Find out all about ginger, including what it does, the benefits to taking it and how much you might need
Written by: Rosalind Ryan, December 7, 2018
Reviewed by: dietitian and nutritionist Azmina Govindji, December 11, 2018
What is ginger and what does it do?
Ginger is most often used as an ingredient in South East Asian and Indian cooking, but the spicy root has traditionally been used as a herbal remedy for centuries, too.
It’s part of the Zingiberaceae family, which also includes turmeric – another edible plant with powerful health properties.1
Ginger is most often used to ease nausea, particularly during pregnancy,2 but it also has anti-inflammatory activities, which may make it an effective painkiller and help to relieve inflammatory conditions like arthritis.3
You can take ginger fresh, dried or powdered as a tea, in food, or as a supplement.
Benefits of ginger
What does ginger do in the body?
The active compounds in ginger are called gingerols. Research suggests that these have antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties.4 This means ginger has been found to have a number of beneficial effects on our health and wellbeing.5
It can ease digestion – Indian researchers reported in 2004 that ginger could stimulate a number of digestive enzymes, speeding up the time it takes our body to process food, which could help prevent conditions such as constipation.6
Ginger has also been shown to be effective for indigestion. Research led by the Chang Gung University College of Medicine in Taiwan in 2011 discovered that in patients with chronic indigestion who consumed powdered ginger before a meal, their stomachs emptied 50% faster.7 In turn, this reduced the length time they experienced symptoms of indigestion, such as abdominal pain.
It can tackle osteoarthritis symptoms – several studies have found that ginger reduces the production of various chemicals in the body, including leukotrienes, that trigger joint inflammation.8 A 2015 meta-analysis of evidence concluded that ginger was a ‘modestly efficacious and reasonably safe for treatment of OA’.9 Versus Arthritis also says that ginger has ‘moderately beneficial effects in reducing pain and disability’.10
It can relieve nausea – ginger is probably most well-known for helping to calm a nervous or nauseous stomach. Research shows that ginger can ease the symptoms of motion sickness, seasickness, morning sickness, and even nausea caused by certain medical treatments, such as chemotherapy.11
It works as a natural pain relief – if you’re in training or recently upped your fitness regime, add ginger to your gym kit. US researchers found that taking 2g of ginger after an exercise session reduced muscle soreness by 25%.12 In addition, a 2009 study by Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Iran, revealed that ginger was effective at relieving menstrual abdominal cramps.13
How much ginger is safe to take?
There is no reference nutrient intake (RNI) for ginger, but it’s not recommended that you consume more than 3-4g of ginger a day from all sources, including food and supplements.14
Research so far has found that using ginger for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy has no harmful effects on the mother or baby’s health,15 but pregnant women are advised to consume no more than 1g of ginger a day.16
What are the side-effects of taking ginger?
If you do ingest too much ginger, you may experience:17
- burning or painful mouth
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding or taking any medication, talk to your GP before upping your intake of ginger, either fresh or as supplements.
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
1. Megan Ware. Medical News Today. Ginger – health benefits and dietary tips
2. The Association of UK Dietitians. Pregnancy
3. Semwal RB, et al. Gingerols and shogaols: Important nutraceutical principles from ginger
4. As above
5. Jo Leech. Healthline. 11 Proven Health Benefits of Ginger
6. Platel K and Srinivasan K. Digestive stimulant action of spices: A myth or reality?
7. Ming-Luen H, et al. Effect of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia
8. Versus Arthritis. Ginger
9. Bartels EM, et al. Efficacy and safety of ginger in osteoarthritis patients: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials
10. As Source 8
11. Ernst E, Pittler MH. Efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials
12. Black CD, et al. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces muscle pain caused by eccentric exercise
13. Ozgoli G, Goli M, Moattar F. Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea
14. Taylor Norris. Healthline. What are the benefits and side-effects of ginger water?
15. Boltman-Binkowski H. A systematic review: Are herbal and homeopathic remedies used during pregnancy safe?
16. As Source 14
17. As Source 14