Ginger has been around for thousands of years flavouring dishes and beverages of our ancestors. Besides having a zesty and spicy profile which is both complex yet energetic, ginger is not only flavourful but packs an extensive list of health benefits. 

ginger root cut, bright

Origin of Ginger

The rhizome, main stem of ginger root is the main portion consumed. Ginger’s health benefits have been extensively documented throughout the globe. Ancient Chinese, Indian, Arabic, Sanskrit, Greek and Roman texts all speak of ginger’s medicinal powers to treat and prevent many infections and aliments.

Ginger does not grow in the wild and its true origins are not exactly known. Indians and Chinese are believed to have cultivated ginger as a tonic root some 5000 years ago. Ginger was an important and popular flavouring ingredient being traded over 2000 years ago from India to Roman Empire and rest of Europe and Asia.

By middle ages with the fall of Roman Empire and rise of Ottoman Empire, ginger continued to be imported by Arab merchants as part of the spice trade. For longer shelf life, ginger was transported in a preserved form to be used in sweet and baked goods. Queen Elizabeth I of British Empire is credited with the invention of the “gingerbread man” which became a popular Christmas treat, even today.

What is Ginger?

Ginger is a flowering plant belonging to the Zingiberaceae family, which is related to turmeric, cardamon and galangal. It is one of the most common consumed spices around the world, used by many different cultures in various dishes, beverages and condiments.

The oily resin, oleoresin, from ginger root contains hundreds of bioactive compounds and metabolites such as gingerol, shogaol, paradol and zingerone. Because majority of ginger is ingested as food, it accumulates in our gastrointestinal tract where it produces many healing and preventative effects.[1] The anti-inflammatory properties within these compounds generate vast therapeutic benefits from relieving common colds and nausea, to improving brain cognition and reducing risk of cancers. [2]

Ginger is readily sold in many grocery stores and can be found in fresh, ground or capsule form (as a supplement). In addition, ginger essential oils and creams can be found within produce or cosmetic shelves.

Powerful Benefits of Ginger

Antioxidant Properties

Gingerol is a group of several bioactive ingredients which have been named after ginger, and for good reason. Gingerols and shogaols contain numerous anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and have been the focus of much scientific research regarding various medical treatments and applications.

6-gingerol is the most commonly studied compound, both in test tubes (in vitro) and in small animals or humans (in vivo) showing significant anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidation and anti-cancer properties, that fights various diseases and conditions. [3]  6-shogaol has also been extensively studied producing similar powerful anti-inflammatory effects involving vast ranging conditions.

Treats Nausea and Morning Sickness

Ginger has an extensive documented history as a natural remedy for sea and morning sickness.  Commonly, ginger is best known for treating nausea and vomiting. Recent scientific review compared 12 studies including one on 1278 pregnant women, finding ginger to be effective treatment in decreasing nausea with minimal to no side effects. [4]

Ginger has also been shown to relieve nausea in patients post surgery. Also, cancer patients receiving chemotherapy showed that ginger reduced the severity of nausea. [5,6,7]

Anti-Inflammatory—Reduces Muscle Soreness and Physical Fatigue

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a well established physiological effect occurring from moderate to extensive physical activity. Exercising muscles accumulate micro-tears and damage which results in physical tightness, soreness along with decreased mobility around focal joints. Ginger’s anti-inflammatory ingredients shown to effectively decrease DOMS, especially if consumed before exercise. [8]

Studies on ginger demonstrated muscle pain reduction both in upper and lower body exercises involving rotational joints such as elbows and knees.[9,10] Around 2 grams of ginger appeared to be a perfect dose leading to less pain and tightness, and better range of motion after exercise. In addition, some studies do not show immediate pain relief but rather an accumulating positive day-to-day effect with longer consumption periods (around one to two weeks). [11,12]

Anti-Inflammatory—Reduces Effects of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is also referred to as the degenerative bone disease and is the most common form of arthritis. Joints which we use more often such as hands, knees, hips and spine are typically affected. Osteoarthritis affects the cartilage between bone joints, causing friction against bone surfaces and leading to swelling, inflammation and pain. Ginger’s extract has been studied as a natural remedy regarding bone degeneration with some promising results. 

One study showed ginger oil to reduce arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in the leg joints of small animals. [13,14]  In another controlled human trial, 247 participants with osteoarthritis reported reduced knee pain and required less medication after administered ginger extract. [15]

Tumor necrosis factor (or TNF for short) is a cell signalling protein and an important part of the immune system. TNF is body’s natural defence which coordinates immune response causing inflammation to fight off infection. When you’re sick, high TNF levels are a good sign. But when you’re not sick, high levels of TNF, specifically TNF-alpha, confuse the immune signalling and begin to attack healthy or un-infected body parts, like the joints. Some of the test tube experiments demonstrated that ginger extract is able to reduce human TNF-alpha protein, leading to less inflammation and arthritis symptoms. [16]

Anti-Inflammatory—Reduces Respiratory Illnesses (Asthma)

Asthma is a condition where the smooth muscle cells within the airway are hypersensitive or inflamed, leading to restriction of the area. For centuries, ginger has been used as a natural remedy to treat respiratory illnesses including asthma. Active ingredients within ginger were investigated and have been shown to reduce overall allergic response within airway smooth muscles. [17]

A small animal trial revealed that 6-gingerol was one of the main active compounds in lowering factors contributing to hypersensitivity and inflammation of airway smooth muscle cells associated with allergic and respiratory illnesses. [18]

Anti-Diabetic—Lowers Blood Sugars

High blood sugar can pose many negative effects like frequent urination, increased thirst and headaches. This is also a precursor to other significant diseases such as the metabolic syndrome, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Ginger has been shown to reduce fasting blood sugars as well as stabilize blood sugar levels long-term, even in diabetic patients. [19]  This showcases ginger as an effective preventative tool in decreasing the risk of high blood sugar related symptoms and diseases. The main active ingredient is again 6-gingerol, which has also been attributed to improving insulin sensitivity and overall sugar (glucose) uptake from bloodstream into cells. [20]

Fresh/raw ginger possesses same powerful anti-inflammatory properties as powdered or extract variants and has been tested on small diabetic animals. The results show significant decreases in all diabetic markers including lower levels of overall blood glucose, cholesterols and triacylglycerol levels; as well as lower levels of urine proteins, decreased thirst and urine production and weight loss. [21]

Lowers Cholesterol

Ginger has been investigated for overall blood health and lipid management. Our modern diet comes with high quantity of fats, some of which negatively impact blood circulation. High levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) have been attributed to number of problems including increased risk of heart disease. A study explored the effect of ginger extract on diabetic and hypothyroid animals, found a reduction in LDL, total cholesterol and overall triglyceride levels. [22]  A human trials involving 85 people with high cholesterol showed, 3 grams of powdered ginger resulted in significant reductions in most fat types. [23]  All ginger supplementation, in either form, showed reduction in blood triglycerides and total cholesterol.

Reduces Menstrual Pain (Dysmenorrhea)

Menstrual pain or dysmenorrhea is physical pain or discomfort felt during a women’s menstrual cycle. In today’s environment, such discomforts are usually treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen. Some women are not fans of NSAIDS due to negative effects which may compound over time affecting cyclical onset of menstrual pain.

Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, ginger has a long history of being used as a natural remedy to alleviate such physical discomforts. Studies show that just one gram of ginger supplementation can be just as effective in relieving pain intensity and duration as some established drugs like ibuprofen during primary dysmenorrhea. [24,25,26]

Treats Indigestion

Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is a condition where digestion is somehow impaired. The symptoms may including upper abdominal pain, abdominal fullness, heartburn, nausea, belching and may sometimes be painful. Indigestion is being attributed to the delayed emptying of the stomach. 

One of the significant benefits of ginger is its ability to improve digestion and support overall health of the digestive tract. Ginger has been shown to speed up emptying of the stomach in people suffering from indigestion. The improved emptying times vary between 25 to 50 percent, but all show ginger’s ability to reduce indigestion. [27,28]

Indigestion can also be a symptom of stomach ulcers, which are inflated lining of the stomach.  Ginger research has found that its anti-inflammatory compounds such as 6-gingerol and 6-shogaol reduced aspirin induced ulcer formation, by decreasing inflammatory protein levels (TNF-alpha) and their activity. [29]

Can Help Fight Cancer

The same powerful antioxidant compounds that produce numerous health benefits throughout the body, may also possess cancer fighting abilities. This is a fast developing research area, where effects of ginger are examined on various types of cancerous cells. 

Though majority of experiments have been conducted primarily in test tubes (in vitro), the results are promising. The studies show that ginger’s components such as 6-gingerol have potential in decreasing and even blocking ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancerous cell growth. [30,31,32]

Although every ginger variant possesses 6-gingerol, the root’s raw form contains largest amounts of this potent compound. [33]  The antioxidant activity of 6-gingerol as well as 6-shogaol appear to effect several cellular signalling pathways, leading to decreased expansion and initiating cancer cell death (apoptosis) in oral, cervical and gastrointestinal cancers. [34,35]

Improves Cognition

Chronic inflammation has been associated to number of health problems including cognitive decline and acceleration of the aging process. Dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease have been linked to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Ginger posses great promise for brain’s health and wellbeing due to its numerous antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.

The mechanism is still being understood but, believed to involve ginger’s antioxidant ability; protecting brain cells against free radical attacks. This has been seen in animal studies where ginger extract prevented damage and maintained brain cell integrity. [36,37]  These cellular changes can result in grand scale improvement of brain activity and cognition, which was shown in a human trial study of middle-aged women. [38]

Ginger experiments show promise in possible treatments of dementia symptoms, including Alzheimer’s disease. [39,40]

Helps Fight Bacterial and Fungi Infections

Ginger’s properties also help to stop fungal infections from yeast infections to athlete’s foot.  Studies going back almost two decades, all support ginger’s antimicrobial abilities for eliminating different fungi. Test tube studies showed ginger extract as effective remedy against fungal infections in the mouth; as it was also found to be the most effecting fungus killing agent when compared to 28 other plant extracts. [41,42]

In addition, as an effective anti-fungal agent, ginger also holds anti-bacterial abilities. Ginger extract used in test tube experiments (in vitro) has been shown as an effective treatment against drug-resistant bacteria. [43,44]  Other in vitro studies, found that ginger can stop the growth of mouth bacteria that cause gum disease, gingivitis and periodontitis. [45]

Fresh ginger has been found to possess anti-viral activity. Human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) causes respiratory tract infections and is the most common cause for diseases like bronchiolitis and pneumonia. In vitro experiment using fresh ginger show effectiveness against HRSV in human respiratory tract cells. [46]

Micronutrient Profile

With current diet, we often don’t get enough important vitamins, minerals and elements. These micronutrients not only participate in benefits discussed in this article, but also take part in numerous metabolic processes which maintain body’s function and fitness levels. Another benefit of ginger is that it contains number of important micronutrients and phytonutrient, including:

  • chromium,
  • potassium,
  • magnesium,
  • manganese,
  • zinc,
  • potassium,
  • calcium,
  • phosphorus,
  • iron,
  • vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid)
  • vitamin B1 (thiamin)
  • vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

Some if these micronutrients are in small concentrations (like calcium, zinc, riboflavin and thiamin); while other minerals (such as chromium, magnesium, zinc and potassium) are ginger’s main active nutrients. All these components play important roles in blood circulation, growth development, tissue regeneration and repair, bone density, reproductive system and overall metabolic health. For example, ginger’s potassium content is comparable to bananas—a food that is a standard for high potassium. Even though we consume small quantity of ginger, the presence of many micronutrients makes it an even more effective product.

Final Thoughts

Ginger possesses significant health benefits including reducing nausea, inflammation, muscle soreness, osteoarthritis while improving gut health and digestive tract. Ginger has also been shown to improve blood sugar levels while managing cholesterol and effective anti-fungi and anti-bacterial treatments.

Along with all extensive health benefits, ginger has been proven safe to consume in various forms, and is a big part of many cultures all over the world. Ginger’s unique and delicious flavour makes an easy and tasteful addition to almost any food or beverage, making it a true superfood.

We love ginger at DUPIsCHAI for it’s health benefits, great taste and vibrant profile. Ginger is the first spice and second ingredient after tea, in our after-meal blend Elevate. Elevate is masterfully blended to deliver spices that aid with digestion, thereby giving you useable energy to ascend through that afternoon crash. Our morning-style chai, Arise has ginger as the second prominent spice to aid in delivering powerful antioxidants and micronutrients that set you up for the day, while improving focus and cognition. Our restorative blend, Fortify is ideal as a night cap beverage maximizing on the anti-inflammatory and repair properties of ginger. Learn more about our Power of Spice Chai.

References: 

1. Zick et al. Pharmacokinetics of 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol, 10-gingerol, and 6-shogaol and conjugate metabolites in healthy human subjects. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18708382

2. Book, Chapter 7: Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/

3. Wang et al. Biological properties of 6-gingerol: a brief review. Nat Prod Commun. 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25230520

4. Vijoen et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-associated nausea and vomiting. Nutr J. 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24642205

5. Chaiyakunapruk et al. The efficacy of ginger for the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting: a meta-analysis. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16389016

6. Ryan et al.Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces acute chemotherapy-induced nausea: a URCC CCOP study of 576 patients. Support Care Cancer. 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21818642/

7. Pillai et al.Anti-emetic effect of ginger powder versus placebo as an add-on therapy in children and young adults receiving high emetogenic chemotherapy. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20842754

8. Hoseinzadeh et al. Acute effects of ginger extract on biochemical and functional symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness. Med J Islam Repub Iran. 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26793652

9. Black et al.Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces muscle pain caused by eccentric exercise.  J Pain. 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20418184

10. Altman et al. Effects of a ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2001. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11710709

11. Wilson et al. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) as an Analgesic and Ergogenic Aid in Sport: A Systemic Review. J Strength Cond Res. 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26200194

12. Black et al. Acute effects of dietary ginger on muscle pain induced by eccentric exercise. Phytother Res. 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21031618

13. Sharma et al. Suppressive effects of eugenol and ginger oil on arthritic rats. Pharmacology. 1994. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7862743

14. Funk et al. Comparative effects of two gingerol-containing Zingiber officinale extracts on experimental rheumatoid arthritis. J Nat Prod. 2009. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19216559

15. Altman et al. Effects of a ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2001. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11710709

16. Frondoza et al. An in vitro screening assay for inhibitors of proinflammatory mediators in herbal extracts using human synoviocyte cultures. In Vitro Cell Dev Biol Anim. 2004. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15311968

17. Ghayur et al. Ginger attenuates acetylcholine-induced contraction and Ca2+ signalling in murine airway smooth muscle cells. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2008. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18432287

18. Ahui et al. Ginger prevents Th2-mediated immune responses in a mouse model of airway inflammation. Int Immunopharmacol. 2008. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18692598

19. Khandouzi et al. The effects of ginger on fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin a1c, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein a-I and malondialdehyde in type 2 diabetic patients. Iran J Pharm Res. 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25561919

20. Sekiya et al. Enhancement of insulin sensitivity in adipocytes by ginger. Biofactors. 2004. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15630272

  21. Al-Amin et al. Anti-diabetic and hypolipidaemic properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale) in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Br J Nutr. 2006. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17010224

22. Al-Noory et al. Antihyperlipidemic effects of ginger extracts in alloxan-induced diabetes and propylthiouracil-induced hypothyroidism in (rats). Pharmacognosy Res. 2013. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23901210

23. Alizadeh-Navaei et al. Investigation of the effect of ginger on the lipid levels. A double blind controlled clinical trial. Saui Med J. 2008. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18813412

24. Ozgoli et al. Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea. J Altern Complement Med. 2009. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19216660

25. Daily et al. Efficacy of Ginger for Alleviating the Symptoms of Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Pain Med. 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26177393

26. Rahnama et al. Effect of Zingiber officinale R. rhizomes (ginger) on pain relief in primary dysmenorrhea: a placebo randomized trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22781186

27. Hu et al. Effect of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia. World J Gastroenterol. 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21218090

28. Wu et al. Effects of ginger on gastric emptying and motility in healthy humans. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18403946

29. Wang et al. Protective Effects of Ginger against Aspirin-Induced Gastric Ulcers in Rats. Yonago Acta Med. 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24031124

30. Rhode et al. Ginger inhibits cell growth and modulates angiogenic factors in ovarian cancer cells. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2007. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18096028

31. Park et al. [6]-Gingerol induces cell cycle arrest and cell death of mutant p53-expressing pancreatic cancer cells. Yonsei Med J. 2006. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17066513

32. Karna et al. Benefits of whole ginger extract in prostate cancer. Br J Nutr. 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21849094

33. Oyagbemi et al. Molecular targets of [6]-gingerol: Its potential roles in cancer chemoprevention. Biofactors. 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20232343

34. Kappor et al. 6-Gingerol Mediates its Anti Tumor Activities in Human Oral and Cervical Cancer Cell Lines through Apoptosis and Cell Cycle Arrest. Phytother Res. 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26749462

35. Prasad et al. Ginger and its constituents: role in prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal cancer. Gastroenterol Res Pract. 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25838819

36. Zeng et al. Protective effects of ginger root extract on Alzheimer disease-induced behavioral dysfunction in rats. Rejunvenation Res. 2013. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23374025

37. Oboh et al. Inhibition of acetylcholinesterase activities and some pro-oxidant induced lipid peroxidation in rat brain by two varieties of ginger (Zingiber officinale). Exp Toxicol Pathol. 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20952170

38. Saenghong et al. Zingiber officinale Improves Cognitive Function of the Middle-Aged Healthy Women. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22235230

39. Ghayur et al. Muscarinic, Ca(++) antagonist and specific butyrylcholinesterase inhibitory activity of dried ginger extract might explain its use in dementia. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2008. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18812031

40. Azam et al. Ginger components as new leads for the design and development of novel multi-targeted anti-Alzheimer’s drugs: a computational investigation. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25364231

41. Aghazadeh et al. Survey of the Antibiofilm and Antimicrobial Effects of Zingiber officinale (in Vitro Study). Jundishapur J Microbiol. 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27127591

42. Ficker et al. Inhibition of human pathogenic fungi by ethnobotanically selected plant extracts. Mycoses. 2003. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12588480

43. Karuppiah et al. Antibacterial effect of Allium sativum cloves and Zingiber officinale rhizomes against multiple-drug resistant clinical pathogens. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23569978

44. Gull et al. Inhibitory effect of Allium sativum and Zingiber officinale extracts on clinically important drug resistant pathogenic bacteria. Ann Clin Microbiol Antimicrob. 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22540232

45. Park et al. Antibacterial activity of [10]-gingerol and [12]-gingerol isolated from ginger rhizome against periodontal bacteria. Phytother Res. 2008. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18814211

46. Chang et al. Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23123794