People have used ginger in cooking and medicine since antiquity. It remains a popular home remedy for nausea, stomach pain, and other health issues.
People typically use fresh or dried ginger in cooking or herbal tea, and some take ginger supplements for their possible health benefits.
Ginger root comes from the Zingiber officinale plant, and it has been used in Chinese and Indian medicine for thousands of years.
Ginger may help relieve nausea and vomiting and aid digestion. Antioxidants and other nutrients in ginger root may help prevent or treat arthritis, inflammation, and various types of infection. Ginger may also reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, and other health problems.
Ginger may have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Below are some of ginger’s potential medicinal uses.
Reducing gas and improving digestion
According to a 2018 review, several studies have investigated ginger’s effects on the gasses that form in the intestinal tract during digestion. This research indicates that enzymes in ginger can help break up and expel this gas, providing relief from any discomfort.
In addition, the research shows that ginger may help increase movement through the digestive tract, suggesting that it may relieve or prevent constipation.
Ginger also appears to have beneficial effects on the enzyme pancreatic lipase, which aids digestion in the small intestine.
A 2020 review indicates that ginger can help alleviate morning sickness and relieve nausea following cancer treatment.
A 2016 review suggests that the odor-producing principles gingerols and shogaols are effective in preventing nausea and vomiting. However, the amounts of those compounds can vary, depending on the form of ginger. The researchers determined that dried ginger, followed by fresh ginger and powdered ginger tea had the highest concentrations of gingerol.
One study that the review analyzed included 576 adult cancer patients. The scientists found that doses of 0.5 grams (g) and 1.0 g were most effective at reducing nausea.
Of the seven studies analyzed, five showed ginger to be beneficial, while two found no beneficial outcomes. The authors of the review suggest that the mixed results may stem from differences in the forms and preparations of ginger.
They also called for further studies in humans, in order to fully understand the effects of ginger on nausea and other gastrointestinal issues.
Supporting the immune system
Many people use ginger to help recover from a cold or the flu. However, the evidence supporting this use is mostly anecdotal.
In an older study from 2013, researchers investigated the effects of fresh and dried ginger on one respiratory virus in human cells. The results suggest that fresh ginger may help protect the respiratory system, while dried ginger did not have the same impact.
A large cross-sectional study from 2017 suggested that daily ginger consumption may support the immune system. This may protect against chronic disease and support recovery from other illnesses, such as the common cold or flu.
A small 2019 study on the effects of ginger extract on smokers and nonsmokers found that daily consumption of ginger extract was associated with a stronger antibody response in nonsmokers.
However, confirming ginger’s effects on the immune system will require further research.
A 2015 review concluded that taking ginger by mouth is “modestly efficacious and reasonably safe” for treating inflammation caused by osteoarthritis.
Meanwhile, a 2017 review of 16 clinical trials determined that the phytochemical properties in ginger may combat inflammation. These authors also called for further research into the most effective dosages and types of ginger extract.
Ginger may ease pain through anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of its gingerol compounds.
A 2016 review concluded that ginger may specifically help reduce dysmenorrhea — pain right before or during a period. However, the authors acknowledge that the studies they had reviewed were often small or of poor quality.
Fully exploring a connection between ginger consumption and pain relief will require more research.
Supporting cardiovascular health
There is some evidence that ginger extract may help prevent cardiovascular disease.
A 2017 study of 4,628 people found that daily ginger consumption may protect against coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, cerebrovascular disease, and fatty liver disease, among other chronic conditions. The authors concluded that ginger may have potential as a preventive therapy.
Determining whether ginger may support treatment for those with cardiovascular disease will require further research.
Meanwhile, a small 2016 study found that ginger extract helped reduce the occurrence of heart abnormalities in rats with diabetes. The authors noted that this reduction may stem, in part, from the antioxidant properties of the extract.
Lowering cancer risk
Ginger does not provide protein or other nutrients, but it is an excellent source of antioxidants. Research has shown that, for this reason, ginger can reduce various types of oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress can happen when too many free radicals build up in the body. Free radicals are toxic substances produced by metabolism and other factors.
When they build up in the body, free radicals can cause cellular damage, which can lead to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, heart attack, chronic inflammation, and cancer. Dietary antioxidants can help the body get rid of free radicals.
A 2015 review suggests that ginger may be effective against certain cancers of the gastrointestinal system, including colorectal cancer, gastric cancer, pancreatic cancer, and liver cancer.
The review concludes that ginger may inhibit the growth of cancer cells in certain types of cancer or contribute to the death of cancer cells in other types.
Nutrition and dosage
Ginger is a good source of antioxidants, but it does not provide many vitamins, minerals, or calories.
As the Department of Agriculture notes, 2 teaspoons of ginger provide only 4 calories and no significant amount of any nutrient.
Most of the research on ginger has looked at dosages of between 250 milligrams (mg) and 1 g, taken between one and four times each day.
The FDA considers ginger to be safe in the diet, but it does not guarantee or regulate its use as a medicine or supplement.
Researchers have not investigated many of the compounds in ginger. Also, scientific evidence does not support some claims about ginger’s healing qualities.
Before adding more ginger to the diet or taking a ginger supplement, consult a healthcare professional. Some supplements can interact with medications or cause other health complications.
Some research indicates that ginger may improve digestive health, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain, among other benefits.
However, studies often test very high dosages of extracts. A person may not experience positive health effects from simply adding more ginger to their diet.
Also, studies investigating the health benefits of ginger have often been small or inconclusive. Fully understanding the effects and safety of ginger supplements will require more research.