Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
6 min read
Ginger, also known by the scientific name Zingiber officinale (“shaped like a horn” in Latin), is a root known for its fragrant smell and unique flavor. Commonly found in Asian and African food, ginger has become a favorite seasoning around the world. But did you know that ginger also may hold a number of health benefits? Ginger’s use as a medicine has just as rich a history as its culinary uses. Both traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine use ginger for its warming properties and as an aid for stomach ailments.
Ginger can be consumed in a number of different ways. Most commonly, it’s added to tea or sparingly in food, where it can be raw, cooked, or used as a dried powder. Ginger powder may also be taken in capsule form. Ginger essential oils and topical variations (lotions, oils, and similar products) tout health benefits, but these versions have not been studied at length.
Ginger is rich in healing compounds, the three most important of which are gingerol, zingerone, and shogaol. All three of these constituents are found in all forms of ginger, but the levels vary. Gingerol is at its highest level in raw ginger; adding heat causes a reaction that changes gingerol into zingerone. Drying ginger (the first step in making ginger into powder) causes a dehydration reaction that converts gingerol to shogaol. All three of these compounds have different health benefits. While introducing a combination of raw, cooked, and powdered ginger to your diet is ideal, just adding one should be enough for you to see some of the benefits.
The most well-known benefit of ginger root is probably its ability to help settle an upset stomach. Ginger has been used for ages to ease nausea and vomiting, morning sickness associated with pregnancy, bloating, and gas. Additionally, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, ginger has been used to boost immunity, support cardiovascular health, and reduce pain from arthritis. There are many different ways ginger can be consumed, so it should be easy to find an enjoyable way to eat or drink more of it.
Ginger is best-known for the gastrointestinal relief it can provide. There’s a reason why your mother gave you ginger ale when you had an upset stomach. People have been using it for centuries to ease stomach aches, nausea, and vomiting. Ginger has been shown to be especially effective for easing nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy, with multiple studies showing similar results. While the effect on pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting has been the most highly researched, ginger has also been used by people who are not pregnant with similar success.
Ginger helps speed up the digestive process and protects the GI tract. This makes it a great digestion aid, since it can help combat common symptoms of indigestion, such as bloating and gas. By speeding up the digestive process, it can help your gastrointestinal system empty faster, helping relieve discomfort from gas or bloating. If gas and bloating are common problems, adding a small dose of ginger to your morning diet can help ease these symptoms.
Even if bloating and gas aren’t common issues, ginger can be used to aid with other digestive troubles as well. Because it helps to empty the stomach by pushing food through the gastrointestinal system more quickly, ginger may help soothe indigestion, heartburn, and other minor stomach discomfort after eating. Additionally, when paired with a healthy diet and regular exercise, ginger may help with managing weight, although this is still being studied.
People who struggle with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis may see positive results from adding ginger to their diet. Ginger has been known to reduce inflammation for centuries. Scientists believe that shogaol is the compound in ginger that fights inflammation best. Consuming ginger can help reduce pain from arthritis and has been found to increase the mobility of affected joints.
Have stiff, achy muscles? Ginger has been found to help manage low-level pain. This can be a useful alternative to over-the-counter pain relievers. At a low dose, ginger has been found to help provide muscle pain relief associated with exercising. Researchers found that, at high doses, ginger can even help manage the intensity of migraines.
Ginger has been found to have diaphoretic properties, which means that it helps stimulate circulation. Ginger may also dilute the blood, which can increase blood flow to different areas of the body. Additionally, ginger may help the body reduce cholesterol levels, especially in the liver. Ginger may also stimulate heart muscles, helping the heart remain strong and healthy.
Because gingerol, zingerone, and shogaol all have antimicrobial properties, ginger is a great way to support immune health. In addition, ginger’s warming properties can cause mild sweating – and that’s a good thing! Sweat contains a protein called dermcidin, which helps protect the body from some bacteria and other microorganisms. In many countries, ginger is used to help stimulate the immune response. Some studies suggest that ginger may also help fight some chronic illnesses. This particular property is still being studied and there may be more findings to be discovered about the link between ginger and the immune system.
Drinking a cup of ginger tea every morning can be very helpful to your health. Ginger tea has the same benefits as other forms of ginger. It can help with motion sickness, nausea, and vomiting; it can also support cardiovascular health and manage weight. Many people prefer to drink ginger tea when trying to calm an upset stomach. Ginger tea is best made by peeling a fresh ginger root and boiling it in water; this causes the oils in ginger, which contain health-boosting compounds, to seep out into the water.
As a supplement, ginger should be taken by adults in a dosage between 1000 mg and 2500 mg per day. It will take at least four days for results to show, so continue to take it even if nothing changes immediately. Studies have found that ginger does not tend to have strong side effects. Some people who are sensitive to ginger may experience minor heartburn and belching as side effects, but those instances are uncommon. Consult your primary care physician before adding any new supplement to your diet, even one derived from foods and natural substances. This is especially important if you take other prescribed medications.