The health benefits of ginger have been known for centuries. As a natural home remedy, it has been proven to cure an array of ailments such as the common cough and cold. The potency of ginger has also been shown to combat cancer – even better than the leading chemotherapeutic drugs. Read more to learn an array of health benefits ginger poses to your health.
1. Ovarian Cancer Treatment
Ginger contains both antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties. The active ingredient in ginger, -gingerol, is an anti-inflammatory that inhibits the effects of NF-kB (a factor in ovarian cancer cell growth that may contribute towards increased transcription and translation of angiogenic factors). Researchers (1) found that treating cultured ovarian cancer cels with ginger resulted in NF-kB inactivation in addition to decreased secretion of VEGF and IL-8 (factors involved in tumour cell proliferation and angiogenesis). These results suggest that ginger effectively inhibits growth and secretion of angiogenic factors in ovarian cancer cells and may have the ability to treat and prevent ovarian cancer.
2. Colon Cancer Prevention
Helicobacter pylori is the main culprit associated with peptic ulcer disease and the development of gastric and colon cancer. A study done by Mahady et al. (2) found via in vitro studies that -gingerol (as seen previously) inhibited the growth of H.pylori strains which points to ginger’s chemopreventative effects against colon cancer.
How does ginger combat cancer cells? A study investigated ginger’s cancer fighting properties (3) and found that -gingerol causes cell cycle arrest in the G1 phase through down-regulation of cyclin D1. This isn’t the only way ginger combats cancer – some studies have found that ginger also induces apoptosis in cancerous cells (4).
3. Morning Sickness Relief
Morning sickness is a natural side effect of pregnancy, so finding ways in which expectant mothers can find natural relief from nausea is critical. Studies have found (5) that with 125mg of ginger extract (equivalent to 1.5g of dried ginger) given four times a day for four days significantly reduced nausea in women less than 20 weeks pregnant who had previously experienced morning sickness daily for at least a week. The placebo group (given a placebo) had no reductions in nausea. This effect was found after the first day of treatment! Follow-up of pregnancies revealed normal birth weights and gestational age with no effect on cognitive development, suggesting that ginger can be effectively used as a treatment for women suffering from morning sickness.
4. Motion Sickness Remedy
Being a traditional remedy for nausea, ginger is often used for individuals with motion sickness. Lien and colleagues (6) hypothesized that ginger improves motion sickness by preventing gastric dysrhythmias and elevated plasma vasopressin. They found that treating motion sickness patients with 1000-2000mg of ginger before undergoing a circular vection exercise reduced nausea, tachygastria, and plasma vasopressin. This suggests that ginger can effectively treat and prevent motion sickness. Juicing ginger raw and adding it to green juices or a lemon tea that is not boiling hot (so you do not ruin the ginger properties) is a great way to consume ginger before going on a plane or driving in a car.
Ginger has been used as an anti-inflammatory for centuries. The inhibitory effects of ginger on prostaglandin biosynthesis in the early 1970’s has been confirmed repeatedly by numerous researchers. The anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols (as seen in point number one) in ginger offer free radical protection by inhibiting the production of nitric oxide (7) which very quickly, under normal conditions, would form damaging free radicals called peroxynitrites.
Trying to fight the pain of arthritis? Patients with osteoarthritis of the knee underwent a six week study where they received either a placebo or ginger extract twice daily. At the end of the study, individuals who received the ginger extract had significantly less knee pain on standing when compared to patients receiving a placebo (8). Only the individuals who stayed on the program for six weeks showed dramatic improvement in knee pain – individuals who ended the program early showed no such effects.
6. Heartburn Relief
Ginger, being a natural aid for the gastrointestinal tract, has been used for more than 2000 years in china to treat diarrhea, stomach upset, and heartburn. Ginger is a carminative which is useful when wanting to relieve symptoms of indigestion (aka. heartburn) (9). It works by reducing spasms in the intestinal tract. Ginger also acts as a demuculent by decreasing inflammation and forming a protective barrier in the stomach against stomach acid or abdominal irritants.
7. Diabetic Nephropathy Prevention
Nephropathy (disease of the kidney) is one of the many complications diabetes poses to patients. Changes in plasma antioxidant capacity and lipid peroxidation were measured after ginger powder was administered to rats that were diabetic (with controls being non-diabetic rats and diabetic rats that were not treated) (10). After 8 weeks, antioxidant capacity in ginger treated rats was higher than the other two groups, as well as diabetes induced nephropathies which were also lower in the ginger treated group. This points to a possible mechanism in which ginger helps to reduce renal nephropathy.
8. Migraine Relief
Migraines are a pain to experience (if you have ever experienced them). These headaches can last up to 72 hours and are extremely debilitating. Pain from migraines result when blood vessels swell on the surface of the brain, an area that processes pain information. According to Mustafa and Srivastava (11), “ginger is reported in Ayurvedic and Tibb systems of medicine to be useful in neurological disorders [such as migraines]. It is proposed that administration of ginger may exert abortive and prophylactic effects in migraine headaches without any side-effects.” Instead of reaching for over-the-counter medications to treat your migraines (which often produce nasty side effects), try drinking ginger in a juice, or take ginger powder in pill form the next time you or someone you love experiences a migraine.
9. Menstrual Cramp Relief
Primary dysmenorrhea (cramping in the lower abdomen occurring just before or during menstruation) is one nasty side effect of getting your period (if you are a woman of course). A study was conducted using 150 students (12) with primary dysmenorrhea containing three groups – the ginger group took 250mg capsules of ginger rhizome powder four times daily for three days at the start of their menstrual period. The other two groups consisted of either 250mg of mefenamic acid or 400mg ibuprofen capsules on the same daily schedule. They found that all groups had significant decreases in menstrual cramping, with no significant differences between groups.This study shows that ginger was as effective as the drugs, and proves that ginger can be used to alleviate menstrual cramping instead of drugs which may pose side effects in the body that are otherwise undesirable.
10. Cold & Flu Prevention
Everyone is aware of the powerful effects that ginger has on combating colds and flus. Ginger is a potent anti-viral and makes a warming cold and flu remedy. Ginger’s active ingredients called gingerols and gingerdiols are effective in reducing some symptoms of viral infections. It also helps to reduce inflammation of the sinuses and help boost appetite. Making a warm ginger tea with lemon to sip on during the day will help alleviate some of the effects of colds and flus.
*Note: Ginger is generally safe, but every individual is also different – large quantities of ginger may lead to intestinal distress. Those on blood-thinners like aspirin should be aware that ginger can increase the anti-coagulation effect. It also increases bile secretion and therefore individuals suffering from gallstones should avoid ginger ingestion.
(1) Rhode, J., Fogoros, S., Zick, S., Wahl, H., Griffith, K., Huang, J., & Liu, R. (2007). Ginger inhibits cell growth and modulates angiogenic factors in ovarian cancer cells. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 7.
(2) Mahady, G., Pendland, S., Yun, G., Lu, Z., & Stoia, A. (2003). Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) and gingerols inhibit the growth of Cag A+ strains of Heliobacter pylori. Anticancer Research, 3, 3699-3702.
(3) Kim, E., Min, J., Kim, T., Lee, S., Yang, H., Han, S., Kim, Y., & Kwon, Y. (2005). -Gingerol, a pungent ingredient of ginger inhibits angiogenesis in vitro and in vivo. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 335, 300-308.
(4) Lee, E., & Surh, Y. (1998). Induction of apoptosis in HL-60 cells by pungent vanilloids, -gingerol and -paradol. Cancer Letters, 134, 163-168.
(5) Willetts, K., Ekangaki, A., & Eden, J. (2003). Effect of a ginger extract on pregnancy-induced nausea: A randomized controlled trial. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 43, 139-144.
(6) Lien, H., Sun, W., Chen, Y., Kim, H., Hasler, W., & Owyang, C. (2002). Effects of ginger on motion sickness and gastric slow-wave dysrhythmias induced by circular vector. Neuroregulation and Motility, 284, 481-489.
(7) Ippoushi, K., Azuma, K., Ito, H., Horie, H., & Higashio, H. (2003). -Gingerol inhibits nitric oxide synthesis in activated J774.1 mouse macrophages and prevents peroxynitrite-induced oxidation and nitration reactions. Life Sciences, 26, 3427-3437.
(8) Altman, R., & Marcussen, K. (2001). Effects of a ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 44, 2531-2538.
(9) PaloAltoMedicalFoundation.org: Ginger
(10) Afshari, A., Shirpoor, A., Farshid, A., Saadatian, R., Yousef, R., Saboory, E., Illkhanizadeh, B., & Allameh, A. (2007). The effect of ginger on diabetic nephropathy, plasma antioxidant capacity and lipid peroxidation in rats. Food Chemistry, 101, 148-153.
(11) Mustafa, T., & Srivastava, K. (1990). Ginger (zingiber officinale) in migraine headache. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 29, 267-273.
(12) Giti, O., Marjan, G., & Fariborz, M. (2008). Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15, 129-132.