If you’re someone that eats Asian or Indian cuisine, you likely enjoy the aromatic taste of ginger. It originates from Southeast Asia and is botanically a root. A member of a plant family that includes cardamom and turmeric.
It is typically grated, chopped or minced and added to various dishes. It is available in multiple forms including fresh, ginger paste and ginger powder.
It adds a sweet, somewhat spicy, peppery flavor and is frequently used in stir-fries, marinades, and sauces. It’s becoming a more mainstream ingredient, and for good reason.
It has been used for thousands of years in all types of cuisine. Some of its more notable health benefits include reducing gastrointestinal distress, alleviating morning sickness and relieving nausea.
In addition, it may have anti-inflammatory properties, making it an adjunct, alternative compound to use for pain management. New research has even more exciting health benefits.
1. Nausea and Morning Sickness
Ginger in the form of ginger tea, candied ginger or ginger lozenges and lollipops have been advised for pregnant women over time as a way to help with morning sickness.
Research suggests that it impacts neural receptors that trigger vomiting, which may help to reduce nausea.
Three compounds found in ginger that may boost its potent anti-nausea effect include 6-shogaol, 6-gingerol, and zingerone.
Scientists believe these elements inhibit serotonin 5-HT concentration- a receptor found in the gastrointestinal system that stimulates vagal nerve activity and induces nausea and vomiting.
It has been found to have therapeutic benefits to those undergoing chemotherapy that experience common side effects such as nausea and vomiting.
It is believed to assist in food digestion in a number of ways. For starters, it helps with saliva production, which begins the breakdown of carbohydrates in the mouth through the enzyme salivary amylase.
It has also been found to increase production of trypsin, which helps protein digestion and pancreatic lipase, which helps digest fat.
In addition, it may stimulate the gastrointestinal tract, which helps to move food along the small and large intestine to prevent gas, bloating and constipation.
Individuals suffering IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) that often experience flatulence and bloating, may find some relief with ginger.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that is difficult to control and has a lifelong impact on individuals that suffer from it. A new 12-week, randomized control trial using ginger in patients with ulcerative colitis is being tested as well.
3. Diabetes Management
As the rate of diagnosis of diabetes increases globally, it’s important to find ways to improve blood sugar and reduce organ damage. Individuals with diabetes often suffer comorbid conditions related to oxidative stress (tissue damage) such as cardiovascular disease and kidney failure.
In a recent study on diabetic rats, researchers discovered a protective effect of ginger. Rats were given various doses of ginger extract had reductions in blood sugar, improvements in kidney function and reductions in hyperlipidemia.
Another study found that steamed ginger may have therapeutic effects on blood sugar. Researchers used steamed ginger extract and evaluated the pancreatic islet cells (the cells which secrete insulin) in mice.
The active components in ginger (gingerols, shogaols, and paradols) when steamed (known as GGO3) lower hyperglycemia in mice and was considered a safe functional food.  Trials in humans are advised to further the investigation.
4. Weight Control
It has been implicated in weight management as well, though more research is needed. The active compounds in ginger have been evaluated in a systematic review of 27 articles (17 animals, 6 in vitro, and 4 human studies).
The majority of studies found changes in weight in animal studies, but those in humans showed no changes or slight changes in weight and anthropometric measures in obese human subjects.
Scientists believe it may be beneficial in weight management through a few mechanisms. It increases thermogenesis, increases fat breakdown, inhibits fat absorption in the intestine, limits lipogenesis and helps with appetite control.
A more recent study review by Brazilian researchers evaluated the effects of ginger and avocado on weight management.
Their study indicated that ginger and avocado possess anti-inflammatory effects that stimulate enzymatic activity and alter obesity-related dysfunctions in the anti-inflammatory systems of different tissues without side effects.
In addition, compounds in ginger and avocado were found to reduce the negative effects of obesity on serum lipids.
5. Pain Relief
In a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical control trial, 70 subjects with RA were randomized to receive a placebo or 1500 mg ginger powder for 12 weeks. Measures of immunity and inflammation were measured in each group.
After the intervention, a reduction in disease activity score was statistically significant in the ginger group.
It has also been found to have therapeutic value in reducing menstrual pain. The anti-inflammatory compounds found in ginger may also offer some pain relief in dental patients.
In a small study of 60 subjects comparing it to Ibuprofen and placebo in patients undergoing molar extraction with post-surgical pain, scientists compared measures of inflammation including C-reactive protein, cheek swelling and mouth opening ability to score pain.
Measures for cheek swelling and reduction in mouth opening ability were similar in all three groups in the first five days.
No significant difference was observed between pain scores in the Ibuprofen and ginger groups, but ‘rescue medication’ was necessary on a surgical day in the placebo group.
Researchers concluded that it was as effective as Ibuprofen for pain reduction in post-op dental patients.
Frequently Asked Questions
A: While there are no magical foods to “burn belly fat”, a recent meta-analysis of 14 randomized control studies of 473 subjects found that supplemental ginger has a positive impact on body weight, waist to hip ratio, hip ratio, fasting blood sugar and insulin resistance index. It also increases HDL ('healthy') cholesterol.
As mentioned above, ginger may help with appetite control and thermogenesis (increased heat production in the body), which could help with fat loss.
A: Yes! Ginger prepared from ginger root, ginger paste, ginger powder or ginger tea can be included as part of a healthy diet.
As mentioned above, supplemental ginger should not be taken in doses above the suggested amount as they may impact cardiac and nervous system function and increase the risk for heartburn.
A: Ginger could reduce nausea and vomiting in some pregnant women. But pregnant women should be careful with ginger it may cause miscarriage.
Safety and Side Effects
In addition, it appears to be safe to use for pregnant women suffering from morning sickness and nausea and vomiting. Adverse side effects such as spontaneous abortion or birth defects have not been observed in pregnant women. However, some individuals do experience heartburn and upset stomach with ginger.
As there are several preparations of ginger including fresh ginger, ginger powder, ginger tea, and candied ginger, it can be enjoyed in several ways.
However, high doses of ginger supplements should be avoided due to the risk of cardiac arrhythmias, depression of the central nervous system and heartburn. Dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA and should always be used with caution. Check with your doctor or pharmacist prior to use.
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