From its origins in Southeast Asia to your local supermarket, ginger is one of the most popular plants in human history. Its properties make it a diverse, potent, and delicious component of cultures everywhere in the world.
But what makes ginger such a treasured part of our lives? More importantly: what role does it play in our health and quality of life?
Why we love ginger
The first question is easy enough to answer: ginger is incredibly versatile. We use it for medicine, health, and cuisine. You can buy it fresh, dried, whole, as a spice, extract, infusion…
It's useful in every form we consume it.
Unlike less appealing plants with similar benefits, ginger also appeals to our senses. It’s fragrant, flavorful, and soothing. Its versatility and appeal make it that much easier to incorporate into a healthy lifestyle so we can reap more benefits. This brings us to the second question.
Health benefits of ginger
It’s hard to overstate ginger’s many health benefits. In 2020, researchers evaluated 109 different studies on ginger’s effect on human health and medicinal properties. Ginger wasn’t just effective in most of the studies they reviewed, it showed positive markers across a wide range of conditions, populations, and clinical trials.
So, the next time you add ginger to your shopping list, which benefits can you look forward to?
Ginger’s a popular ingredient in home remedies, especially ones that deal with upset stomachs. One of its main compounds, gingerol, helps the digestive system process food at a faster rate.
When food sits in the ut too long, it can make you feel nauseous or induce vomiting. By supporting gastrointestinal motility, ginger helps food exit the stomach before it can cause discomfort.
Depending on its form, ginger is good for other gastrointestinal issues too. Dried ginger has a higher concentration of gingerol, making it effective against morning sickness and postoperative nausea.
While ginger isn’t a weight loss supplement, some of its compounds can stimulate other weight-related functions. Promoting faster digestion and overall colon health improves the way we absorb nutrients while minimizing conditions like bloating and constipation.
Drinking ginger tea can make you feel fuller for longer. The warm water fills the stomach and provides hydration, while gingerol stabilizes sugar to minimize cravings.
Lowers blood sugar levels
While research on ginger’s clinical effects is still new, we do know it lowers blood sugar levels. Beyond appetite management, this lowers risk factors associated with heart disease, particularly in people with type 2 diabetes.
One of the clinical review’s studies showed that ginger had positive effects on glucose control, insulin sensitivity, and lipid profiles.
Lowers cholesterol levels
High LDL cholesterol levels are one of the above risk factors associated with heart disease. Crucially, the food has a strong, direct impact on it. Unlike healthy cholesterol, LDL is what we commonly refer to when talking about its negative effects.
Ginger continues to show signs of reducing LDL and total cholesterol levels. A 2018 study concluded that a daily intake of 5g of raw ginger over 3 months significantly reduced LDL cholesterol and prevent coronary artery disease.
Promotes healthy brain function
Cliches like “think with your mind, not your heart” make the two seem at odds when the truth is the opposite. In terms of wellness, heart health has a direct link to brain function. A healthy cardiovascular system improves circulation, carrying more oxygen to the brain to help us think, focus, and reason.
Ginger can even prevent headaches. It suppresses prostaglandin synthesis, preventing migraines using the same process as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen.
As a natural anti-inflammatory compound, gingerol may help relieve pain throughout the body, not just the head. Ginger has shown to be particularly effective at soothing dysmenorrhea – period pain.
A 2016 review compared the pain-relieving effects of ginger, NSAIDs, and a placebo. Participants reported that ginger was more effective than the placebo, and virtually on par with the NSAIDs they received.
Anecdotally, this may explain why ginger tea is such a popular home remedy for cramps and menstrual pain.
Rich in antioxidants
Thanks to heavy promotion, it’s not uncommon to learn about antioxidants without getting into their role in our health. We can’t talk about how vital they are without understanding free radicals.
An imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals in the body can create problems. Having too many free radicals creates oxidative stress – a chemical reaction that damages cell tissue.
Despite this, free radicals aren’t harmful by themselves. In fact, we need them to fight off pathogens to prevent infection. Oxidation is also a perfectly normal process; it only becomes oxidative stress when it happens too rapidly.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, ensuring that we have enough to function, but not enough to cause excess damage. Both traditional and modern medicine emphasize balance for a healthy body, so it's no surprise that ginger continues to be a point of research today.
Ginger’s antimicrobial and antifungal effects help combat infection and sickness. Its main compound, gingerol, is an immune booster that supports the body’s natural defenses. Ginger also has a warming effect that drives away colds while stimulating blood flow.
Combine that with its soothing ability and powerful antioxidants, and you have the perfect home remedy for colds and flu.
Ginger’s forms and functions
Certain forms of ginger produce stronger effects, but each has its place. Raw ginger contains the most amount of gingerol. That makes hot ginger tea perfect for digestive relief and immune support. You can also incorporate fresh ginger into meals as a healthy and fragrant aromatic.
In dried and powdered form, you get a much more concentrated flavor for smoothies or baking. It’s just as effective as fresh ginger, so if you just want the health benefits, why not try it as a capsule or supplement?
However you prefer your ginger, it always has a place in a healthy diet and lifestyle. And when it comes to superfoods, ginger isn’t just part of the group — it sets the bar.