7 Health Benefits of Ginger
We’ve all experienced unrelenting nausea at some point or another. At these times, you’re first instinct may be to turn to over the counter medications; however, ginger works as a simple, effective antidote.
For thousands of years, Arabic, Indian, and Asian healers prized ginger as food and medicine. This tropical plant, in the same botanical family as turmeric and cardamom, was effectively used to relieve nausea and vomiting caused by illness and seasickness.
Thanks to the spice trade, the tradition caught on in Europe. As one sixteenth-century physician put it: “Ginger does good for a bad stomach.” In The Family Herbal from 1814, English physician Robert Thornton noted that “two or three cupfuls for breakfast” will relieve “dyspepsia due to hard drinking.”
Modern research later confirmed that ginger reduces nausea and vomiting from multiple causes: morning sickness, postoperative upset, chemotherapy treatments, and motion sickness.
The studies on whether or not ginger prevents motion sickness are mixed. One study found ginger to be as effective, with fewer side effects, as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine). Other studies indicate that, when added to antinausea medications, it further reduces nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy.
While the best-researched use of ginger is in combating nausea and vomiting, studies have shown that ginger is a multi-faceted remedy with at least six more healing effects:
You can take ginger in whatever form appeals to you.
If you’re pregnant: Try it in tea, soup, or capsules — up to 250 milligrams four times a day. If you chose a carbonated beverage, make sure it’s made from real ginger. You can also nibble crystallized ginger.
To counter motion sickness: Taking 1 gram of dried, powdered, encapsulated ginger 30 minutes to two hours before travel can help ease travel related nausea.
For postoperative nausea: In a recent study on the use of ginger to thwart postoperative nausea, the dose was 500 milligrams 30 minutes before surgery and 500 milligrams 2 hours after surgery. Otherwise, ginger is usually not recommended during the seven to ten days leading up to surgery because of its effect on blood clotting. Discuss the use of ginger with your surgeon or anesthesiologist before trying it.
Here’s a soothing recipe from our book 500 Time-Tested Home Remedies and the Science Behind Them, in which ginger and mint — a general stomach-settler — work together to fight nausea.
Zingy Minty Nausea Fighter (2 servings)
Health Benefits of Ginger for Arthritis
Do you keep ginger in your spice cabinet? Maybe it should be in your medicine cabinet. Besides being a tasty spice often used to enhance holiday treats, ginger can soothe upset stomachs and diminish nausea, and studies show it may help pain and inflammation, too.
In fact, a University of Miami study concluded that ginger extract could one day be a substitute to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The study compared the effects of a highly concentrated ginger extract to placebo in 247 patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. The ginger reduced pain and stiffness in knee joints by 40 percent over the placebo.
“Research shows that ginger affects certain inflammatory processes at a cellular level,” says the study’s lead author, Roy Altman, MD, now at the University of California, Los Angeles.
What makes ginger so helpful? “Ginger has anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer and antioxidant activities, as well as a small amount of analgesic property,” says Roberta Lee, MD, vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.
Choosing the most effective form of ginger may be the biggest challenge to reaping its rewards. Ginger comes in capsules, tinctures, teas, powders, oils and foods made from the dried or fresh root of the ginger plant. While many forms of ginger boast health benefits, Dr. Lee says capsules provide better benefits than other forms. She advises people to look for brands that use “super-critical extraction,” because it results in the purest ginger and will provide the greatest effect. She also suggests taking ginger capsules with food. Why? Although small amounts of ginger can help settle a sour stomach, concentrated doses can actually cause stomach upset.
Although they smell wonderful, foods like gingerbread, gingersnaps and ginger tea may not contain enough ginger to have an effect, says Dr. Altman. The capsule taken twice daily by patients in Dr. Altman’s study contained 255 milligrams (mg) of ginger, the equivalent of nearly a bushel of your grocer’s ginger.
Before taking ginger, be sure to check with your doctor. If you get the “go ahead” from your physician, try a 100- to 200-mg ginger capsule each day for four to six weeks to see if you feel an effect. Steer clear of ginger if you’re taking a blood-thinning medication, like warfarin (Coumadin), as ginger may reverse the effects of these types of drugs.
If you prefer the tangy zip of fresh ginger, here’s some good news. Researchers at the University of Georgia in Athens and Georgia State College & University in Milledgeville reported in the Journal of Pain that a few tablespoons of grated ginger can help ease muscle pain caused by exercise.
You can add a few tablespoons to your diet by grating ginger over a salad or into a stir fry.
Or you could grate one to two teaspoons and simmer it in a pot with hot water for five minutes to make a soothing tea.
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