Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a flowering plant whose underground stem, or rhizome – known as ginger root or just ginger – has been widely used for centuries. It has been used as a spice as well as an alternative medicine because of its many well-known health benefits. Interestingly, it belongs to the same family (Zingiberaceae) as turmeric, cardamom, and galangal.
Believed to have originated on the Indian subcontinent, ginger was first exported to Europe in the first century AD and was reportedly used extensively by the Romans.
Ginger is a potent aromatic herb and a good natural source of vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese. Just a few slivers of fresh ginger can be used to make a healing tea. When ground to a paste or dry powder, it can be added to soups, sauces, marinades, and many other dishes to add both flavor and a pungent taste. For cooking, fresh ginger root is usually best, but powdered ginger or ginger paste are both great alternatives that can be conveniently stored for long periods of time.
What Do Researchers Know About the Health Benefits of Ginger?
Modern scientific research shows that ginger provides numerous health benefits, thanks to its potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties.
The main bioactive ingredient in ginger is -gingerol – also known as just gingerol. It is chemically related to capsaicin (the main bioactive ingredient in chili peppers) and piperine (the main bioactive ingredient in black pepper). Gingerol has been extensively studied and is known to be a potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer agent.
However, more recent studies suggest that another bioactive family of naturally occurring compounds in ginger known as shogaols may have even stronger health benefits relative to gingerol and related compounds.
Ginger Health Benefit #1: Heals the Gut
Traditionally, ginger has a long and proven history of relieving stomach and gut problems. In herbal medicine, it is known to aid digestion and promote the release of intestinal gas, while also calming and relaxing the stomach and gut.
Ginger’s health benefits include providing relief from morning sickness. Further, it has been used successfully to combat nausea and GI upset after surgery or during chemotherapy. Studies have also shown that ginger effectively prevents symptoms of motion sickness, including seasickness.
In fact, ginger was shown to be far superior to Dramamine, a commonly used prescription drug for motion sickness. Plus, it reduces all symptoms including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweats.
Ginger Health Benefit #2: Fights Pain and Inflammation
Numerous studies show that ginger is effective for pain relief. In one study, participants were given either two grams of raw or heat-treated ginger supplements for 11 consecutive days. They then performed numerous elbow exercises with a heavy weight specifically designed to induce a moderate level of muscle injury. Pain and inflammation levels were tested before the exercise and for three days afterwards. Both types of ginger gave good results, although raw ginger was slightly more effective, reducing exercise-induced pain by 25 percent within 24 hours.
Ginger’s pain-relieving health benefits are likely a result of the many potent antioxidant compounds it contains (including gingerol and shogaol). They likely contribute to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which are similar to those of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, but without the side effects.
Further, ginger extracts have been shown to prevent joint swelling in animal models of rheumatoid arthritis by lowering levels of joint inflammation. Even non-gingerol components of ginger were bioactive and enhanced the anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effects of the better known gingerol.
In one study, nearly 250 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee and accompanying moderate to severe pain were enrolled in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The participants received ginger extract or control twice daily for 6 weeks. At the end of the study, more patients in the ginger extract group experienced a moderate reduction in knee pain upon standing relative to those in the control group.
Participants in numerous other studies have reported similar health benefits when using ginger regularly. These include a reduction in muscle soreness, improved agility and movement, and reduction in swelling and pain.
Ginger Health Benefit #3: Lowers Risk of Diabetes
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial looking at the effects of ginger on fasting blood sugar of 41 participants with type 2 diabetes had some interesting results. It showed that 2 grams of ground ginger supplement taken daily for 12 weeks reduced fasting blood sugar by an impressive 12 percent, on average. Other markers of chronic diabetes-related complications were also reduced.
Ginger Health Benefit #4: Boosts Memory
Ginger has been shown to improve memory, along with other brain functions. One study examined the benefits of ginger extract on various aspects of brain function in 60 middle-aged, healthy women. These women were randomly assigned to receive either ginger extract or a control once daily for 2 months.
These participants were evaluated for memory and brain function at three different time points – before starting the study, after one month, and after two months. Ginger extract, reported the study researchers, “enhances both attention and cognitive processing capabilities, with no side effects.”
Ginger Health Benefit #5: Cancer Fighter
Last but not least, the truly exciting news about ginger and the bioactive compounds it contains is that they appear to be powerful cancer fighters.
Preliminary studies – mostly at the laboratory level – show that they may be effective against breast, ovarian, and colorectal cancer, among many others.
In one study, ginger extract potently suppressed growth of breast cancer cells by increasing expression of so-called “apoptotic cell death” genes and turning off other genes that would normally help these cancer cells thrive. Importantly, the extract did not adversely affect normal breast cells.
Another study examined the effects of gingerol on the ability of multiple breast cancer cell lines to migrate to other areas, known as metastasis. Treatment with increasing doses of gingerol slowed breast cancer movement and migration.
These findings and others suggest that therapies based on one or more of ginger’s naturally occurring bioactive ingredients may offer powerful health benefits for treating breast cancer in the near future.
Similarly, treatment of ovarian cancer cells with ginger “induced profound growth inhibition.” However, in this instance another bioactive component − 6-shogaol − was shown to be responsible for this effect.
In another study, researchers from the University of Minnesota’s Hormel Institute in Austin gave half a milligram of gingerol or control to mice without a functioning immune system. This was done three times a week before and after introducing human colon cancer cells. After 15 days, 13 tumors had appeared in the control group, but only four had formed in the group given gingerol. By day 28, all control group mice had formed measurable tumors, but it took 10 more days for this to happen in the gingerol group.
In other words, gingerol treatment significantly slowed down the formation of tumors in this laboratory model of colon cancer.
It turns out immune cells called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) play a critical role in our ability to fight cancer. The more TILs infiltrate tumors and the more active they are, the better the patient’s prognosis.
Excitingly, gingerol has been shown to slow tumor growth in laboratory models of skin, kidney, and colon cancer by enabling significant infiltration of TILs into these tumors as well as into tumor draining lymph nodes. This suggests that gingerol supplementation may become a common complementary therapy to improve the efficacy of standard cancer therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation, without fear of any added side effects.
Ginger has many positive effects on health and is a key ingredient in the Optimoxx detoxing cleanse system from Epigenetic Labs, specifically designed to give you the most powerful yet gentle cleanse experience possible.
- The World’s Healthiest Foods: Ginger
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces muscle pain caused by eccentric exercise.
- Superfood Trio: Ginger, Turmeric, and Carrots?
- Comparative Effects of Two Gingerol-Containing Zingiber officinale Extracts on Experimental Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Effects of a ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis.
- The Effects of Ginger on Fasting Blood Sugar, Hemoglobin A1c, Apolipoprotein B, Apolipoprotein A-I and Malondialdehyde in Type 2 Diabetic Patients
- Zingiber officinale Improves Cognitive Function of the Middle-Aged Healthy Women
- Differential control of growth, apoptotic activity, and gene expression in human breast cancer cells by extracts derived from medicinal herbs Zingiber officinale.
- -Gingerol inhibits metastasis of MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells
- Ginger inhibits cell growth and modulates angiogenic factors in ovarian cancer cells
- Increased growth inhibitory effects on human cancer cells and anti-inflammatory potency of shogaols from Zingiber officinale relative to gingerols.
- Ginger ‘could halt bowel cancer’
- Administration of 6-gingerol greatly enhances the number of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes in murine tumors.