11 Proven and Possible Health Benefits of Ginger

Medically Reviewed By Marie Lorraine Johnson MS, RD, CPT
Was this helpful?
126

Ginger can not only spice up a favorite dish or cup of tea, but it also has an impressive roster of proven and potential health benefits. The underground part of the stem of this tropical herb, called a rhizome, has been a component of Asian — particularly Chinese — medicine since around 400 B.C.

A 2016 review explains that the component gingerol may help with digestion, pain, and some chronic diseases. Another helpful component, shogaols, give ginger its zing. The same review says that the compounds in ginger have also shown antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.

If you want to add more gingerol to your nutrition, fresh ginger is the most potent source. However, you can also get gingerol in capsules, powder, and other forms. Although gingerol has few side effects, you should always check with your doctor before starting any supplement.

Here are some of the health benefits of ginger that experts have documented or are continuing to study.

Unseen person cutting raw ginger on wood board
Ana Rocio Garcia Franco/Getty Images

1. Promotes brain health

Some brain disorders may be related to chronic inflammation in the brain. Therefore, ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties could help slow the progression of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. It may help lessen inflammation and degeneration in the brain.

Ginger could also help you maintain more healthy brain cells, or neurons. A study of 60 middle-aged women in Thailand finds that ginger improves working memory, attention, and reaction time.

2. Soothes nausea

For centuries, people have used ginger to soothe upset stomachs. Some people have found that ginger helps ease nausea caused by morning sickness, chemotherapy, and anesthesia. It can also help ease symptoms of some gastrointestinal (GI) conditions.

In laboratory trials, researchers note that gingerol may calm the stomach by blocking serotonin receptors in the stomach lining. It also helps the body digest food more quickly, which can help an upset stomach.

3. Fights infection

In the lab, gingerol increased the number of T cells in human blood, which are important to the immune system. Ginger could be an aid in fighting infections and stopping bacterial growth.

Early research shows that ginger can tackle bacteria in the gut, mouth, and respiratory system. Therefore, it could help fight food poisoning due to Escherichia coli. It may be useful for problems of the teeth and gums due to bacterial overgrowth, like gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Ginger may ease symptoms of sore throat and cough associated with colds and flu. It could also help power up your immune system to fight these conditions off.

4. Lowers cholesterol

If you have high cholesterol, adding fresh or powdered ginger to your diet could help reduce LDL cholesterol, often called the “bad” cholesterol. Lowering LDL levels can help prevent atherosclerosis.

Ginger triggers a specific enzyme that helps monitor and control cholesterol levels by increasing how much your body uses. In a study of 60 people in Pakistan, participants who took 5 grams (g) of ginger powder a day for 3 months showed weight loss and lower LDL levels.

5. Reduces inflammation and pain

Inflammation is behind many types of acute or chronic pain, including musculoskeletal pain and arthritis. A 2014 review of various studies of ginger found that it reduced pain and increased function in people with osteoarthritis.

Ginger can also soothe sore muscles after exercise. Its potent anti-inflammatory effects also potentially could be beneficial for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

6. Lowers cancer risk

Ginger may have preventive benefits, including lowering the risk of some cancers. The antioxidants in ginger could neutralize harmful free radicals that may lead to some forms of cancer.

There is some laboratory evidence that ginger suppresses the formation of new blood vessels essential to tumor formation. It may even stop cancerous cells from reproducing.

Recent research has found that ginger may help prevent or suppress growth in colorectal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, lymphoma, and melanoma, the more deadly form of skin cancer. More human studies need to be done to confirm these findings.

7. Relieves menstrual cramps

Ginger has anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties that target the cause of period cramps, and it may be as or more effective than over-the-counter remedies.

A 2008 study of women in Iran finds that ginger helps relieve period cramps. Participants took a 500-milligram capsule of ginger powder for 5 days, and they noted significantly less pain. Ginger can also be easier on your GI system than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat period-related digestive symptoms.

8. Reduces migraine pain

In a study of 100 people, researchers find that ginger may work as well as the migraine drug sumatriptan to relieve migraine symptoms, such as pain and nausea.

Ginger can increase serotonin levels, which is the mechanism that some migraine medications use. A 2018 study published by the International Headache Society finds that ginger can also boost the effectiveness of NSAIDs taken for migraine headaches. The same study finds that ginger produces fewer side effects than sumatriptan but is similarly effective.

9. Boosts mental well-being

Taking ginger might help reduce the effects of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to laboratory research.

In a study published in the Asian Journal of Medical Sciences, researchers find that ginger increases serotonin and dopamine levels in rats. These hormones are key to a sense of happiness and well-being in humans.

Some experts believe depression and inflammation may be linked. Therefore, ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties may also help treat depression symptoms.

10. Helps digestion

Ginger can help improve digestion in a few ways. It has enzymes that can help alleviate gas. It also supports two digestive enzymes in our bodies: trypsin and lipase.

Ginger can ease the pressure on the connection between the esophagus and the stomach, reduce abdominal cramps, and prevent bloating and indigestion. It may also help constipation because it promotes the movement of food through the body.

11. Improves fertility

A study of 100 men in Iran who sought treatment for infertility finds that those who take ginger have lower levels of sperm DNA fragmentation. A review of studies published from 2004–2019 finds that ginger improves sperm quality, including quantity, viability, and motility.

In a study of female rats, researchers find that ginger stimulates the follicles that produce eggs. Ginger may also help fertilized eggs implant. However, no similar studies have been done on humans.

Frequently asked questions

Some other questions people often ask about the health benefits of ginger include:

What happens if you drink ginger every day?

Having some ginger every day — in any form — may aid digestion and fight free radicals, which are elements that can harm cells. Experts generally consider ginger safe to take every day.

What are the side effects of ginger?

Ginger does not have many known side effects. It may cause mild heartburn or abdominal discomfort if you take too much. Research generally considers ginger to be safe in amounts up to 1 g per day in any form.

Who should not take ginger?

People who are on blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder should not take ginger. If you are pregnant; have a heart condition, gallstones, or diabetes; or take blood pressure medication, talk with your doctor before you take ginger. If you are having surgery, ask your doctor about taking ginger prior to your procedure.

Summary

Ginger and its components have many potential health benefits. Ginger has shown anti-inflammatory properties and is high in antioxidants, which fight harmful free radicals. Ginger is also a home remedy for nausea, cramps, and indigestion.

Other potential health benefits include easing joint and migraine pain, boosting the immune system, and helping maintain brain function. However, studies on these benefits are not conclusive.

Ginger is generally safe to take with few side effects. However, always talk with your doctor or healthcare professional before starting any supplement.

Was this helpful?
126
Medical Reviewer: Marie Lorraine Johnson MS, RD, CPT
Last Review Date: 2022 May 12
View All Food, Nutrition and Diet Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.