In this article:
- “Ginger root,” the edible portion used for culinary and health purposes, is actually a stem that is found in the soil, called a rhizome.
- Ginger is known for its pungent yet pleasant smell, which stems from two of its chief compounds, namely, gingerol and shogaol.
- Ginger is a good source of vitamins A, B, C, and E as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium.
- Ginger is credited with considerable therapeutic potential for relieving a wide array of health complaints, such as nausea, coughing, chest congestion, and gastrointestinal distress.
- Ginger is also available as herbal supplements.
- Ginger rarely causes adverse effects but can induce irritation in and around the mouth, heartburn, and diarrhea in some people.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale, Zingiberaceae) is a popular herb that is used in cuisines throughout the world. People love its unique flavor and the numerous health benefits it offers.
This article will discuss the many uses of ginger, its health benefits, and some recipes that use this popular herb.
How Ginger Is Used
Ginger has many different uses and applications. Because ginger has a peppery, warm, and slightly sweet taste as well as a strong aroma, it has been popular for many centuries and used in various ways.
Some of the popular and widely used forms of ginger include:
- Candied ginger
- Crystallized ginger
- Dried ginger
- Fresh ginger
- Pickled ginger
- Preserved ginger
- Powdered or ground ginger
As ginger is used mostly as a spice, it is used most often in its fresh, dried, and powdered or ground forms.
Both the immature and mature stems, or rhizome, of fresh ginger are used. Dried ginger, which then may be ground into powder, is usually made from more mature plants. Preserved ginger often uses more immature rhizomes.
In areas where ginger is grown and cultivated, it is mostly consumed in its fresh form. Fresh ginger is used in Southeast Asian cooking, as a spice or herb or eaten as a cooked vegetable.
Young ginger rhizomes can be eaten raw. Fresh ginger is often used to make ginger tea, ginger ale, and other beverages.
The dried, ground, powdered, and preserved forms of ginger are traded internationally. Ground ginger as a cooking ingredient is used around the world. It is also used in food processing as a flavoring agent.
Ginger can also be found often in baked goods and desserts. Preserved ginger is also often used in baked goods, candies, jams, and marmalades.
Ginger is used globally as a spice and flavoring agent. It is most often enjoyed in its fresh, dried, and powdered forms.
Nutritional Value of Ginger
Ginger is a good source of vitamins A, B, C, and E, as well as minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc.
Only 80 calories are found in 100 grams of fresh ginger, along with 2 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, and 2 grams of fiber. (1)
Ginger is low in calories but high in many nutrients and compounds, making it a healthy addition to meals and beverages.
Health Benefits of Ginger
The health benefits of ginger have been reported for centuries. Many cultures use the herb to alleviate many symptoms.
1. May Help with Gastrointestinal Distress
Ginger can help to prevent gas and bloating by relaxing the muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. This can help soothe an upset stomach. (2)
Ginger can speed up the contractions used to digest food in the stomach. It can also facilitate the fast emptying of the stomach.
Ginger can also help decrease belching and flatulence and can help lower the pressure put on the opening between the esophagus and stomach. This herb also reduces cramping in the intestines. (3) This is why many people enjoy ginger tea or take ginger after a big meal.
Due to its antibacterial properties, ginger is often used against diarrhea that is caused by bacteria. Additionally, it may help soothe the symptoms caused by food poisoning.
Ginger can aid with digestion and help soothe many gastrointestinal ailments.
2. Relieves Cough and Cold
The phenolic compounds that make this plant so aromatic – the gingerols, paradols, and shogaols – are powerful antioxidants as well as anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agents.
Ginger has been used to soothe several symptoms caused by various illnesses. Some symptoms that ginger may help relieve are:
Ginger also functions as a natural analgesic or painkiller. It is used to help with pain and irritation from a sore throat, coughing, postnasal drip, and mucus in the lungs.
Ginger contains powerful compounds that can relieve many symptoms associated with coughing, sore throat, and the common cold.
3. Alleviates Morning Sickness
Many pregnant women experience nausea and morning sickness, especially in the first trimester. Ginger can be an effective way to alleviate these conditions.
Vitamin B6 is often used to help with morning sickness and nausea, and ginger works in a similar manner. (7)
Ginger is found to be effective in treating nausea during pregnancy, but more studies are needed about the proper amount to be safe and effective. (8)
However, ginger has been found to increase the risk of bleeding during pregnancy. Some mothers opt to avoid it, especially in the third trimester.
Caution: While no studies have found any evidence that ginger consumption increases the risk of harm during pregnancy, it is unknown if and how much ginger is safe for pregnant women. Always consult your doctor before starting any over-the-counter medication, supplement, herbal medication, or tea.
Ginger may help soothe an upset stomach and may help with nausea associated with morning sickness in pregnancy.
4. Reduces Arthritic Pain
As ginger contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic agents, it can soothe the pain that often accompanies rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and gout. In fact, the extract from ginger has been used to dull, numb, and alleviate pain.
Some studies have shown that ginger extracts that contain gingerol and non-gingerol components can prevent inflammation in and destruction of the joints. It was also found that essential oils from ginger that contain both gingerol and non-gingerol are more effective in treating inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis. (26)
Another study found that the powerful compounds in ginger may help with the discovery and development of new drugs and therapies that relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and the bone destruction caused by the disease. (11)
- To treat pain, make a paste of fresh ginger and turmeric. Warm the paste and apply it to the affected area twice a day.
- Consume raw and cooked ginger as a regular part of your diet.
- Add an essential oil from ginger to your bathwater to help relieve joint and muscle pain.
Ginger contains many anti-inflammatory properties that may ease the pain and discomfort associated with arthritis and joint problems.
5. Relieves Menstrual Symptoms
As an anti-inflammatory and analgesic compound, ginger has been used to reduce menstrual pain.
One review found that ginger reduced the pain score of women who were experiencing dysmenorrhea, or menstrual cramping and pain. Studies have suggested that 750–2000 mg of ginger powder may be effective in relieving pain and discomfort during the first 3-4 days of menstruation. (12)(13)
Ginger has also been used to help reduce the amount of blood lost during menstruation, especially during the first 3-7 days. (14)
Some women also find that drinking ginger tea helps soothe the pain and tenderness caused by menstrual cramping. Women may take ginger powder or capsules.
Ginger may help soothe the pain and discomfort experienced during menstruation, whether taken as a tea or in capsule form.
6. Eases Migraines
Migraines can range from annoying to debilitating.
There is evidence to support that ginger may help relieve some of the side effects of migraines and even stop the migraines themselves.
Ginger inhibits prostaglandins, a type of lipid that deals with injury at the site of tissue damage. Ginger, in effect, stops the promotion of inflammation in the blood vessels and reduces the pain caused by headaches and migraines. (16)
Powdered or fresh ginger could stop and prevent migraine headaches from occurring and may be helpful to children who suffer from these headaches. (17)
Not only does drinking ginger tea help to block the pain felt during a migraine, but it can also provide some relief to dizziness and nausea often suffered as a side effect of the migraine.
Recent evidence suggests that ginger may help with the pain caused by migraines and may even reduce the number of migraine episodes.
7. Promotes Heart Health
Not only is ginger good for lung congestion, but it may also help another important organ in your chest.
Ginger has earned a reputation for keeping your heart healthy.
Ginger does help in maintaining cholesterol levels. However, for a healthy heart, you cannot ignore the importance of a healthy lifestyle and diet.
8. Provides Respiratory Relief
Ginger has been shown to help improve chest congestion and may help with respiratory illnesses.
The powerful compounds in ginger have been shown to help suppress allergic reactions and prevent and treat allergic diseases.
Ginger extract may help keep airways open during inflammatory responses to allergens. Asthma is caused by sensitivity and inflammation in the muscle cells of the airways, causing them to spasm. Ginger may help relieve the inflammation associated with asthma.
Viral respiratory illnesses are some of the most common illnesses that easily spread from person to person through contact. Human respiratory virus (HRSV) is a very common cause of respiratory illness.
One study found evidence that fresh ginger can help fight the plaques in the airway that are caused by HRSV. It is believed that ginger does this by blocking the virus from attaching to the lining of the airway. It should be noted that the study did not find dried ginger to be effective. (20)
Ginger contains multiple compounds that may help suppress allergic reactions, fight inflammation of the airways, improve asthmatic reactions, and fight respiratory viruses.
Other Health Benefits
As more research is done on this herb, more potential benefits are being discovered. Here are a few interesting ways that ginger may help your health:
Lightens Skin: The powerful compound found in ginger, gingerol, has been shown to reduce reactive oxygen species and stop melanogenesis (the production of melanin), which causes pigmentation in the skin. (21)
Elevates Testosterone: Ginger supplementation may increase testosterone production in males, but more research is needed. (22)
Improves Brain Function: The antioxidants and other powerful compounds in ginger may stop inflammation in the brain. Inflammation can accelerate the aging process and is a key component of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive decline seen in aging. (23)
Additionally, ginger extract may help improve the working memory and reaction time of middle-aged women. (24)
Helps with Sleep: Ginger helps with digestion and relieves nausea. These effects may facilitate a good night’s rest, which may be the reason many people enjoy a cup of hot ginger tea before bed. However, there is no research or evidence of this.
May Help with Drug Withdrawal: One animal study found that ginger extract may work to lessen morphine-induced addictive behaviors. (25)
How to Store Ginger
Ginger is a staple in many kitchens around the world. If stored properly, it can last for quite some time.
Fresh ginger can be kept for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator if unpeeled.
Keep ginger powder in a tightly sealed glass container. Store this bottle in a cool, dry, and dark place, such as a pantry. It can also be stored in the refrigerator for about 1 year.
Many people use ginger as a herbal supplement and take it in capsule form for a variety of health reasons. Excessive supplementation can be dangerous and lead to serious issues.
Ginger can thin the blood. Therefore, it should be stopped 2 weeks before any surgery and should not be used after surgery.
Some patients like to take ginger after surgery to help control the associated nausea and vomiting. This should not be practiced due to the high risk.
Talk with your physician about other medications that can help manage these symptoms and are safe to take following surgery.
Because of its ability to thin the blood, ginger should be avoided by:
- Patients with bleeding disorders
- Pregnant or lactating women
- Those suffering from gallstones
Ginger does not interact with any food or medication, although some believe it may cause issues if taken with other anticoagulant medications or blood thinners. If you are taking a blood thinner, please talk with your provider before starting ginger supplements.
The essential oil from ginger has the flavor and aroma of the rest of the herb but is not as pungent. It is often used to flavor beverages and as an ingredient in candy, cosmetics, perfumes, and pharmaceutical applications.
Ginger extract is just as pungent as fresh ginger and has the same aroma and flavor. It is used to flavor drinks and works similarly to ground ginger.
As ginger extract does not dissolve as easily in alcohol as the oil, it is rarely used in cosmetics and perfumes. But because of its properties, it is often used in pharmaceuticals.
Adverse Effects of Ginger
Ginger can be eaten raw or cooked safely, although many people prefer the cooked form, as raw ginger can have a strong, spicy taste.
Adverse side effects of ginger are rare but can include irritation in and around the mouth, heartburn, and diarrhea. Those who drink ginger tea may want to limit their intake to 1-2 cups per day as it may cause heartburn and upset stomach.
Due to its ability to thin blood, patients on blood thinners and anticoagulants, such as warfarin (Coumadin), should be cautious and talk with their doctor before taking ginger supplements, capsules, oil, or extract.
People who suffer from gallstones may also want to be careful when consuming ginger, as it is believed that ginger can increase the flow of bile. (9)
Although ginger is generally recognized as safe and is widely used in cooking and baking, certain people should exercise caution when taking ginger supplements or consuming a lot of ginger.
With so many benefits that come from ginger, you may want to whip up some of these classic simple recipes!
Yields about 5 servings
- 7 ounces ginger, peeled and chopped (yields about 1.5 cups)
- 2 cups water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 quart seltzer or club soda, chilled
- 2-3 tablespoons lime juice (optional)
- Simmer ginger in 2 cups of water in a small saucepan on low heat for 45 minutes. Leave the pan partially covered.
- Remove the pan from heat and cover. Allow it to cool for 20 minutes.
- Strain the liquid into a bowl, pressing on the ginger to extract as much liquid. Reserve the liquid, and discard the ginger.
- Return the ginger liquid to the saucepan and add the sugar. Put on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally.
- Pour this syrup into a jar and chill.
- Mix 1/4 cup chilled syrup with 6 ounces seltzer or club soda. Adjust to taste.
- Add a squeeze of lime juice if desired.
- Fresh ginger, about 1 inch long
- Water 11/2 cups
- Honey (to taste)
- Fresh lemon juice (to taste)
- Peel the ginger and slice it thinly.
- Bring the water to a simmering boil. Add the ginger slices. Boil for 1 minute, then cover the pan, and reduce the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and pour the liquid into a cup, straining out the ginger slices. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and honey to taste.
- 2 cups fresh ginger
- 5 cups water
- 2 cup sugar
- Line a sheet pan with parchment or wax paper. Brush a cooling rack with oil or spray it with nonstick spray.
- Set the rack on top of the paper in the pan.
- Peel the ginger. Cut it into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick.
- Combine the ginger and the water in a pan. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 35 minutes.
- Strain out the ginger, and reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid.
- Weigh the ginger. Then weigh out the same amount of sugar so you have equal weight of both.
- In the same saucepan, combine the ginger, sugar, and reserved liquid.
- Set the burner to medium-high heat. Bring the ginger mixture to boil. Stir frequently to avoid burning.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Stir frequently until the liquid has evaporated and the sugar starts to recrystallize (about 20 minutes).
- Allow the ginger slices to cool completely, spreading them out into individual pieces.
- Allow to cool completely.
- Store the ginger candies in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Ginger Cough Syrup
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger
- 1 cup water
- Peel the ginger and cut into slices.
- Remove the zest of the lemons.
- Pour 1 cup of water into a pan. Add 1/4 cup of ginger slices and 1.5-2 tablespoons of lemon zest.
- Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 5 minutes.
- Strain out the ginger and lemon zest, reserving the liquid.
- Set the liquid aside and allow it to cool.
- Pour 1 cup of honey into the saucepan and heat it over low heat.
- Mix in the ginger-lemon liquid.
- Squeeze the juice from two lemons into the pan with the honey and ginger solution. Stir over low heat for a few minutes.
- Remove the pan from heat.
- Pour the ginger syrup into a jar and screw on the lid.
Ginger is a well-loved herb that is used in cooking, baking, and beverages around the world. It has a reputation for soothing an upset stomach and aiding digestion.
Ginger is also known to help soothe sore throat and chest congestion. This herb may help in relieving the pain associated with arthritis, migraines, and menstruation.
This anti-inflammatory herb may also aid with respiratory conditions. Although ginger is generally safe, those on blood thinners or other medications should exercise caution and speak with their physician about taking ginger.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Mr. Jonathan Valdez, RDN
It is safe to drink ginger tea every day, but most experts recommend that you do so in moderation, about 1-2 cups maximum. The reason is not that ginger tea is harmful, but that it can cause unpleasant side effects, such as heartburn and upset stomach.
Ginger tea can be taken on an empty stomach. However, doing so can increase the risk of an upset stomach.
Ginger can be consumed either raw or cooked. However, some individuals prefer cooked ginger as the raw form can have a very overpowering taste.
Ginger is full of benefits. It has anti-inflammatory effects, reduce nausea, aids digestion, balances blood sugar, and lowers cholesterol.
About Mr. Jonathan Valdez, MBA, RDN, CSG, CDN, CCM, CDE, ACE-CPT: Jonathan is the owner of Genki Nutrition and is the Media Spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.