Ginger is often used as a home remedy to help settle upset stomachs and even combat travel sickness. It’s a tasty spice, which belongs to the Zingiberaceae family, the same family as turmeric and cardamom. It was popular in ancient Greece, China, and Rome, both as a culinary spice and for medicinal purposes. But is it really a useful medicinal spice?
All About Ginger
Ginger is a perennial plant with thick underground stems. It is cultivated mostly in tropical climates. Jamaican ginger is the most popular for use in cooking. The Chinese use dried ginger for its spiciness and fresh ginger when milder flavors are preferred.1
Ginger is made up of around 50 percent starches, nine percent protein, and six percent lipids, with some protease and volatile oils as well. It contains fatty acids, gingerol, shogaol, zingiberene, niacin, and vitamin A.
Ginger contains about three percent of the essential oil, which what contributes to the fragrance of the spice and contains a number of terpenes that contribute to the spice’s medicinal benefits. The volatile terpene gingerol, in particular, is interesting because it inhibits prostaglandin and leukotrienes formation, meaning that it can reduce inflammation.2
Ginger and Digestion
There are many home remedies that rely on ginger. For example, ginger tea is often used to help warm people up and promote perspiration. Many people swear by it as a way to fight coughs and colds. It can also help reduce nausea. Some of the top digestive benefits of ginger are outlined below.
Reduces Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy
Studies show that ginger can help reduce nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. In one recent study, researchers studied morning sickness in 508 women, of which roughly half were given ginger and half were given a placebo. The group that was given ginger was five times more likely to see improvement in their symptoms compared to the placebo group.3
Prevents Motion Sickness and Other Forms of Nausea
In traditional medicine, including Ayurvedic, Tibb-Unani, and Chinese medicine, ginger is known for soothing cramps and indigestion, as well as easing muscle soreness.
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Researchers have taken a renewed interest in these properties of ginger since the 1990s, and studies show that it can help with a range of digestive issues. In addition to the previously mentioned morning sickness treatment, it can be used to help with general motion sickness and nausea. The exact mechanism by which it works is unclear, but it is thought that certain compounds in ginger, including galanolactone and gingerol, can have an anti-serotonin and antiemetic effect.4
Another area where ginger’s antiemetic benefits have found to be useful is for remedying post-operative nausea. This is something that the medical profession has struggled with for a long time, but the gastric-emptying and stomach-settling impact of ginger can help patients who are recovering from operations.
Reduces the Risk of Peptic Ulcers
Stomach ulcers can be incredibly painful. They are usually caused by the presence of a bacteria known as H. pylori in the body. Ginger can help kill H. pylori and is thought to have powerful anti-ulcer properties. It is thought that the main compounds which have this effect are 6-gingesulfonic acid and gingerglycolipids.5
Using Ginger and Ginger Essential Oil for Digestive Benefits
The easiest way to enjoy ginger and to settle an upset stomach is to take 20 to 40g of sliced, fresh ginger and steep it in a cup of hot water. If you want to sweeten it, then use a little honey instead of sugar to maximize the antimicrobial effects. Some people like to add lemon instead of honey. Lemon water has its own benefits in terms of promoting digestive health.
Ginger essential oil can be used orally, but only in very small quantities because it is so concentrated.6 It is rare for people to experience allergic reactions to ginger, but it is possible to be allergic to the root, so if you notice adverse effects after consuming ginger or ginger essential oil, discontinue use immediately and seek advice from a doctor if the reaction is severe.
Ginger essential oil can also be used topically after dilution with a carrier oil to reduce inflammation, soothe aches and pains, and for its antimicrobial effects.7 This potent plant can also be used aromatically in a room diffuser or personal diffusers like Forest or Vibrant MONQ.
People who suffer from heartburn do sometimes find that ginger makes their symptoms worse. In addition, ginger and aspirin can interact with each other, so if you are taking aspirin for any reason, then you should avoid using ginger products.8
It is unlikely that the amount of ginger found in biscuits, cakes or other treats would have any impact, but ginger essential oil and ginger in therapeutic doses could cause bleeding and the blood-thinning impact of the aspirin may aggravate that.
As a general rule, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about any herbal remedies and essential oils that you are using to rule out the possibility of any adverse interactions.
Ginger is a versatile substance that can be used in drinks, cooking, and as a part of a healthful “shot.” Many people enjoy drinking ginger, turmeric, and apple or lemon juice as a morning pick-me-up that provides the benefits of a micronutrient-dense beverage that helps promote digestive health and boost energy throughout the day.
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