Ginger, a flowering plant, is widely used for food and medicine around the world. The spice of this plant comes from its underground stem, also known as the rhizome, and carries a lot of health benefits. It’s native to parts of East and Southeast Asia and has been used in Chinese medicine for over 2,500 years according to NCCIH. Ginger is a close relative of other spices such as turmeric and cardamom.
You might know ginger through that one spice your mother adds to a soup when you’re sick, or as a flavour for cough drops. Ginger is known for having multiple health benefits due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea components. The spice can be used in various forms to boost health; fresh, powdered, dried, as a juice or as an oil.
Here are the top five health benefits of ginger that are backed by research.
1. Gingerol and Inflammation
The ginger rhizome is made up of volatile and nonvolatile oils, one of the most significant nonvolatile oils in the rhizome, in terms of health benefits, is gingerol. According to a 2022 study of gingerol, it is a water-soluble compound contributing to high gastrointestinal absorption, meaning that it is easy for your intestines to absorb its compounds.
The -gingerol compound, one of the plant’s many phenolic acids, may be more effective in a dried form rather than as fresh ginger, and could help reduce inflammation in the small intestine. Excessive inflammation can cause damage to vital organs such as the brain, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.
2. Chronic Indigestion
Gastrointestinal problems such as dyspepsia and nausea can be alleviated with the use of ginger. A 2018 study observed a clinical trial to test the rhizome’s effects on gastrointestinal motility where patients were either given 100mg of ginger extract or a placebo. The results of the trial showed that the extract accelerated the process of gastric emptying.
A common medicine taken to combat functional dyspepsia is Prodigest, which is a combination of ginger and artichoke extracts. While the ginger extract affects the stomach, the artichoke extract actively works on the small bowel.
To test the effects of Prodigest, a randomised 4-week trial was conducted on patients with functional dyspepsia. They were instructed to use the Prodigest daily, before lunch and dinner, and the results showed a significant improvement in functional dyspepsia symptoms such as nausea, epigastric pain and bloating.
3. Weight Loss
A study conducted on the effectiveness of ginger supplements found that there was a significant change in the weight loss, glycemic control and lipid profiles of the overweight subjects. 14 studies were conducted with 473 subjects and they were supplemented with ginger.
The study concludes with the results that ginger intake helped to reduce body weight, waist-to-hip ratio, hip ratio, and fasting glucose. This intake of ginger did not affect the subjects’ insulin, body mass index or LDL-cholesterol levels.
4. Alleviates Menstrual Pain
Menstrual pain, dysmenorrhea, can be a great disturbance to the daily life of a young woman, but can also become a larger health issue affecting reproductive and physical health, as well as one’s quality of life.
A clinical trial was conducted in Iran on young girls aged 18-26 with primary menstrual pain. The subjects were randomly assorted into two groups, one group received Novafen, a pain relief like ibuprofen, while the other group received ginger in the form of 200mg capsules.
This study concluded that the reduction in menstrual pain was slightly higher in the ginger group than in the Novafen group, although the difference was not significant. However, ginger is a safe drug with little-to-no side effects and the study suggested the use of herbal medicines for dysmenorrhea over non-steroidal drugs, like Novafen, which can have side effects.
5. Improved Brain Function
The major active compounds of the various bioactive compounds found in ginger are 6-shogaol and 6-gingerol. While known for their effectiveness in combating symptoms of inflammation and working as an antioxidant, according to this 2022 study, these compounds might also have a neuroprotective effect.
Life expectancy, especially in the West, has grown significantly while introducing the risk of age-related neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Research is constantly being conducted to find drugs that could fight these diseases, and currently, there are no effective treatments available.
However, recent research has begun to support the theory that the bioactive compounds of ginger might improve neurological and pathological conditions through its use as an anti-inflammatory agent.
These are a few benefits that come with consuming ginger, while taking ginger in capsule form is an option, the most common way to intake the spice is through food and drinks. You can try stir-fried beef with ginger, and ginger chicken, use it as a salad dressing or steep your tea with a small chunk.
While multiple uses and health benefits come with the consumption of ginger, there are also health risks. The recommended limit for a day is about 3-4 grams, taking more than 4 grams of ginger can lead to extreme gastrointestinal issues and other symptoms such as heartburn, irritation of the mouth and diarrhea.
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