A Guide to Ginger: What’s in It, Why It’s Good for You, Benefits and More
Ginger not only adds delicious flavor to food, it’s also full of nutrients. People have been using the root for cooking and healing for thousands of years.
Ancient writings from Rome, Greece, China, and Arab countries all describe ginger’s uses as a medicine. It was especially popular in Asian medicine as a treatment for stomach issues, including nausea and diarrhea. Other traditional medical uses for ginger include treating muscle and joint pain, cold and flu symptoms, stomach pain, menstrual cramps, and skin burns.
Defining Ginger and Understanding What It's Good for
Today, people still consider ginger a natural way to soothe an upset stomach, and there’s research to back up its health benefits. Ginger is also used in tons of modern recipes.
Ginger is a tropical flowering plant that originally grew in Southeast Asia but is now widely available from growers around the world. It's classified as a member of the Zingiberaceae family, making it a close relative of turmeric. The scientific name for ginger is Zingiber officinale, which is thought to come from the Sanskrit name for the spice (singabera).
The leafy plant grows to about three feet tall and produces clusters of greenish-purple flowers. Ginger’s root or rhizome is the part used as a spice or healing aid. Depending on the variety, the inside of the root can be yellow, red, or white. It’s harvested by pulling the entire plant out of the soil, removing the leaves and cleaning the root.
Ginger can be eaten fresh, dried and stored as a spice, or made into tablets, capsules, and liquid extracts. There’s about 2 percent of essential oil in the root, which is used in the cosmetic industry as a fragrance in soaps and beauty products.
What’s in Ginger Exactly? A Closer Look at Its Nutrition Facts
There are lots of different vitamins and minerals in ginger such as (1 tablespoon of fresh ginger) :
1.07 grams (g) of carbohydrate
.12 g of dietary fiber
.11 g of protein
.05 g fat
.1 g of sugar
Vitamins and minerals present in fresh ginger:
Vitamin B3 and B6
What Are the Science-Backed Health Benefits of Ginger?
Ginger contains more than 400 chemical compounds, but researchers believe the gingerol compounds are the ones responsible for the root’s health benefits. They’re also responsible for its smell and flavor. Gingerol has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help the body in a variety of different ways.
1. Soothes an Upset Stomach
The chemical compounds in ginger are believed to ease stomach pain and aid digestion. Modern research has found evidence that it can helpful.
Ginger has long been proposed as a remedy to ease morning sickness during pregnancy, studies have shown it’s a safe and possibly effective way to help reduce nausea.
But its ability to help with stomach issues goes beyond pregnancy. Ginger may also help relieve nausea and vomiting after surgery and in people going through chemotherapy.
Eating ginger may improve indigestion symptoms by helping the stomach empty faster. One small study found that taking 1.2 g of ginger capsules before a meal sped up the digestion process in people with indigestion.
2. Reduces Inflammation
Ginger is sometimes taken as a supplement for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis (two painful conditions causing joint damage). Since ginger is an anti-inflammatory, it may also be able to ease joint pain due to inflammation from arthritis.
An older study found that people with knee osteoarthritis who took ginger extract had less pain and used less pain medication. But they did experience some mild stomach upset because of the higher concentration of ginger extract.
3. Lowers Blood Sugar
Adding ginger to your diet could help improve blood sugar levels and lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In one study on people with type 2 diabetes, researchers found that those who took 1600 milligrams (mg) of ginger powder for 12 weeks had improved insulin sensitivity, lower triglycerides, and lower total cholesterol when compared with the control group.
Another study found that 2 g of powdered ginger supplement per day significantly lowered fasting blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.
4. Reduces Cancer Risk
The root might be a powerful weapon in the fight against cancer. Researchers have found evidence that gingerol (an active compound in ginger) has cancer-fighting abilities. Namely, it may help in the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal cancers. Its high antioxidant content is likely responsible for fighting off cancer cell growth. In fact, the antioxidants in ginger may even help to slow the aging process.
5. Relieves Menstrual Cramps
When it comes to period pain, ginger might actually be right up there with pain medications, like Advil (ibuprofen). Once study found that women who took 250 mg ginger capsules four times a day had the same pain relief as those who took 250 mg of mefenamic acid or 400 mg ibuprofen capsules four times per day
6. Shortening or Preventing the Common Cold
We often think of orange juice as the go-to drink for warding off a cold, but fresh ginger juice may be a better choice. The root has a warming effect, which is believed to help with cold symptoms. Drinking ginger can keep you warm, while also helping the body sweat and get rid of infections.
In addition to its many other benefits, gingerol might help prevent infections. One study found fresh ginger may be effective against the respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV), a common cause of cold-like symptoms and respiratory infections.
The ginger compounds gingerol and shogaol may help fight off a cold because they can lower a fever, reduce pain, and suppress a cough