Ginger is a flowering plant and its official name is Zingiber officinale. The rhizome, more commonly known as the root, is what you are likely familiar with. The root is spicy and peppery in flavor, with loads of medicinal properties. It’s used all over the world in culinary and clinical applications—both for good reason.
Ginger has been called a superfood time and time again, but what makes it so amazing? This root has the following 11 superpowers.
1. Ginger Improves Brain Function
Anti-inflammatory properties: it's one of the health benefits of ginger that keeps on giving—especially when it comes to protecting your noggin.
Scientists have long considered inflammation a symptom of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Ginger root may help decrease inflammation and improve cognitive function.
2. Fights Infections
Thanks to powerful anti-fungal and antimicrobial compounds, ginger might even help you fight off a cold or an infection.
"Mix hot water with two tablespoons of freshly grated ginger, juice of one lemon, and half a tablespoon of honey," suggests Miller at Women’s Health. "Or, toss a teaspoon into chicken soup for some added cold-fighting benefits."
3. Reduces Nausea
Nausea is no fun. Whether it’s from motion sickness, morning sickness, post-surgery effects, chemotherapy, or pregnancy, nausea is not an experience anyone wants. And when you do experience an upset stomach, you’d give anything to make it end! Enter ginger. Ginger has been shown to be an effective remedy for nausea related to pregnancy and chemotherapy.
Ginger has also been found to reduce the amount of nausea you might otherwise experience when feeling seasick. After surgeries, it’s common for some people to experience nausea and vomiting. The good news is that researchers have found ginger to be an “effective means for reducing postoperative nausea and vomiting.” Not only does ginger provide relief from post-surgery nausea, but it can also help cancer patients.
In a study of both adults and children undergoing chemotherapy treatments, ginger was found to be effective in providing relief from nausea that accompanies those treatments. Based on the scientific evidence, ginger is definitely worth a try when you’re experiencing nausea of any kind.
4. Ginger Lowers Risk of Diabetes
Ginger helps to regulate insulin and keep your metabolism humming, reducing your overall risk of diabetes. Keeping insulin in check and metabolism roaring is crucial for Australians who struggle to maintain a healthy weight.
But don’t just think you can eat ginger-flavored snacks and be on the right track, says dietitian Jaclyn London. "Keep both dried and fresh ginger on-hand for flavoring smoothies and veggie-based stir-frys and soups," suggests London at Good Housekeeping.
"While some chemical compounds in ginger may decrease over time, the drying process enhances other beneficial ones," she adds.
5. Fights Fungal Infections
Fungal infections cause a wide variety of conditions, from yeast infections to jock itch and athlete’s foot. Fortunately, ginger helps kill off disease-causing fungi due to its powerful anti-fungal properties.
In one 2016 test-tube study out of Iran, the ginger extract was found to be effective against two types of yeast that commonly cause fungal infections in the mouth. Another test-tube study in Mycoses measured the antifungal effects of 29 plant species and found that ginger was the most effective at killing off fungus.
6. Ginger Protects the Stomach
Ginger increased protective prostaglandins in the stomach lining in 43 osteoarthritis patients who used NSAIDs long-term (RCT). NSAIDs cause stomach damage by reducing prostaglandins in the stomach, which otherwise help maintain healthy stomach mucus. Since this is a big issue with long-term NSAIDs use, ginger could be a safe and effective alternative.
Cellular studies confirm that ginger reduces stomach damage. Antioxidants in ginger blocked the growth of stomach-ulcer-causing H.Pylori, mainly by fighting free radicals.
7. Reduces Menstrual Pains
Many women know how debilitating menstrual pain can be. There are over-the-counter pain medications dedicated to this specific pain, but ginger may also provide relief.
One study found that ginger is as effective as ibuprofen in reducing the pain associated with dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) in women. Menstrual cramps in the abdomen and lower back are common in dysmenorrhea. That’s great news for women! Next time you experience cramping during your menstrual cycle, give ginger a try.
8. Ginger Has Antibacterial Properties
If you aren’t convinced of the medicinal properties of ginger yet, you will be now! Researchers have found that ginger is an effective antibacterial for many drug-resistant bacteria in clinical applications. In their study, the researchers stated that “ginger has great potential in the treatment of many microbial diseases [such as Bacillus and E. coli].”
The antibacterial benefits don’t stop there. In oral health, two types of ginger have been shown to inhibit the growth of pathogens that contribute to periodontitis (inflammation of the gums that is caused by gum bacteria). The antibacterial properties that ginger possesses show that food truly is medicine.
9. Lowers Cholesterol Levels
High levels of LDL lipoproteins (the "bad" cholesterol) are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
The foods you eat can have a strong influence on LDL levels.
In a 45-day study of 85 individuals with high cholesterol, 3 grams of ginger powder caused significant reductions in most cholesterol markers. This is supported by a study in hypothyroid rats, where ginger extract lowered LDL cholesterol to a similar extent as the cholesterol-lowering drug atorvastatin. Both studies also showed reductions in total cholesterol and blood triglycerides.
10. Ginger Improves Digestion
One of the most powerful ginger benefits is its ability to support digestive health and prevent problems like dyspepsia, a common condition of impaired digestion characterized by symptoms like pain, heartburn, fullness and discomfort.
According to a study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, ginger helps speed up the emptying of the stomach by 25 percent compared to a placebo in people with indigestion. Another study even found that taking ginger capsules with a meal actually doubled the speed of stomach emptying.
11. Ginger Protects the Liver
Ginger (500 mg/day) helped protect the liver from toxic antituberculosis drugs in a study of 60 people with tuberculosis (RCT).
Ginger helped slow down aging-related liver damage in old rats. It was compared to alpha-lipoic acid, which had even stronger effects.
Ginger may protect from the detrimental effects of heavy metals and drugs on the liver. It protected both the liver and kidneys against cadmium toxicity in poisoned rabbits and from aluminum toxicity in rats. It also prevented liver damage and scarring from painkillers such as piroxicam in mice.