While many ginger-infused foods are trending, the use of ginger for all around health benefits is nothing new. Ginger root has been used as a “cure” in many cultures for thousands of years in its natural form. Today, ginger continues to be studied to understand its many benefits and limits.
There are hundreds of compounds in ginger, some of which make it useful for health, especially gingerol (a compound similar to the compound in hot peppers, capsaicin) and shogaols, which can can help to reduce inflammation, pain and risk for several chronic conditions, according to recent studies.
Most people are aware of ginger’s most popular medicinal use —treating a stomach in distress. Ginger enhances gastric emptying, which in turn helps control stomach pain, bloating and gas. It has also been found to be beneficial to help in pregnant women. Regular ginger supplementation isn't recommended in pregnancy because it's unknown how it could affect the developing baby. However, pregnant women given 1 gram of ginger per day, in one study, saw a decrease in nausea and vomiting, an anti-nausea effect that can possibly can benefit anyone.
Feeling better with ginger is a plus, even better is that it could help reduce longer-term risk factors. Some international studies have shown ginger can aid in regulating cholesterol, fasting blood glucose and blood pressure. Ginger can also help reduce appetite and one study showed that it may have helped participants with weight loss efforts.
Gingerol also has anti-inflammatory properties, which are being studied for potential cancer treatment and prevention effects, as well. One small study suggested that ginger helped reduce tumor growth, while another study showed reduction in many inflammation markers in the colon, which the authors suggested could reduce colon cancer risk.
What's the best way to use ginger?
Ginger can be a great addition to many recipes including sauces, soups, salads and other veggie dishes. It can also be used in beverages like homemade ginger water or tea and even smoothies. The popular "golden milk" can also include ginger to give it an additional anti-inflammatory kick.
It’s probably best to obtain ginger from the actual root, whether it's whole, grated, minced or matchsticks, to reap the most benefit.
Finally, even though the benefits of ginger are well documented, for some people, more is not necessarily better. Those who take blood thinners (including aspirin and anyone who frequently uses NSAID medications like ibuprofen and others), certain medications for diabetes or who are prone to gallstones should speak with a physician before consuming ginger.