The Health Benefits Associated with Eating and Drinking Ginger
After generations of use in nearly every type of recipe, ginger has earned its place as a spice rack essential. but it's also gained a reputation as a reliable natural remedy for nausea. The National Center for Biotechnology Information at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) dates the earliest records of ginger at more than 3,000 years old; later, producers in India introduced it to the Roman Empire and it has remained popular in Europe—and throughout the world—ever since. Unlike other plants that boast tasty fruit or nutrient-rich greens, ginger's most prized component is its rhizome: A knotty stem that serves as a central point for its roots.
Since the oils in ginger intensify as the rhizome ages, growers harvest the plant based on its use. For ground ginger, they remove it from the ground at around nine months; for fresh, around five. Here, a look at all the health benefits associated with eating and drinking ginger.
What Is Ginger Good For?
"Ginger is delicious, I cook with it all the time," says Dr. Craig Hopp, deputy director of the division of extramural research at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the NIH. "And it has a fairly long track record of being used for different types of [gastrointestinal] (GI) uses. Especially for nausea, morning sickness, chemotherapy-induced nausea, all forms of nausea basically—ginger has been shown to be helpful for those conditions."
Ginger's ability to calm an upset stomach explains why your mom always pushed cups of ginger ale when you were home sick from school—although maybe you should have asked for a cookie. "My kids are all in their teens now," says Dr. Hopp, "but when my wife was pregnant, gingersnaps were by the bedside all the time for morning sickness." Researchers continue to consider ways ginger could affect other health issues, including inflammatory conditions and asthma. "It's one of these things people continue to have an interest in, in terms of researching it in different contexts," says Dr. Hopp.
How to Add Ginger to Your Diet
The warmth and richness of ginger adds depth to sweet or savory dishes, making it an especially versatile part of your pantry. Mix it into a Caprihana Cocktail or a traditional margarita with a ginger twist, use it to give broccoli or carrots a boost, or let it shine in Asian Chicken with Ginger Over Rice or Indian Golden Dal with Gingered Tomatoes. It's also an iconic cold-weather dessert flavor: think gingerbread men, ginger shortbread, gingerbread houses, and traditional gingerbread.
Ginger as a Supplement
If you don't care for the distinctive smell or taste of ginger, dietary supplement manufacturers also offer it in capsule form, which should have a similar effect. "I think the benefits do not require that you be able to smell or taste the ginger," says Dr. Hopp. "It's the components in the ginger that are providing that anti-nausea benefit." Though Dr. Hopp says there's no indication of serious side effects from taking too much—minor issues include, ironically, an upset stomach—ginger in a capsule form won't have the "self-limiting" quality that it does when raw. "Really, if you've ever eaten raw ginger," says Dr. Hopp, "you can only eat so much of that stuff."