You have an upset stomach, so you’re told to sip Ginger Ale to help calm it. But have you ever wondered why? Although Ginger Ale is relatively new, the use of ginger to treat stomach upset and nausea is not. Aside from treating nausea, ginger has other medicinal applications that have been practiced for over 2,000 years.
What has it been used for?
- Upset stomach (including morning sickness and nausea/vomiting from cancer treatment and surgery)
- Motion sickness
- Loss of appetite
- Pain relief (arthritis, muscle soreness, menstrual pain)
- Upper respiratory tract infections
- Burns/skin pain (when used as a topical application)
So what exactly is ginger? How can it potentially help with these conditions? And is there any evidence behind its effectiveness in treating such ailments?
What is ginger?
The ginger we consume comes from the underground stem of the ginger plant. This knotted, light brown stem produces the aromatic herb that is often described as pungent and spicy. Aside from medicinal uses, ginger is widely used in cooking, where its distinct taste and aroma impart a unique flavor profile to many ethnic dishes. Ginger can be purchased in various forms, including: fresh, dried, ground, crystallized, preserved, pickled, or as ginger oil.
How does it work?
The ginger root contains active components that are thought to reduce inflammation and nausea. Some suggest that it also aids in blood circulation.
- Pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting
- Some studies have shown that ginger may be an effective treatment for pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting. An added benefit of using ginger in this application is the absence of adverse pregnancy-related outcomes (Note: always check with your health-care provider before beginning an herbal supplement, especially during pregnancy).
- Menstrual pain
- One study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine indicated that ginger taken during menstruation may reduce menstrual pain. In this study, 250 mg of a specific ginger extract was given four times per day during the first three days of the menstrual period. This regimen reduced pain as effectively as medications (mefenamic acid or ibuprofen) in 62% of women.
- Muscle pain
- In two double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized studies, ginger resulted in moderate-to-large decreases in muscle pain experienced from exercise-induced muscle injury.
- Following the evaluation of a study consisting of 247 participants, highly purified and standardized ginger extract resulted in moderately decreased symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee.
While none of these studies prove that ginger is always effective, they do shed light on its potential benefits. Overall, there appears to be few negative side effects resulting from the use of ginger when compared to the use of other medications. If you are experiencing any of the problems listed earlier, adding ginger to your diet may be helpful. Even if it doesn’t relieve a particular ailment, incorporating ginger’s distinct flavor into your meals may prove to be a benefit in itself.
So here’s to ginger, good health, and good eats.
Note: If you are contemplating taking ginger in the form of an herbal supplement, you should always check with your health-care provider first.