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8 Potent Ginger Root Benefits for Health

Ginger is a powerful spice to have on hand in your cupboard. It has been used since ancient times for food and health and is a cousin to one of the most well-known superfoods— turmeric.

A potent digestive tonic, ginger is full of plant compounds that can calm inflammation, support brain function, and potentially fight cancer. It’s an extremely versatile spice and can be added to your diet as a powder, fresh root, tea, juice, or extract.

Here’s more about this outstanding plant and the top ginger root benefits for health.

The Background on Ginger Root

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) comes from a flowering plant native to tropical and subtropical regions of Southeast Asia. It’s related not only to turmeric, but also to other edibles like cardamom and galangal, which all belong to the same plant family.

The knobby roots of the plant (technically known as rhizomes) are the part that is harvested and sold as ginger. They have a fairly good shelf life and can be shipped and sold fresh all around the world or dried and ground into a powder.

If you’ve ever tried even a little bit of ginger root, you know it packs in some serious heat. This spiciness, along with the zesty flavor of ginger, features in many dishes and desserts: curry, kimchi, soups, gingerbread, ginger ale, and more.

Like many other spices, ginger was once highly sought after and expensive, making it available only to the elite. In fact, a pound of ginger was once equivalent in value to the cost of an entire sheep!

Of course, the importance of ginger went far beyond its use as a culinary spice. It was utilized in several traditional medicinal systems— including Chinese, Indian, and Iranian medicine— and particularly regarded for its warming and digestive-boosting properties.

Not surprisingly, modern studies are now confirming many of the traditional benefits of ginger as well as discovering new potential.

Top Ginger Root Benefits for Health

Contains Gingerol & Other Bioactive Compounds

Ginger is packed full of active compounds, the most abundant of which is gingerol.

Gingerol is concentrated in the natural essential oils found in ginger root and is responsible for giving the spice much of its heat and flavor. It acts as a powerful antioxidant and is thought to be responsible for many of ginger’s health-boosting properties.

Along with gingerol, ginger root contains smaller amounts of phenolic compounds like quercetin, zingerone, and gingerenone-A as well as terpenes like zingiberene.

All of these compounds contribute even more to the antioxidant capacity of ginger and help to protect your body from oxidative stress when consumed. As you may know, oxidative stress is a big contributor to many age-related diseases, so reducing it is critical if you want to age well.

Overall, ginger is one of the top antioxidant spices you can consume and has even been shown to help protect glutathione, a highly important antioxidant produced by your body.

Has Anti-Inflammatory & Antimicrobial Properties

Like many other antioxidant-rich spices, ginger root has massive benefits for your health by combating inflammation.

Inflammation is not always bad, but when it becomes chronic, it can do some serious damage to your body. This type of inflammation is closely connected to oxidative stress, and both are believed to fuel numerous chronic diseases.

Antioxidants, of course, are key to fighting oxidative stress and chronic inflammation— and ginger is packed full of them.

Several studies have confirmed the anti-inflammatory nature of ginger, even finding that it can reduce the amount of certain circulating inflammatory mediators. Specific compounds in ginger root may also inhibit the synthesis of other inflammatory markers.

Along with this inflammation-fighting power, ginger has shown powerful effects against multiple pathogens.

It has specifically shown effectiveness against oral bacteria linked to periodontitis and gingivitis, the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and various strains of fungi— including some that are resistant to antifungal drugs!

Outstanding for Digestion

It’s fair to say that ginger is one of the top herbs/spices for supporting healthy digestion.

One of its most well-researched benefits is an ability to fight several types of nausea. Studies have shown that the root is most effective for pregnancy-related nausea (i.e., morning sickness) but can also relieve chemotherapy-related nausea and post-surgery nausea.

You might also want to consider reaching for ginger when indigestion hits.

A traditional folk remedy for gas and a sluggish digestion, research has now found that ginger can specifically help indigestion by speeding up stomach emptying. This in turn may help with post-meal symptoms like feeling overly full, abdominal pain, and bloating.

Interestingly, the best way to use ginger in this situation is to take/eat it before a meal (30-60 minutes is best). In one study, this approach sped up stomach emptying by almost twice as much versus a placebo.

Helps Ease Certain Types of Pain

Another “ancient” ginger root benefit for health is pain relief. Given the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of ginger, this really comes as no surprise and now has confirmation from modern research.

Several studies have focused specifically on ginger and osteoarthritis because the root appears to be particularly effective for this health problem. Overall, ginger supplementation was seen to significantly reduce pain as well as disability associated with osteoarthritis.

Another approach found that using ginger topically in combination with cinnamon, mastic, and sesame oil was also highly effective at reducing pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis. In fact, this herbal “ointment” had comparable effects to a conventional salicylate ointment.

Ginger has also been studied for its ability to ease menstrual pain and cramping.

Astonishingly, at least one study has shown that ginger powder taken in capsules can be just as effective as drugs like mefenamic acid and ibuprofen at relieving menstrual pain!

Other research indicates that ginger can be effective against exercise-induced muscle pain, too. Most likely, it can help with even more pain-related issues that haven’t specifically been studied yet.

Supports a Healthy Heart

There are many factors that contribute to a healthy or not-so-healthy heart, but cholesterol and blood pressure are two of the biggest for many people.

Research has shown that ginger can have a significant positive impact on both of these factors when consumed regularly.

For example, one study found that 3 g of ginger taken daily was able to reduce total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. There was also an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

As far as blood pressure is concerned, ginger has shown an ability to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, possibly by acting as a natural calcium blocker and ACE inhibitor. Daily consumption of ginger is also associated with an overall lower risk of developing hypertension.

Perhaps even more impressively, one small study found that ginger was able to lower two more major risk factors of heart disease known as the ApoB/ApoA-I ratio and malondialdehyde (MDA).

Larger clinical trials are still needed to confirm these results, but ginger is certainly making a case for itself as a top heart-booster.

May Lower Blood Sugar Levels

One of the more recently discovered ginger root benefits for health is an ability to lower blood sugar. Studies are still limited in this area, but the ones that have been conducted so far have had outstanding results.

As a prime example, one small study involving participants with type 2 diabetes found that 2 g of ginger powder a day reduced fasting blood sugar by about 12%. The ginger supplementation also improved hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) quite dramatically, reducing it by about 10% over a 12-week period.

This suggest that ginger may have a direct impact on blood sugar and potentially help with blood sugar regulation long-term.

Other studies have shown that taking ginger root may benefit insulin sensitivity as well, which is another important factor involved in diabetes and other metabolic diseases.

Hopefully, more research will be undertaken on this specific aspect of ginger to determine just how effective it can be for blood sugar improvements.

Contains Cancer-Fighting Compounds

ginger root benefits for health

Like so many other herbs and spices, ginger is full of compounds with cancer-fighting potential. Of particular note is the spicy compound highlighted at the beginning of this article: gingerol.

In a form known as 6-gingerol, this powerful component of ginger has documented effects against various cancer cell types. It has also been highlighted as having antiproliferative, antitumor, and anti-inflammatory activity.

Overall, there is some evidence that ginger extract may be specifically active against colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer. It has also shown promise for combating prostate cancer, even blocking cancer cell and tumor growth according to some research.

Keep in mind that in spite of these hopeful results, research has mostly been limited to test-tube and animal studies along with a few small human trials.

More studies are needed to determine just how much of a cancer fighter ginger can be, but its top-notch antioxidant content will still help protect your health as a whole in the meantime.

May Boost & Protect Brain Function

Declining cognitive function has become a hallmark of getting older but it’s not inevitable. There are some key ways you can start protecting your brain power right now, including by consuming antioxidant-rich foods.

Essentially, because both oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are thought to be connected to age-related cognitive decline, filling up on antioxidant-rich foods— like ginger— helps reduce these two stressors, keeping your mind sharper as you age.

Several animal studies have already confirmed that ginger extract does have the potential to help protect against age-related cognitive decline. It has even demonstrated anti-Alzheimer’s properties, although it remains to be seen whether these will translate to the human brain.

Promisingly, one study that involved middle-aged women found that ginger extract did improve overall cognitive function, particularly reaction time and working memory.

The bottom line is that while more research is still needed, ginger root is already a great “brain booster” to keep in your cupboard.

Ways to Consume Ginger Root

ginger root benefits for health

Not only are there numerous ginger root benefits for health (as you’ve just seen), this is also one easy spice to add to your diet because of its versatility.

For many people, the easiest way to consume ginger is as a powder.

If you like the flavor, you can sprinkle the powder liberally on both sweet and savory dishes or add to your favorite smoothie. Or if you prefer, ginger powder can be taken in capsules for a more concentrated “dose”. (There’s no single recommended amount of ginger to start with. Most studies range from 1-3 grams per day.)

Another option is to buy whole ginger root and consume it raw.

You can grate the root into soups, stir fries, smoothies, oatmeal, and much more— the options are nearly endless. Or to kickstart your digestion before a meal, try a little freshly grated ginger root with a splash of lime juice and a sprinkle of salt.

By simmering slices of fresh ginger in water, you can make a spicy tea that is soothing for an upset stomach. With a bit of lemon juice and some raw honey, ginger tea also makes an excellent natural cold and flu remedy.

Finally, if you really want to take it up a notch, try out this simple lemon-ginger-garlic “shot” to benefit from a trio of superfoods.

Are There Precautions with Ginger?

Unless you are sensitive to spicy foods, ginger is generally well-tolerated. However, for some, ginger can cause heartburn and indigestion, especially if consumed in large amounts.

Some research suggests that high doses of ginger may increase bleeding risk. The results are not conclusive, but it’s still best to be cautious taking large amounts of ginger if you are taking blood thinners or have a surgery approaching.

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Whatever you do choose, though — for the sake of your brain, heart, liver, energy and overall longevity — please do take proper care to ensure you are getting enough antioxidants. This means both in terms of volume and a wide range of antioxidants, such as those found in one of the planet’s top antioxidant food sources, ginger!

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