Ginger Root: Benefits and Information
Ginger root extract is derived from the root of the herb Zingiber officinale. Ginger is native to Asia, and is an ancient traditional remedy for a variety of conditions, including nausea, diarrhea, arthritis and colic.
Ginger is now one of the most popular herbal remedies for nausea and digestive problems. In low doses (i.e., 250mg x 4x/day), it’s considered safe for treating morning sickness during pregnancy. It’s also effective for treating motion sickness.
Beyond its use as a digestive/stomach aid, research suggests other therapeutic uses for ginger (or isolated components). For example, it may improve blood lipid levels. In one human clinical trial, hyperlipidemic subjects given 3g of dried, powdered ginger for 45 days had statistically significant reductions in serum triglycerides, total cholesterol and LDL/VLDL cholesterol (aka “bad cholesterol”). Similar results have also been seen in studies on rats and mice.
Ginger root extract has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well. This is why it’s often recommended as a natural treatment for arthritis, although studies are limited and inconclusive. Nonetheless, ginger’s anti-inflammatory activity may contribute to the anti-cancer effects observed in animal and cell culture experiments.
Ginger root extract may also have cardioprotective effects. Several animal/in-vitro experiments have shown it may help to reduce blood pressure, inhibit LDL cholesterol oxidation, and reduce the risk of blood clots (thrombosis). Human clinical trials are lacking, however, so it’s premature to recommend ginger for either the treatment or prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Finally, ginger may contribute to weight loss and improve metabolic health. For example, ginger root extracts reduced body weight/fat and diabetic symptoms in animal models. In addition, it contains thermogenic compounds and is being studied for its effects on energy metabolism. Such experiments demonstrate ginger has promise, although more work needs to be done before it can be regarded as a useful ingredient in over-the-counter weight loss supplements.
Ginger root extracs are available in powder, capsule, tablet and liquid forms. Also, the whole root can be made into a tea. For maximum effectiveness, it’s probably best to use supplements standardized for substances known as gingerols, the active ingredient in ginger root extract. Herbalists and nutritionists usually recommend products that contain 5% gingerols.
Commercial ginger teas and ginger ale are sometimes used to help treat stomach upset and nausea. Though these products do not usually contain significant amounts of ginger, they may have some soothing properties.
Very few side effects have been reported from the use of ginger root extract. In rare cases, very high doses may cause stomach irritation. To minimize this effect, ginger root can be taken with food. Also, because it is a natural blood thinner, people who are taking anticoagulant medications should not use ginger root extract without consulting a physician.