in alleviating both pregnancy related nausea, and other causes of nausea, such as chemotherapy and motion sickness (Singletary, 2010).

3. It has anti-inflammatory properties

There is some research that shows that ginger can help decrease inflammation, especially in cases of osteoarthritis (Singletary, 2010). Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, which occurs when the protective cartilage at the end of your bones wears down.

4. It lowers blood glucose and cholesterol levels

Several animal related studies show that ginger can be helpful in lowering problematic blood sugar and lipid levels - human studies have also been done, some of which also demonstrate these positive effects in certain circumstances; however, more research is needed in order to determine effective dosage recommendations (Singletary, 2010).

5. Antimicrobial effects

Ginger has been shown to have antimicrobial effects (i.e. it either kills or inhibits growth of microbes, aka bacteria) against a variety of common bacteria, such as taphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli, and Helicobacter pylori (Singletary, 2010).

So, there you have it! Some of the most common benefits of ginger. I try to incorporate ginger into my daily diet, whether that is in my green juice (new recipe just posted today!), sprinkled into a stir-fry, or enjoying a hot cup of ginger tea before breakfast. 

Disclaimer: Always research as much as you can when trying out new foods or supplements, and check with your doctor if unsure about interactions with medications or therapies you are currently using.

References: 

Beattie, J., Nicol, F., Gordon, M.J., Reid, M.D., Cantlay, L., Horgan, G.W., Kwun, I.S., Ahn, J.Y., Ha, T.Y. (2011). Ginger phytochemicals mitigate the obesogenic effects of a high-fat diet in mice: a proteomic and biomarker network analysis. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 55(2).

Singletary, K. (2010). Ginger: an overview of health benefits. Nutrition Today, 45(4).

Williams, P.G. (2006). Health benefits of herbs and spices: the past, the present, the future - public health. Medical Journal of Australia, 185(4).