What is ginger?
Ginger health benefits are wide-ranging, with people having used it medicinally for nearly 5,000 years. It originated in India, but today ginger grows in tropical regions extending from South America to Asia.
It is a rhizome, or root, and can be found in many forms such as fresh, dried, pickled, preserved, crystallized, candied and powdered.
Ginger health benefits
Ginger health benefits include:
- Gastrointestinal support – digestion
- Improved circulation and cardiovascular health
- Pain relief
- Reduction of age-related chronic illnesses, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, low-grade inflammation and cancer
Digestion slows as we age for a variety of reasons, including reduced gastric secretions and intestinal motility, but in laboratory animals, the gingerols supports these digestive system actions. (Reference 2)
For decades cardiovascular disease has had the highest mortality worldwide compared to all other health problems. It can be related to numerous causes, but one of the many ginger health benefits is that it can treat pathological blood clotting, which blocks arteries and ramps up the risk for cardiac arrest. One large 10 g dose of ginger, for example, caused significant reductions in platelet aggregation in one study, while a low dose had no effect. (Reference 9)
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that continues to plague the developed world, particularly for the aging population forced to manage related metabolic, weight, circulation and low-energy problems. Aldose reductase is an enzyme that is nearly insignificant when metabolism is healthy, but wreaks havoc in diabetes and may be responsible for many of the disease’s complications. Studies have linked five of ginger’s active constituents with inhibiting the enzyme and improving the quality of life for those living with the disease. (References 3, 7, 9)
Several studies have shown that ginger health benefits include preventing tumor growth, with the component -gingerol preventing new vessel formation that a tumor requires to form. (Reference 9)
Ginger and aging
Chronic inflammation is one of the consequences of aging that left untreated can lead to arthritis, diabetes, cancer or cardiovascular disease.
In a healthy scenario, inflammation develops at an injury site to signal, protect and heal the wound. But when an accumulation of harmful compounds resulting from stress, environmental pollution and the overpowering of the body’s natural maintenance processes causes a low-grade, nearly undetectable level of inflammation, it can persist for years and develop disease unbeknownst to the sufferer.
The volatile oils in ginger combat inflammation, and if they’re taken regularly they can prevent arthritis and other chronic inflammatory diseases that frequently develop after middle age. A study of osteoarthritis patients who ingested 250 mg of ginger extract for 12 weeks determined that the herb’s anti-inflammatory compounds significantly reduce the pain and immobility that accompany the disorder. (Reference 5)
Oxidation is an additional age-related disease precursor, which environmental pollutants and the over-burdening of the body’s natural stores of antioxidants exacerbate. Healthy cells are damaged when oxygen circulates in the body, and the resulting free radicals are normally neutralized by the body’s antioxidant defense system.
In modern times, however, the sheer high-level load of toxins in the environment and resulting from stress increases the number of healthy DNA mutations free radicals cause, an if left untreated, they replicate and develop disease.
To compensate for the extra oxidation damage, supplementing with dietary or nutraceutical antioxidants is necessary to prevent cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. In one study, a dose of 100 mg/kg of ginger significantly improved learning and memory in mice with induced Alzheimer’s. (References 1, 7, 9)
How much ginger should I have?
In India, the average consumption of ginger is 8-10 g of the fresh root each day, however, most medical authorities recommend taking no more than 4 g. A sudden significant increase may cause irritation or other complications and should be avoided. (Reference 11)
The unpredictable potency levels in ginger’s many forms – fresh, dried, pickled, preserved, crystallized, candied, and powdered – requires ingesting a standardized formula to achieve consistent results. The number of active volatile oils, shogaols, zingerone and gingerols in each was evaluated in one study, which determined all types were inconsistent.
Geographical region, harvesting period, and size of the root, are only a few of the characteristics that impact the herb’s potency. While most studies reporting on ginger’s medicinal uses have been relatively short in duration, most medical authorities sanction its supplemental use due to its long history as a food, with a few pre-existing condition and upper dosage restrictions (Reference 10).
- Dried ginger: 250 mg four times daily. (Reference 6)
- Dried ginger: stores well in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry and dark place. (Reference 4)
- Candied ginger: A one-inch square piece is equivalent to 500–1,000 mg of dried ginger. (Reference 6)
- Fresh ginger: can be refrigerated for as long as three weeks if left unpeeled. (Reference 4)
While all forms of ginger contain all pertinent active compounds, the flesh at the center of the fresh herb harvested after nine months when the skin is thick and gnarled is the most potent. (Reference 11)
Therapeutic ginger dosage
Typical dose range is 75-2,000 mg in divided doses with food. (Reference 6)
A formula standardized to contain 4% volatile oils or 5% total pungent compounds including 6-gingerol or 6-shogaol has delivered positive results in scientific research.
No companion supplement is required to absorb ginger. In fact, because ginger is a digestive aid, it is frequently used to help absorb other supplements, such as the anti-inflammatory herbal compound curcumin sourced from turmeric.
The studies recording ginger health benefits, including treating and preventing disease, utilized divided doses because gastrointestinal, taste and other potential reactions resulting from the herb’s pungency preclude a single apportionment. Typically, limiting the dosage to fewer than 4 g daily, an absence of stomach and esophageal discomfort and relief of symptoms after consistent use indicates the correct dose level.
Side effects of ginger
Side effects from eating ginger are rare, but doses higher than 4 g may cause mouth irritation, acid reflux or diarrhea (Reference 6).
As an anti-coagulant, ginger can increase bleeding, and herbalists caution against using it when taking prescription blood-thinning medications such as heparin, warfarin and aspirin or before surgery. (Reference 2)
1. “Fitoterapia.” Cytotoxic, cytoprotective and antioxidant effects of isolated phenolic compounds from fresh ginger. Volume 83, Issue 3, April 2012, Pages 568–585
2. Moghaddasi, Mohammad, et al. “Journal of Medicinal Plants Research.” Ginger (Zingiber officinale): A review. July 11, 2012. Vol. 6(26), pp. 4255-4258.
3. Ebtesam A. Al-Suhaimi, et al. “The American Journal of Chinese Medicine.” Physiological and Therapeutical Roles of Ginger and Turmeric on Endocrine Functions. Volume 39, Issue 02, 2011
4. Gettleman, Robin. “Life Extension Magazine.” Ginger: Good for What Ails You. March 2012
5. De Silva, Vijitha. “Rheumatology.” Evidence for the efficacy of complementary and alternative medicines in the management of osteoarthritis: a systematic review. 2011
6. University of Maryland Medical Center, Ginger, 2011
7. Ojewole, J.A. “Phytotherapy Research.” Analgesic, antiinflammatory and hypoglycaemic effects of ethanol extract of Zingiber officinale (Roscoe) rhizomes (Zingiberaceae) in mice and rats. September 20, 2006.
8. Joshi, Hanumanthachar. “African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines.” Zingiber officinale : Evaluation of its Nootropic effect in mice. December 31, 2006.
9. Louisiana State University System Pennington Nutrition Series. Ginger: A Potent Root. 2007.
10. Kathi J. Kemper, MD, MPH. The Longwood Herbal Task Force and The Center for Holistic Pediatric Education and Research. Ginger (Zingiber officinale). 1999.
11. Ann M. Bode and Zigang Dong. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. Chapter 7: The Amazing and Mighty Ginger. 2011.