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Health Benefits of Ginger -The Complete Guide

Girl smelling gingerGinger is an amazing spice that packs a punch, both for your health and also in terms of taste.

In fact, the health benefits of ginger are quite significant, even though the spice might not look like much at first glance.

First cultivated in Asia, this ancient spice has crossed countless cultures and has been used throughout history in a wide range of different food types.

Indeed, ginger has been so popular that it was once stored in shakers and used in a similar way to salt and pepper with meals.

In the modern day, just about every subtropical and tropical country produces ginger, offering an indication of the popularity of the spice.

In the United States, most of the ginger you see on the grocery store shelves is imported from China, although organic ginger is produced commercially in Hawaii.

However, the potential of ginger is much more than just food.

Ginger has been used as a medical herb for 2,000 years or more and used to treat a wide variety of conditions (1).

While many of the health implications of ginger don’t stand up to modern scientific scrutiny, some of them do and ginger is particularly significant for treating nausea, pain from osteoarthritis and for supporting people with diabetes.

Ginger Root

Ginger comes from a flowering plant called Zingiber officinale, which grows somewhere from two to four feet tall and has yellow flowers.

The entire plant is actually known as ginger, although the term ginger tends to specifically refer to the spice that has made its way into food and medicine.

This ginger comes from the root (or rhizome) of the plant.

Sliced GingerTypically, ginger is harvested when the stalk of the plant withers. At this stage, the rhizomes tend to be resilient, making them easier to harvest and wash without bruising them.

In some cases, ginger might be harvested earlier, especially when it is being used for pickling, but this is a more challenging process.

When it comes to using ginger, you have two main options. The first is to use fresh ginger while the second is to use powdered ginger.

The process of cooking or drying ginger has significant impacts on its chemical components, so the two options can be quite different than one another.

In particular, fresh ginger tends to have a stronger flavor and you normally use it grated in cooking.

At a pinch, you can substitute one for the other, but for most cooking recipes you are better off choosing whichever the recipe calls for.

Ginger has a long history and with good reason

Nutritional Profile

Many foods with health benefits also have strong colors and look like they have a lot of healthy compounds in them. You just have to compare ginger and turmeric to see how much of a visual impact color can make.

We have been spoiled by bright foods like pomegranate, turmeric, Swiss chard and blueberries, so much so that we overlook foods that seem pale in comparison.

This is very true of ginger.

The exterior of the ginger root isn’t particularly impressive while the interior is a relatively boring pale yellow.

Ginger is also easy to overlook for another reason – its nutritional information really doesn’t look that interesting.

Ginger rootIn fact, ginger isn’t really a good source of any key vitamins or minerals.

The main obvious advantage of ginger is the way that it is low in calories, although its  low glycemic index is also a plus.

Despite this, ginger is actually very special.

The health benefits of ginger actually come from other compounds in the spice, ones that are less obvious.

In particular, some key groups of compounds present in ginger include flavonoids, alkaloids and proteins (2).

There has also been growing interest in the antioxidant potential of some of the components of ginger (3).

In general, there are strong indications that ginger may have significant impacts on biological activities in humans, potentially offering significant benefits for health (4).

Ginger mightn’t look like much nutritionally, but looks can be deceiving

Health Benefits of Ginger

Impact on Nausea

More than anything else, ginger tends to be associated with decreasing nausea (5).

This impact has been attributed to the gastroprotective impacts of the spice (6).

Surprisingly, the results of research studies are quite mixed.

Supporting Evidence

One study on the topic looked at impacts of ginger on 13 participants with a previous history of motion sickness.

The authors found that ginger increased the time before nausea and also decreased the severity of nausea experienced (7).

Ginger supplementation and nausea

Another study looked at the role of ginger supplementation on patients receiving chemotherapy.

In all, 576 patients were in the final analysis and participants of the study received a placebo, 0.5 g of ginger, 1 g of ginger or 1.5 g of ginger depending on which group they were put into.

All ginger doses significantly reduced the severity of nausea compared to the placebo and the strongest result occurred with doses of 0.5 g and 1 g.

One review on the topic examined six different randomized controlled trials of nausea and ginger in humans. The studies reviewed varied in their approaches, the type of nausea considered and the sample size.

Of the studies reviewed, three indicated that the ginger group had significantly less nausea than the placebo. An additional two studies found a similar result, but did not report whether it was statistically significant or not.

The final study found no significant differences between the ginger group and the placebo group (8).

Other studies have also indicated that ginger can play a role in relieving nausea symptoms, such as one study on women and pregnancy-related nausea (9).

Refuting Evidence

Much of the evidence refuting the role of ginger in nausea comes from studies on nausea in relation to cancer treatment (10).

Man holding stomach, nausea conceptFor example, one randomized controlled study looked at nausea and vomiting as the result of chemotherapy

This study involved 162 patients who had experienced nausea from chemotherapy at least once previously. The patients received 1 g of ginger, 2 g of ginger or a placebo once per day for three days.

The authors then measured a range of outcomes, including the prevalence of nausea and its severity. The authors found that ginger had no significant impact on nausea (11).

However, in this particular study, the ginger supplementation was given in addition to anti-nausea medication, while many other studies used ginger supplementation on its own.

Balance of Evidence

Overall, there is more evidence supporting the role of ginger in treating nausea than there is refuting it.

It may be that ginger is more effective in some situations than in others, perhaps due to the underlying cause of the nausea.

Another possible reason for the differences in outcomes noticed is variation in experimental methods.

For example, many authors looked at whether the frequency of nausea changed following the use of ginger while others looked at whether the severity of nausea changed.

In cases where the authors only looked at the frequency of nausea, it would be possible to underestimate the impacts of ginger.

Additionally, some studies use ginger in addition to treatment for nausea, while other studies use ginger instead of nausea treatment. An interaction between the ginger and the anti-nausea agent could potentially change the outcome of the research.

This is particularly relevant to the observed pattern in studies, as the use of ginger along with anti-nausea studies seems to be more common in studies on nausea from chemotherapy.

Both scientific and anecdotal evidence supports the role of ginger in decreasing nausea

Benefits for Arthritis

Inflammation in the kneeArthritis can be a painful and frustrating problem, especially in cases where it restricts movement.

Ginger has been traditionally used as a remedy for joint stiffness and pain – and many people may view this as one of the key health benefits of ginger.

But what does the research say?

Supporting Evidence

One study looked at the use of ginger in treating osteoarthritis of the knee.

The study had 60 participants who were broken down into three groups. The groups received the following treatments:

  • Group I: 50 mg of diclofenac (an anti-inflammatory drug) and a placebo
  • Group II: 750 mg of ginger and a placebo
  • Group III: 750 mg of ginger and 50 mg of diclofenac

The authors then assessed outcomes every two weeks for a total of twelve weeks.

All three groups experienced improvements in outcomes as the study progressed, but group III showed more improvements than either of the other two groups. Group III was the group that received both treatments (12).

This suggests that ginger can reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis significantly, especially when it is used in conjunction with an anti-inflammatory medication.

A second study took a similar approach with 43 participants. Roughly half (n=21) of the participants in the study received a ginger supplement while the remaining participants (n=22) received a diclofenac supplement.

The authors found that both groups of participants experienced similar decreases in pain.

Ginger supplementsHowever, the group taking the diclofenac experienced degeneration in stomach mucosa. This is a common and significant side effect of therapy for osteoarthritis. Interestingly, participants in the ginger group did not have the same negative outcome (13).

One of the largest studies on the topic was a six-week study on 247 patients. The study used a purified extract of ginger and found that it played a significant role in reducing osteoarthritis pain (14).

An alternative approach to the topic is to look at the model and mechanism behind the action of ginger. One study did this looking at an in vitro setting.

The authors of the study found that ginger acted as an effective anti-inflammatory agent, suggesting a potential role for arthritis symptoms (15).

Another piece of the puzzle concerning the mechanism of ginger and arthritis is that ginger can inhibit the expression of some chemokines and by doing this can reduce inflammation (16). This approach is one that has significant potential for treating osteoarthritis (17).

Refuting Evidence

As with most research topics, not all evidence supports the potential of ginger for treating osteoarthritis.

One study compared supplementation with one gram of powdered ginger to supplementation with a placebo, over an eight-week period.

After the eight week period, the authors found no significant benefit of the ginger for symptoms or pain associated with osteoarthritis (18).
A second study on the topic looked at the use of ginger, placebo and ibuprofen for the treatment of pain associated with osteoarthritis.

Grated ginger and ginger rootGinger was shown to have a significant impact on pain in the first half of the study, but not in the second half, meaning that it didn’t have a significant effect overall.

Additionally, even when an effect was observed, it was weaker than ibuprofen (19).

However, it is worth noting that the second study used a dose of 170 mg of ginger.

This is an unusually low dose, and most studies on ginger have used around one gram of the spice or more.

As such, the chosen dosage may have been part of the reason that no effect was observed.

Balance of Evidence

Overall, the evidence that ginger can help to relieve osteoarthritis pain is strong and there is also significant evidence that it can help to relieve pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis and joint pain in general (20).

Of all the studies on the topic, the majority suggest that ginger is effective in this role and potentially as effective as diclofenac. Furthermore, ginger may have significantly fewer side effects than drugs used for osteoarthritis.

These outcomes are important, as arthritis is a condition that cannot be cured and must simply be managed.

Additionally, the medications used to treat arthritis often have significant side effects and are not always effective.

This can make finding a natural solution very appealing.

There is also some evidence that ginger may play a role in treating rheumatoid arthritis (21). However, this is an area that has not been researched as strongly.

There is significant evidence that ginger may help with osteoarthritis pain

Diabetes and Ginger

For people with diabetes or who are concerned about diabetes two particularly important markers are blood sugar and glycated hemoglobin (also known as HbA1c).

HbA1c is a way of looking at blood sugar levels over an extended period of time. It is frequently used as a measure of how well diabetes is being controlled.

Diabetes finger prickSome research has indicated that ginger may help to improve these outcomes as well as other key markers associated with diabetes.

One study examined outcomes in patients with type 2 diabetes that were not receiving insulin. Participants were broken into two group, with one group receiving ginger and the other receiving a placebo each day for three weeks.

After the three week period was over researchers found that ginger supplementation significantly improved multiple glycemic outcomes, including glucose levels and HbA1c outcomes (22).

A second study used a randomized design to look at ginger supplementation versus control over an eight week period.

At the end of the experiment the participants who took the ginger supplements had a 10.5% lower level of fasting blood sugar as well as improvements in indexes of insulin resistance (23).

Other studies have also found similar outcomes (24.25).

Similar results were also found in a three-day study, indicating that the impacts of ginger on glycemic outcomes can occur relatively quickly (26).

Long-term ginger supplementation can improve glycemic outcomes in some people with diabetes

Ginger and Asthma

Characterized by inflammation and airway hyperresponsiveness asthma is a serious condition that has been increasing in prevalence.

Ginger may potentially play a role in alleviating some of the symptoms of asthma by playing a role in regulating calcium and promoting muscle relaxation (27).

One study looked into this potential, looking at tracheas in humans and guinea pigs.

Fresh, dried and powdered gingerThe authors were specifically looking to see whether compounds from ginger could play a role in the relaxation of airway smooth muscle (ASM).

To do so, the authors looked at four key purified components of ginger. These were [6]-shogaol, [6]-gingerol, [8]-gingerol and [10]-gingerol.

All of these components except [10]-gingerol were associated with relaxation of the ASM. This change occurred because the components were able to block increases of intracellular calcium (28).

As the authors noted, there has been a growing interest in the use of natural supplements to treat asthma. Nevertheless, few studies have addressed the topic in detail.

Those studies that have done so have focused on animal models and have been unsuccessful at showing the mechanism behind the effect (e.g. 29, 30).

As such, there is a strong indication that ginger can help to relax muscles and relieve symptoms of asthma, making it a potential therapeutic agent.

However, the effectiveness of ginger on asthma symptoms in people has not yet been studied and much more research on the topic is needed.

Ginger may play a role in alleviating some of the symptoms of asthma, although more research is needed

Impacts on Muscle Pain

Ginger has also been linked to a decreased amount of muscle soreness after exercise, possibly by acting as an anti-inflammatory agent.

In one study, 60 female athletes supplemented with ginger, cinnamon or a placebo for six weeks.

Woman in joint or shoulder painThe group receiving the ginger had significantly lower levels of muscle soreness than the ones who received the placebo (31).

A study on muscle pain following eccentric exercise found that supplementation with ginger did not impact muscle pain soon after consumption, but did the following day (32).

A third study on the topic found that ginger had no significant impacts on muscle pain (33).

However, in that study, the impacts on muscle pain were only considered shortly after the exercise and less than two hours after the consumption of the ginger.

Based on the findings of the second study discussed, it is likely that a single dose of ginger does not have immediate impacts on muscle pain but instead the impacts occur at least 12 hours later. As such, the design of the last study did not have the potential to detect if ginger did decrease muscle pain (34).

Research has also suggested that 4 g of ginger may help to speed up muscle recovery (35).

Ginger may help to reduce muscle pain after exercise, but the impact takes time to develop

Implications for Cancer

Ginger has two main implications for cancer.

The first is that cancer treatments can frequently cause nausea. Ginger has long been associated with decreasing nausea and this is a topic that has also been researched extensively (36).

For some people, just the smell or taste of ginger is enough to relieve nausea.

The second implication is more controversial.

This is the idea that ginger can help to decrease the risk of cancer by preventing the development of tumors. This is an important one of the health benefits of ginger, but it is also something that needs to be researched in much more depth.

This is a much more challenging topic to study, especially in humans.

However, there have been some indications of ginger’s potential in this area.

Animal studies, researchFor example, one study found that [6]-gingerol was able to inhibit tumor growth in mice (37).

Another study indicated that ginger may play a role in the management of colon cancer (38).

A review on the topic argued that there are multiple mechanisms by which ginger could help to prevent cancer (39). For example, one compound from ginger (6-shogaol) has been linked to fighting reproduction in cancer cells (40,41).

Ginger has some potential to help with cancer, but this is a challenging area to research and evidence is limited

Neuroprotective Outcomes

Ginger has been linked to both antioxidant (42) and anti-inflammatory (43) functions and because of this, it may play a key role in neurological protection.

As with cancer this is a challenging area to research and because of this most studies have been conducted using animal models.

One such study used oxidative stress to induce diabetes in rats and then considered the outcome of ginger supplementation.

The authors found that ginger was able to play a protective role, reducing oxidative stress, inflammation and cell death (44).

In an in vitro study, authors also found that ginger extract can play a role in fighting against Alzheimer’s disease at the molecular level (42), which includes a role in preventing amyloid plaques from forming (45).

Likewise, an animal study found that ginger root extract was able to reverse behavioral dysfunction and the presence of Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in rats with induced Alzheimer’s disease (46).

Animal studies suggest that ginger might help protect against Alzheimer’s disease

Weight Loss

Obesity and weight loss conceptThe argument for ginger and weight loss is based on thermic effect and the potential to reduce hunger.

One study found that supplementation with gingerol was able to suppress the development of obesity in rats fed a high-fat diet (47).

A similar outcome was found when supplementing with ginger itself (48) and ginger was also able to reduce levels of fasting blood sugar in rats (49). One recent study has found that ginger could also decrease the level of fasting blood sugar in people on a form of dialysis (50)

While animal studies do suggest that ginger has some benefits for weight loss in animals, studies in humans are needed before any conclusions can be made.

A pilot study on the topic examined this in a sample of ten men, finding that a hot ginger drink reduced hunger and increased thermogenesis (51).

While this study did indicate the potential for ginger to play a role in weight loss it was not sufficient to show any true effect.

Ginger has some potential for weight loss, although the research in the field is still very new.

Research into Ginger

Research is a funny thing.

It provides strong evidence of so many things, including health benefits, yet at the same time, science can also be very limited.

One of the key things to remember is that research is an ongoing process. No matter what the topic is, there is always more that we can learn about it.

This happens even when scientists are absolutely sold on a particular idea.

Scientific researchIn some cases, modern research might support the findings of earlier research. But, in other cases the reverse happens, with modern research disproving what was believed to be true earlier.

For ginger, research is still in the early stages and many topics have barely been touched.

This isn’t unusual because research into natural alternatives for improving health tends to be slow and under-funded.

The early nature of the research means that some studies have been conducted using animal models or are conducted in vitro. While the results of these studies have strong implications for humans, there is no guarantee that they will carry over into humans.

Additionally, some other studies have been conducted in humans but have used relatively small sample sizes.

Small sample sizes are an issue in research because they limit the power of the research and make it more difficult to work out whether an observed effect is real.

Nevertheless, studies with small sample sizes are still relevant, because they offer indications that a potential effect is present. Often this can lead to large more detailed studies later on.

These challenges mean that there is no way to be certain about all of the potential health benefits of ginger, especially in the areas that are under-researched.

However, there is a big difference between no evidence of a positive impact and evidence that there is no positive impact. The first case means that there simply hasn’t been enough research and that is very true for ginger.

Compounds in Ginger

The potential for ginger to offer health benefits comes from the compounds within the spice.

Two significant compounds are shogaol and gingerol.

Ginger teaGingerol is the active component of fresh ginger and has been researched for its potential to offer health benefits.

Shogaol is another component of ginger and is produced when ginger is cooked or dried.

Both compounds tend to be pungent, although shogaol is roughly twice as pungent as gingerol, which is why fresh ginger tends to taste different than ginger that has been cooked or dried.

While some research has focused on the health benefits of ginger itself, other research has looked at the health impacts of the specific components of ginger, including gingerol and shogaol.

There are also various bioactive variants of these two compounds.

The four most significant ones are [6]-gingerol, [8]-gingerol, [10]-gingerol and [6]-shogaol (52). The different names refer to slightly different chemical structures, specifically their chain length (53).

Another key pair of compounds in ginger is zingiberene (in fresh ginger) and zingerone (in cooked ginger).

These compounds significantly contribute to the flavor of ginger, although they do not appear to have as much potential for health benefits compared to gingerol and shogaol.

Future Directions

Current research does indicate multiple areas where ginger may potentially offer significant health benefits and in some cases there is even strong evidence for health benefits.

However, a great deal more research is needed into ginger to see how its potential health benefits stand up in the real world.

For example, research in some areas (such as asthma) has focused almost exclusively on the individual compounds of ginger and on models rather than actual patients.

There has been significant research into ginger indicating many health benefits of ginger, but more research is certainly needed

Including Ginger in Your Diet

How Much Ginger?

Measuring spoon of gingerMost studies on the health benefits of ginger have focused on the powdered form of the spice.

This decision was probably made to make the research easier, because it is relatively easy to include powdered ginger in a capsule and there are already many supplements on the market that involve powdered ginger.

Ginger is a natural supplement and as such no optimal doses have been set for supplementation.

However, the outcomes of research do offer some clues about how much ginger offers health benefits.

The following graph details the doses considered in the studies discussed as part of this post.

The information is from human studies only and is for studies where the details were made clear and were accessible.

For each dosage (ranging from 0.17 grams to 3 grams), the length of the light green bar illustrates the number of studies that found ginger to be significantly better than what it was tested against (normally a placebo). In contrast, the dark green bar represents the studies where ginger was not significantly better than what it was tested against.

Studies into Ginger

These studies used a range of different methods, study lengths and topics. For example, most of the studies using one gram of ginger were looking at nausea. Many of these provided participants with a single dose of ginger.

In contrast, all three of the studies that supplemented with three grams of ginger did so for at least six weeks (the longest of those studies involved supplementation for 12 weeks). Additionally, two of the studies were on diabetes outcomes and one was on muscle soreness.

As such, there really hasn’t been enough research to work out optimal doses for any single condition.

However, from the studies that have been done, it seems that between one gram and two grams of ginger is good for nausea (regardless of cause) or potentially for osteoarthritis.

For diabetes outcomes or for muscle soreness, two to three grams of ginger may be more relevant.

Certainly, none of the studies I examined went beyond three grams, which suggest that this is a good upper limit of ginger per day.

If you are going with powdered ginger, then one teaspoon of ginger is around two grams (54).

So, depending on your needs, you might end up trying for half a teaspoon of ginger per day to a teaspoon and a half.

If you are using fresh ginger, working out dosage is a bit more complicated – and there is a bit of debate about exactly how much of one equals the other.

Young woman cookingIn general though, powdered ginger tends to be more concentrated than fresh ginger.

For cooking, one estimate is that 1/8 of a teaspoon of ground ginger is the same as one tablespoon of fresh grated ginger (55)

An alternative conversion that is commonly quoted is to take the amount of powdered ginger and double it to work out how much fresh ginger you should be using.

Converting like this may be useful for working out how much ginger you need to have in your diet, but it’s not such a good approach for cooking as you may dramatically change the flavor of your dish.

Doses of ginger vary, but most research has focused on between 1 and 3 grams of powdered ginger

Using Fresh Ginger

Typically you buy fresh ginger as the rhizomes and prepare it yourself.

The rhizomes look pretty ugly at first glance, but this is common with root-based spices.

Preparing ginger is actually very easy and the taste of fresh ginger can be fantastic in cooking and in a wide range of drinks.

One key step is to peel the ginger. There are a few different ways to do this and you’ll probably need to experiment to figure out which one of these suits you.

Perhaps the most common approach is to peel the ginger using a vegetable peeler. To do this, you want to hold the ginger and use strong downward strokes to take the skin off.

Peeling gingerVegetable peelers can be sharp, so you do need to be careful when peeling ginger this way. This is particularly true because of the bumps on the rhizomes – and it is very easy for your fingers to slip when you are peeling these parts.

An alternative approach is to use the edge of a spoon, facing the convex side towards you.

This approach isn’t as common, but it can actually be much more effective, because you have more flexibility and control in your movement. There is also much less risk of you cutting yourself.

There is a good video of how to do this over at Simply Recipes and the site is also a good source of recipes for ginger and many other ingredients.

You can also skin fresh ginger with a knife, but this approach isn’t a good idea unless you are very skilled with a knife.

Of the three approaches, using a spoon tends to be the best way of getting the ginger you need without wasting any.

Once the ginger has been skinned, the next step is to cut it into a usable form. The form you want will depend on what you want to do with the ginger.

The simplest approach is just to grate the ginger.

If you need to cut the ginger instead, the best place to start is by slicing the ginger into thin disks. This works well because you are slicing across the grain.

To get slivers of ginger you can then stack a few of the ginger disks up and cut them again, this time into the shape of matchsticks.

To mince the ginger, you can take these matchsticks, line them up and make crossways cuts.

Fresh ginger should be peeled before using, and can be grated or chopped as you need

Consuming Ginger

In Hot Drinks

Hot drink with gingerOne common use of ginger is in drinks, both hot and cold.

There are a number of ways to do this and you can use grated ginger root or you can use dry ginger powder, whichever works best for you.

If you are using fresh ginger, then you do want to boil the ginger in the water to infuse it with the flavor. You can then strain the ginger afterward if you want to, although some people choose to leave it in.

One example of this is simply to add around half a teaspoon of ginger powder to hot water.

You can actually drink that as is, although most people choose to add other ingredients, such as honey, cinnamon or lemon.

Adding additional ingredients can make the drink taste better and many of the options are also loaded with their own health benefits.

Another alternative that I have seen is to simmer around two tablespoons of fresh ginger root in hot water and then add around a tablespoon of honey and a decent amount of brown sugar.

This creates a hot drink that is sweet and gingery, and is an alternative to hot apple cider in the winter.

However, the second approach I mentioned does tend to involve more calories than the first one.

There is also a recipe for homemade ginger tea at The Spruce and that’s worth checking out.

Some people also incorporate brandy into hot ginger-based drinks, which can be particularly nice in the winter.

Personally, I love using ginger in hot drinks and I find that it pairs well with raw honey and a little bit of cinnamon.

I would suggest taking the time to play around with different combinations until you figure out what works the best for you.

In Meals

Man peeling gingerGinger also makes a fantastic component to many different meals.

It is most commonly associated with Asian dishes, but ginger is actually used in a wide range of different types of meals.

One approach is to use ginger as an ingredient in a stir-fry or a sauté, often along with garlic and some type of oil (like sesame oil). Broccoli turns out really well when cooked this way, and the ginger complements the flavor of the vegetable nicely.

Ginger also works very well as part of a glaze or a sauce.

Using it this way helps to bring out the flavor of food without overpowering it. If you’re looking for inspiration, the site Autostraddle offers a list of 43 ginger recipes that you can try out.

In Baking

Even if you aren’t big on ginger, you have probably used ginger in baking at least once.

Most of the time, baking relies on the powdered form of ginger and the taste of fresh ginger is rarely ever suitable for baking (although, as with anything, there are exceptions).

Some types of baking that you can do with ginger include gingerbread, ginger cookies, ginger almond biscotti, lemon ginger muffins and ginger cake.

Ginger can be used in hot drinks, meals and in baking, with many different options available

Other Sources of Ginger

Ginger Supplements

An alternative way to get ginger into the diet is to use ginger supplements.

Supplements can be an effective choice, especially for people who don’t like the taste of ginger.

However, supplements are not regulated and tend to vary considerably in the ingredients that they contain and the amount of ginger.

One important thing to note is that supplements do not have to prove anything before they are put on the market. This may mean that some supplements don’t actually match the amount of ginger that they claim to contain.

It may also mean that there are other compounds present that aren’t described.

Woman taking a pillThis makes buying ginger supplements challenging, as you can never be fully sure what the supplement is going to contain.

One way around this is to focus on high-quality brands. However, these tend to cost more and there is still no guarantee that they will be what you are looking for.

Because of this, using ginger directly rather than in supplement form tends to be a healthier approach and you have much more control over what you are putting into your body.

Foods with Ginger

A number of common products already contain ginger, including ginger chewing gum and ginger ale.

Products like this can potentially be sources of ginger in your diet. However, this is not always the case.

For example, most ginger ale and ginger beer products don’t list ginger as an individual ingredient.

Instead, it is included within the natural flavors label. Typically, natural flavors is one of the last things in an ingredient list, meaning that only a low quantity is present.

Additionally, ginger is just one of the many natural flavors that companies use, so the amounts are even lower than that.

It’s actually really difficult to figure out how much ginger is actually in ginger ale.

Most companies consider it to be proprietary information, so they don’t make the information known. For most brands of ginger beer or ginger ale, there isn’t even a guarantee that actual ginger is used, as ginger flavoring can be an alternative.

Even if the company does use actual ginger root or extract, the amount used probably isn’t very high.

Bottles of sodaAfter all, ginger has a very strong flavor, and it wouldn’t take much to get the taste of ginger ale.

Generally speaking, this means that ginger ale and ginger beer aren’t good sources of ginger.

However, some less well-known brands are more honest about their ginger, although most still don’t disclose how much ginger is used.

While ginger beer and ale aren’t good for getting nutritional amounts of ginger in your diet, it can still play a role in decreasing nausea for some people.

This is because the smell of the ginger root plays a key role in combating nausea.

Ginger gum is another option.

The first thing to do is to look for gum that actually contains ginger, rather than just ginger flavoring. This is relatively easy to do because a lot of ginger gum is marketed for nausea prevention and the amount of ginger it contains is an important component of this claim.

The amount of ginger per piece of gum varies considerably.

One example is Sea-Band ginger gum, which claims to contain ‘the equivalent of 12 g of fresh ginger root’. With 24 pieces of gum in the pack, this calculates out to around 0.5 g of ginger per piece.

That isn’t too bad as an amount, particularly as many research studies have focused on one to two grams.

However, you don’t really eat gum, so you aren’t getting most of the ginger that is in it.

As with ginger ale, the smell and the taste of the ginger might still be enough to help with nausea, but it doesn’t mean that you are going to get the rest of the health benefits.

There are also other products that you might see with ginger, such as juices and candy.

As with the other products I mentioned, the key approach is to look at how much ginger is actually in the product.

Some products will have nothing more than ginger flavoring while others will have actual ginger.

Products with a decent amount of ginger in them can be a good way of including ginger in your diet, but you still need to be aware of other impacts on your health. For example, many juices are as high in sugar as soft drink and are heavy in artificial colors and flavors.

Ginger can also be taken as a supplement, but its prevalence in drinks is pretty limited

Other Uses of Ginger

Powdered gingerThis article has strongly focused on using ginger in the diet and this is probably the most common and most logical use of the spice.

However, there are other ways to use ginger. While they may not offer the same health benefits, they can still be worth doing.

One approach is to mash up ginger root (around five inches) and put it in a muslin bag. With the top of the bag tied, it can be hung on the faucet while you are drawing a bath and then put in the water once the bath is ready.

Doing this means that as you are having a bath you are also breathing in ginger vapors. These can help with soothing inflammation and relieving a cough. Additionally, it can be a relaxing practice.

You can also make your own massage oil using ginger essential oil, which tends to contain concentrated ginger.

Doing this simply involve mixing some ginger essential oil in with a carrier oil. This can basically be any oil, but ideally one without much smell of its own, like castor oil.

Some people claim that this approach can help to reduce cold symptoms although this area hasn’t been researched much. Regardless of this claim, it is still a nice massage oil if you like the smell of ginger.

Selection and Storage

Selection

If you are buying fresh ginger from the store a key thing to look for is a rhizome that feels firm and heavy. Steer clear of any ginger that has indications of mold and any ginger that looks wrinkled.

If you are getting powdered ginger, it’s worth checking out the label to make sure nothing is added. While many companies do sell ground ginger with nothing else added, others don’t.

For example, McCormick Ground Ginger adds in sulfur dioxide to their ginger.

Selecting GingerWith powdered ginger, you may also want to consider organic brands.

As with most brands, buying organic means there is less chance of chemicals being involved in your products. This tends to mean better health benefits overall.

There are a number of different brands that offer organic ground ginger, particularly if you are looking at specialty stores or online.

In general, specialty stores are a better place to look for herbs and spices than grocery stores, and this is true for raw ginger and powdered ginger. Often you will find that specialty stores have products that are higher quality and fresher.

Fresh ginger should be firm, heavy and with no signs of mold. Powdered should have no additives if possible.

Storage

You can store fresh ginger in the fridge for around three weeks as long as it is unpeeled.
The best way to do this is to first wrap the ginger in a paper towel or a dry cloth and then put it in either a plastic bag or a container.

Some people choose alternative approaches for storing ginger, such as placing it in the fridge in a jar full of sherry (which incidentally also gives you ginger-flavored sherry).

You can also store it in the freezer (also unpeeled) for as much as six months, although this can modify the texture a bit.

If you are going to freeze your ginger, an alternative option is to peel and grate it first, as frozen ginger is very hard to work with.

Powdered ginger is easier to store and can be stored like most other spices in a cool dark place, preferably in an airtight container.

Ginger can be stored in the cupboard, fridge or freezer depending on your needs

Safety Considerations

Woman with question marksAdverse effects from ginger have not been reported in humans, and ginger has been a component of human diets throughout history. This is an important area to consider when you are looking into the health benefits of ginger.

Likewise, there have been no drug interactions have been reported in humans.

There are also some claims that ginger may interfere with blood clotting although there is little evidence for this perspective.

In fact, there are even some studies that directly refute the idea that ginger interferes with medications like warfarin (56).

Nevertheless, if you are taking blood-thinning medications, it is best to talk to your doctor before taking high doses of ginger.

The only major area of safety concern for humans is during pregnancy, where more than 250 mg of ginger four times daily may potentially cause abortion (57). While evidence of this safety concern has been limited, avoiding very high levels of ginger during pregnancy is a good idea.

This is true for the majority of supplements.

In all of these cases, the only potential risks of ginger come from extremely high levels of supplementation.

Even then the risks are minimal.

Ginger poses few health risks

FAQs

Does Ginger Always Need to be Peeled?

Peeling ginger removes the skin and you should do this most of the time when you are using ginger.

One exception is with young ginger.

Peeled gingerGinger is available in the grocery store all year around, but it does actually have a season. If you are looking for younger ginger, the best time to buy it is in the spring and stores specializing in Asian ingredients tend to be the best place to go.

In general, older ginger tends to have a stronger taste and tougher skin.

If you are using young ginger, the skin tends to cling close to the root and isn’t as thick. This means that you can leave the skin on instead of peeling it off.

Does Ginger Keep You Awake?

There is a bit of debate about what ginger does to your sleeping patterns.

Some people consider ginger to be a mild stimulant and find that having it too late at night keeps them awake.

However, for most people ginger has the opposite effect.

In fact, hot ginger drinks are frequently used as a way of calming down in the evening and can help people to go to sleep.

This type of drink tends to be caffeine-free, which tends to make it more effective at helping people to sleep.

Moving Forward

Ginger is easily overlooked, yet it has strong potential for health, especially for people with diabetes, osteoarthritis or problems with nausea.

It is also a fantastic spice to include in food, creating a unique flavor that complements a wide range of dishes.

Even if you aren’t certain about the taste, ginger is well worth trying out and you will probably find that the taste grows on you in time.

Ginger is a spice with a lot of potential and we’re really just starting to understand it.

Much more research is needed into the roles that ginger can play in health, especially in relation to impacts that ginger can have on actual people.

However, there is still enough evidence to suggest that ginger is worth trying.

After all, ginger is a very safe and well-tolerated spice – and many people love the taste.

Want to Improve Your Health?

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4 thoughts on “Health Benefits of Ginger -The Complete Guide”

  1. Wow great post with very complete info! It must have taken you ages to put that together. I don’t have to go anywhere else to know more about ginger, everything is right here in a single post as much as benefits goes. Thanks a bunch for creating and sharing such a post. I am an avid user of ginger and like the taste it provides in food but now I also know the benefits that goes along with it

    Reply
    • I’m glad you liked the piece – and yes, it did take a long time.

      That’s part of the challenge with foods like ginger, because there are so many different benefits to cover.

      Reply
  2. Wow what a great page I didn’t know ginger had so many health benefits. I am diabetic so found your piece on diabetes very interesting reading I actually love the taste of ginger myself.

    Your page is very interesting and easy to read with great pictures. I have certainly learnt a lot about ginger from reading it. Thankyou

    Reply
    • Thanks for your feedback.

      It’s incredibly easy to overlook the benefits of spices, even though we rely on them heavily. But, they are relevant for health, especially if you can use them regularly.

      Reply

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