Open any spice cabinet and you are likely to see ginger on the rack. Researchers continue to explore whether this spice has therapeutic value, too. Could ginger tea make you feel better?
Perhaps your mother had you sip ginger ale when you felt nauseated as a child. Many digestive, anti-nausea and cold and flu supplements sold in the United States contain ginger extract. Ginger root also has been a staple in Chinese, Japanese and Indian medicine since the 1500s.
The latest research
The strongest scientific findings on ginger's benefits involve pregnant women. Studies suggest that the short-term use of ginger may help relieve pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting. Ginger may also play a role in the treatment of nausea related to motion, surgery and chemotherapy. It is unclear whether ginger works in treating rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, joint and muscle pain or high blood pressure.
How much to use?
It's the underground root of the ginger plant that researchers believe may provide benefits. This is the same part of the ginger plant that is used for cooking and baking.
Common forms of ginger include fresh or dried root, capsules, tablets, teas and liquid extracts (tinctures). Caution: Discuss with your doctor prior to the use of any herb, supplement or vitamin while you are pregnant, as well as chronic health conditions.
No scientific studies have been done on the benefits of ginger found in certain foods or beverages. Chopping or grinding fresh ginger, though, may be more beneficial than a processed ginger tea bag or the dried commercial form of the spice.
Possible side effects
Ginger is generally considered a safe herb. And few side effects have been linked to the spice when taken in small doses. Gas, bloating, heartburn and mouth irritation are the most common side effects reported from taking extra ginger. Sometimes ginger can cause a mild upset stomach. This may be reduced by taking ginger capsules rather than powder.
Always check with your doctor first, though. Ginger can increase bleeding. If you take a blood-thinning medication, your doctor might advise against taking extra amounts of ginger. Tell your doctor about all medications you are currently taking. That includes prescriptions, over-the-counter products, vitamins and herbs.
So, should you include more ginger in your diet? Be aware that many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested. That means their safety and effectiveness is not proven. Always read product labels and discuss doses with your doctor before you start any new therapy on your own.
Created on 07/17/2008
Updated on 06/01/2012
- Michelfelder AJ, Lee KC, Bading EV. Integrative Medicine and Gastrointestinal Disease. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice. 2010; 37(2). Saunders.
- Maitre S, Neher J, Safranek S. Ginger for the treatment of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. American Family Physician. 2011:84(10).
- White B. Ginger: an overview. American Family Physician. 2007;75(11):1689-191.
- National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. Herbs at a glance: ginger.