Ginger Health Benefits and Side effectsFor 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.”

Ayurveda gives ginger the status of a virtual medicine chest. That’s because this wonder spice has time-tested, digestion-friendly properties, in addition to its numerous other health benefits. In India, ginger is liberally used in daily life. Ginger products can be bought in dried form, powdered, as oil, tinctures or extracts. However, many herbalists suggest using fresh ginger.

The science of ginger

Ginger is extremely low in calories 333 kj (80kcal) per 100g (3.5oz). Ginger is made up of atoms that include trace metals and vitamins. Vitamins  includethiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic acid (B5), Vitamin B6, Folate,Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Trace metals include Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium and Zinc.

What are the health benefits of ginger?

Remedies Motion Sickness. Ginger is a known effective remedy for the nausea associated with motion sickness. The exact reason is unknown,but in a study of naval cadets, those given ginger powder suffered less.

Improves absorption. Ginger improves the absorption and stimulation of essential nutrients in the body. It does this by stimulating gastric and pancreatic enzyme secretion.

Cold and Flu Prevention. Ginger has been used for thousands of years as a natural treatment for colds and flu around Asia. Its soothing effect helps to reduce the body’s emergency symptom responses to the damaged cells in the body. While the white cells work on patching the cells and defending against the illness, ginger acts a barrier to the high levels of prostaglandins that induce fever, headaches, and cramps. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that to treat cold and flu symptoms in adults, steep 2 tbsp. of freshly shredded or chopped ginger root in hot water, two to three times a day.

Inflammation of the colon. A study carried out at the University of Michigan Medical School found that Ginger Root Supplement administered to volunteer participants reduced inflammation markers in the colon within a month. Experts say that by reducing inflammation in the colon a person reduces their risk of developing colon cancer.

Reduce Pain and Inflammation. Ginger contains some of the most potent anti-inflammatory fighting substances known and is a natural powerful painkiller. A study involving 74 volunteers carried out at the University of Georgia found that daily ginger supplementation reduced exercise-induced muscle pain by 25%. The researchers noted that the pain-reducing effect was not enhanced by heat-treating the ginger. It’s interesting to think that a root that grows in nature can actually affect how much pain you’re experiencing. It works on a hormonal level, and the anti-inflammatory nature means that overall you should have fewer aches and pains.

Nausea caused by Chemotherapy . Ginger supplements administered alongside anti-vomiting medications can reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea symptoms by 40%, a PhaseII/III study carried out at the University of Rochester Medical Center found. About 70% of cancer patients who receive chemotherapy experience nausea and vomiting. The vomiting is usually easy to control with effective medications. However, the nausea tends to linger “By taking the ginger prior to chemotherapy treatment, the National Cancer Institute-funded study suggests its earlier absorption into the body may have anti-inflammatory properties.”

Ovarian cancer. A study found that exposing ovarian cancer cells to a solution of ginger powder resulted in their death in every single test. The cancer cells either died as a result of apoptosis (they committed suicide) or autophagy (they digested/attacked themselves). The researchers, from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center added that the ginger solution also prevented the cancer cells from building up resistance to cancer treatment.

Fights Common Respiratory Problems. If you’re suffering from common respiratory diseases such as a cough, ginger aids in expanding your lungs and loosening up phlegm because it is a natural expectorant that breaks down and removes mucus. That way you can quickly recover from difficulty in breathing.

Liver damage caused by acetaminophen.  Acetaminophen, known more commonly as “Tylenol” in the USA and “paracetamol” elsewhere, is a popular painkiller and antipyretic (reduces fever). However, acetaminophen is also associated with a higher risk of chemically-driven liver damage (hepatotoxicity), especially among patients with liver disorders.

Scientists at the National Research Centre in Egypt wanted to determine whether ginger pretreatment might reduce the incidence of acetaminophen-induced liver damage in rats. The researchers wrote in the Journal of Dietary Supplements “Our results demonstrated that ginger can prevent hepatic injuries, alleviating oxidative stress in a manner comparable to that of vitamin E. Combination therapy of ginger and acetaminophen is recommended especially in cases with hepatic (liver) disorders or when high doses of acetaminophen are required.”

Maintains Normal Blood Circulation. Ginger contains chromium, magnesium and zinc which can help to improve blood flow, as well as help prevent chills, fever, and excessive sweat. A study reported in the journal Pharmaceutical Biology5 found that cassumunar ginger extract was more effective than prazosin hydrochloride in reducing blood pressure in hypertensive laboratory rats.

Ginger Powder May Significantly Reduce Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). Cramps are the body’s way of alarming an individual to some type of danger or damage. In menstrual cramps, prostaglandins, which are hormones that function as chemical messengers,  are the key activators of symptoms such as cramps, pains, and fevers. Scientists believe that high levels of prostaglandins contribute to increased menstrual cramps. Ginger helps by reducing the levels of prostaglandins in the body, hence relieving the cramps.

Studies show that ginger managed to reduce pain as effectively as the drugs mefenamic acid and ibuprofen and appears to be very effective against menstrual pain when taken at the beginning of the menstrual period.

Helps Manage Glucose Levels – Research out of Australia suggests that ginger can help keep blood glucose levels in check. This is important because these levels have a direct impact on weight loss and weight gain, as well as how energetic or lethargic you feel throughout the day. If you’ve noticed that you get a midday crash it’s likely due to your blood sugar levels, and adding ginger to your lunch might help you stay focused and on task.

Blocks Acid from Heartburn – If you frequently get heartburn, you should consider using ginger as a way to get around it. The excess acid that leads to the condition can be undone by the properties of ginger. The nice thing is that ginger is far more economical than an over-the-counter drug or a prescription drug on most health plans. Another side benefit is that there are no side effects to taking it, and it can be used for the long term with no worries.

Protects Against Alzheimer’s Disease – If Alzheimer’s runs in your family, or you are just worried about coming down with the debilitating disease, you should think about incorporating more ginger into your diet and daily routine. Research has shown that ginger helps to slow down the loss of brain cells that typically is a precursor to Alzheimer’s. By protecting and preserving these cells you are prolonging the amount of good years you have being alert and coherent and aware of your surroundings.

Increases Sexual Desire – With an increased function in the circulatory system, it’s no wonder that ginger has been referenced as an aphrodisiac for thousands of years. It didn’t take long for people to make the connection that after consuming ginger they felt an extra pep in their step and felt like things were firing on all cylinders.

Migraines - There is some evidence to suggest that ginger powder may help relieve migraine symptoms. A recemt study found that ginger powder is as effective in treating common migraine symptoms as sumatriptan. Sumatriptan is a common medication for migraine treatment (Imitrex, Treximet, Imigran, Imigran). The study authors concluded “Efficacy of ginger powder and sumatriptan were similar. Clinical adverse effects of ginger powder were less than sumatriptan. Patients’ satisfaction and willingness to continue did not differ. The effectiveness of ginger powder in the treatment of common migraine attacks is statistically comparable to sumatriptan. Ginger also poses a better side effect profile than sumatriptan.”

Strengthens Immunity. Ginger helps improve the immune system. Consuming a little bit ginger a day can help foil potential risk of a stroke by inhibiting fatty deposits from the arteries. It also decreases bacterial infections in the stomach, and helps battle a bad cough and throat irritation. This is a fantastic feature to ginger that should pique the curiosity of anyone that was contemplating taking it or not. An improved immune system can mean that you get sick less often, that you recover more quickly when you do get sick, and that even if everyone else around you is coming down with an illness you can stay healthy. The research behind this property is solid, this is another instance where science is backing up an all-natural remedy.

The Anti-Inflammatory Effects Can Help With Osteoarthritis – Osteoarthritis is a common health problem.It involves degeneration of the joints in the body, leading to symptoms like joint pain and stiffness.  In a controlled trial of 247 people with osteoarthritis of the knee, those who took ginger extract had less pain and required less pain medication.  Another study found that a combination of ginger, mastic, cinnamon and sesame oil, can reduce pain and stiffness in osteoarthritis patients when applied topically.

Risks, precautions and side efects

Ginger is LIKELY SAFE for most people. Some people can have mild side effects including heartburn, diarrhea, and general stomach discomfort. Some women have reported extra menstrual bleeding while taking ginger.

Don’t give ginger to children under 2. Children over 2 make take ginger to treat nausea, stomach cramping, and headaches. Ask your doctor to help you find the right dose.

Adults in general, shouldn’t take more than 4g of ginger per day, including food sources. Pregnant women should not take more than 1g per day.

For nausea, gas, or indigestion: Some studies have used 1g of ginger daily, in divided doses. Ask your doctor to help you find the right dose for you.

For pregnancy-induced vomiting, some studies have used 650 mg to 1 g per day. Don’t take ginger without first talking to your doctor.

One possible minor side effect of drinking ginger tea is heartburn or stomach upset, similar to how you feel when you eat chilies or other spicy foods. You could mistake this irritation for a ginger allergy. However, you might have an allergy to ginger if you experience a rash or discomfort in your mouth or stomach after drinking ginger tea.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the use of herbs can interact with other herbs or medications.

Therefore it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking ginger.

You should not take ginger if you suffer from a bleeding disorder or take blood-thinning medications (such as warfarin or aspirin).

Side effects of consuming ginger are rare, but may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Stomach upset
  • Mouth irritation

When ginger is applied to the skin, it may cause irritation.

Many people think ginger can increase bile production, but no scientific evidence of this has ever been recorded. Still, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before you use ginger tea if you have a history of gallbladder problems.

Do not take ginger without first talking to your doctor if you:

  • have gallstones or any other disease of the gallbladder;
  • have diabetes or if you are taking a medicine to control your blood sugar levels;
  • have any heart problems or take any heart medicines;
  • have a bleeding or blood clotting disorder or are taking a medicine to increase or decrease the clotting of your blood such as aspirin, warfarin(Coumadin), or heparin; or
  • take other herbs, antioxidants, or health supplements (these may affect blood thinning).

You may not be able to take ginger, or you may require special monitoring during treatment if you have any of the conditions or are taking any of the medicines listed above.