Oct 5, 2013

7 Health Benefits of Ginger (with the proof!)

health benefits of gingerTo be honest, ginger was never really one of my favorite things to eat. It was just so potent and strong. But that didn't stop my mom from feeding me chunks of it as a kid for my little coughs or sore throat. She loved it. She swore by it. Unfortunately for me.

But she had a point.

Ginger is really good for you. It's been used by all the ancient traditional medicines (Ayurveda, Chinese, Greeks, etc) as the go-to spice for many ailments. And it fits in perfectly with the global swing towards healthier and smarter eating. But being logical and rational, we must have proof before we deep dive into ginger's awesomeness. Here's what the studies say:


Health Benefits of Ginger

Anti-cancer

The anti-cancer and anti-tumor effects of ginger are well established for many types of cancer. Studies have proven ginger and its constituents, namely [6]-gingerol and [6]-shogaol, are capable of:
  • directly suppressing colon cancer cell growth and inhibiting the blood supply of colon tumors1
  • inhibiting growth and inducing death of human prostate cancer cells2
  • inhibiting cell adhesion, invasion, movement and activities of human breast cancer cells lines3
  • inhibiting growth of ovarian cancer cells4
  • inhibiting growth and inducing cell death of human non-small cell lung cancer cells5

  • Studies have also shown ginger is effective against liver, skin, and pancreatic cancer. Interestingly, one study mentioned that the dietary prevalence of ginger in South East Asian countries (among other popular ingredients like garlic, turmeric, chilies, and green tea) may be the reason for lower cancer rates when compared to the US.

    Radio-protective

    Ginger has been found to be radio-protective; meaning it can protect you from the effects of radiation. One 2004 study investigated the effects of gamma radiation on mice pre-treated with ginger extract. It noted ginger protected the mice against gastrointestinal- and bone marrow-related deaths; and reduced the severity of radiation sickness symptoms and mortality. But treating the mice with ginger after exposure didn't help the mortality rates.6

    While intriguing, I don't think you'll have need for this health benefit of ginger. But you never know! Especially when you consider the leaks from the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan and the detection of radiation in Bluefin Tuna (and kelp) caught off the California coast.

    Anti-diabetic and cholesterol reduction

    Studies have suggested the anti-diabetic properties of ginger.

    One 2013 study looked at fasting blood glucose, total cholesterol, triglyceride, low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels of sixty-four type 2 diabetic patients; some of which were given ginger. The results showed that ginger supplementation significantly lowered the insulin, LDL, and triglyceride levels. Although it did not affect the other parameters, the researchers considered ginger a useful remedy for reducing secondary complications of diabetes.7

    Another study proved ginger reduced body weight, glucose, total and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and free fatty acids in rats on high-fat diets.8 Now, high body weight, glucose and cholesterol levels are precursor conditions to diabetes. Therefore, ginger can help to prevent and regulate diabetes.

    Anti-coagulant

    Ginger can thin your blood; that is according to a 1997 study. It showed patients with coronary artery disease who took four grams of powdered ginger for three months didn't see any change in their blood. However, one single dose of TEN grams of powdered ginger caused significant reduction in platelet aggregation.9 Now platelets are remnants of blood cells and when they aggregate or clump together, they can form a blood clot. For those suffering from heart disease, clots can cause heart attacks and strokes. And ginger can reduce clot formation and promote better blood circulation.

    Anti-inflammatory

    Several studies have tested and proven ginger's anti-inflammatory health benefits. One in particular showed that patients suffering from either rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or muscular discomfort all experienced pain relief and reduction of swelling after using powdered ginger. And the patients reported no side effects during their ginger consumption which ranged from three months to two and a half years. This is especially important as many anti-inflammatory, gold salts, corticosteroids, and disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs have exhibited negative side effects.10

    Antimicrobial

    Ginger exhibits antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal health benefits.

    A recent study tested ginger and three antibiotics on two pathogenic bacteria: Staphylococcus aureus (common cause of skin infections, sinusitis, food poisoning, and can lead to toxic shock syndrome) and Streptococcus pyogenes (which causes infections like strep throat and can also lead to toxic shock syndrome and scarlet fever). The results showed ginger produced the highest antibacterial activity when compared to the antibiotics. The study also suggested using ginger alongside conventional antibiotics for fighting agents of infections.11

    Antifungal effects were made clear in a 2003 study published in Mycoses. Extracts from twenty-nine plant species were used against thirteen human pathogenic fungi. The study specifically pointed out ginger's pronounced antifungal activity against a wide variety of fungi including strains highly resistant to commonly used antifungals.12

    Reduces nausea

    Ginger is also beneficial for nausea, morning sickness and motion sickness. In fact, one study stated that ginger was more effective than vitamin B6 for relieving the severity of nausea and just as effective for reducing the number of vomiting incidences in the first trimester.13

    Consult your doctor

    There are so many other awesome properties and health benefits of ginger. For instance, it's known to stimulate digestion, prevent ulcers, and ease menstrual pain. But we can't just go gorging ourselves with ginger. Although ginger is safe, it is an anticoagulant or blood thinner so if you're taking any medication (like aspirin, warfarin, etc) or if you have to undergo surgery, you should talk to your doctor about the right amount to have every day or every week.

    Side note: I guess mom was right about ginger after all!