Ginger is much more than a pungent spice. Ginger can soothe gastrointestinal upsets, reduce inflammation, and provide migraine relief.
Well known for its robust flavour, ginger is a staple in many Canadian kitchens. However, this versatile plant not only adds warmth to holiday baking and zing to Asian cuisine, but also holds vast therapeutic properties.
Ginger has played a fundamental role in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years. According to Nicole Green, a registered acupuncturist, “Ginger strengthens the body’s yang energy, which is the internal heat needed for all metabolic processes.” This means that ginger is extremely effective in combatting a variety of concerns, from gastrointestinal difficulties to migraine headaches.
There was good reasoning behind Mom’s ginger ale prescription for an upset stomach. In fact, for thousands of years, ginger has been used to treat gastrointestinal concerns. According to Green, ginger is effective in regulating the digestive system, relieving diarrhea and flatulence, and decreasing menstrual pain. Recent research supports the use of ginger in decreasing chemotherapy-induced and post-operative nausea and vomiting.
Furthermore, mothers-to-be might experiment with ginger to tame their turbulent tummies. In a recent study, pregnant women who took 250 mg of ginger in capsule form four times daily experienced decreased morning sickness symptoms (vomiting and nausea intensity). Ginger is typically safe to ingest during pregnancy at a maximum daily dosage of 1,000 mg; however, pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult their health care practitioner before taking ginger.
The nearly 3 million Canadians who suffer from migraines know that these headaches can cause debilitating pain and interfere with daily functioning. The good news for these sufferers is that ginger can substantially decrease headache severity.
In a recent study, 100 participants who experienced acute migraines were randomly assigned to take either a 250 mg ginger capsule or sumatriptan (a drug used for migraine relief) upon migraine onset. Results revealed that consuming ginger alleviated migraine pain as well as the synthetic drug.
Moreover, 20 percent of those who consumed sumatriptan experienced subjective side effects such as dizziness, vertigo, and heartburn. The only side effect reported by 4 percent of the ginger group was indigestion.
Anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities
Ginger also holds the potential to decrease inflammation and relieve discomfort for those suffering from arthritis and other types of pain. Sore from a tough workout? Before reaching for a painkiller, muscle-strained individuals might try ginger instead.
In a recent study, participants who consumed 2 g of ginger following an exercise routine that was designed to induce pain and inflammation reduced their muscle aches by about 25 percent. This is promising, considering that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) typically prescribed for pain and inflammation come with potentially serious gastrointestinal and cardiovascular risks.
The many forms of ginger
Ginger can be taken orally in several different forms, including capsules, teas, and tinctures. While many of these varieties provide healing benefits, selecting the appropriate amount and type can be challenging.
According to Green, one of the best ways to take ginger is to incorporate it into your diet. However, ginger capsules, available at your local health food store, are also a simple way to derive ginger’s health benefits, and may reduce some of ginger’s side effects, such as mouth irritation.
Research suggests taking 250 to 1,000 mg ginger in capsule form, one to four times daily (unless pregnant), with a maximum daily dosage of 4,000 mg. Consult your health care practitioner to determine your optimal dosage.
There are few serious side effects reported with using ginger; however, when taken in large amounts, heartburn, diarrhea, and mouth irritation may occur. Green cautions against giving ginger to children under two years, and recommends consulting a health care practitioner if you
- are pregnant or breastfeeding
- have a bleeding disorder and/or are taking drugs that interfere with blood clotting (such as Aspirin or warfarin)
- are taking hypoglycemic agents or insulin for diabetes
- have a heart condition
- suffer from gallstones
Always consult a health care practitioner if your condition does not improve or worsens with the use of this natural remedy.
Ginger’s various forms
The following amounts are equivalent to a 1,000 mg dose of a standardized ginger extract:
- 1 tsp (5 mL) freshly grated ginger
- 4 cups (1 L) store-bought ginger tea
- 4 cups (1 L) fresh ginger tea (see sidebar on page 84 for recipe)
- 1 cup (250 mL) ginger ale (made with real ginger)
Did you know?
- The ginger plant (Zingiber officinale) is part of the same family as its cousins cardamom and turmeric.
- It’s native to Southeast Asia but is widely cultivated in other tropical areas.
Although the edible part of the plant is typically referred to as ginger “root,” this knobby portion is actually the rhizome, the horizontal stem of the plant that sends out the roots.
Healing ginger tea
Ginger is a superstar when it comes to targeting runny noses, nasal congestion, phlegmy coughs, and itchy throats. To relieve cold symptoms, Green suggests drinking ginger tea and lying in bed covered with several thick, warm blankets. This will induce sweating, which will help draw out the cold and fever.
8 to 10 slices of fresh, unpeeled ginger root
4 cups (1 L) boiling water
Juice of 1/2 lime or 1/2 lemon, or to taste (optional)
1 tsp (5 mL) honey or agave nectar, or to taste (optional)
Wash ginger root well, and thinly slice into 8 to 10 pieces. Boil ginger slices in water for 10 to 20 minutes (the longer it’s boiled, the stronger and tangier the taste). Add lime or lemon juice and/or honey or agave, if desired. Strain, serve, and enjoy!
Makes 4 cups (1 L).
- Don’t love the taste of ginger? Try adding a teabag (such as camomile) to dilute ginger’s robust flavour.
- For a cooler treat, store tea in the fridge overnight and serve over ice.