This morning, we enjoyed a homemade smoothie. Full of pineapple and ginger, it was sweet and oh-so-good! As I sipped it, the lingering hints of spice kicked my curiosity into gear. Next stop, a Google Scholar search asking:
What Are the Health Benefits of Ginger?
Curiosity about the health benefits of ginger also led researchers from The Seoul National University College of Pharmacy to conduct a remarkably comprehensive systematic meta-analysis review.
Published in January 2020, their effort included 109 randomized controlled trials neatly assigned to five different categories, plus a miscellaneous category.
Let’s review their findings.
1. Ginger, Nausea, and Vomiting:
43 percent of the trials qualified for the largest category – ginger’s antiemetic function. Antiemetic substances reduce nausea and vomiting.
Almost all of us have experienced episodes of nausea and vomiting during our lives. For cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, however, the attacks are particularly harsh.
The Oncology Nursing Society website suggests that up to 70% to 80% of chemotherapy patients feel nauseous and may vomit after their treatments.
The Seoul National University researchers included 16 studies on ginger and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). They revealed that ginger effectively reduced chemo-induced nausea and vomiting in both children and adults.
The researchers also observed that consuming ginger significantly improved CINV patients’ “quality of life.”
When my wife was six weeks pregnant with each of our children, nausea and vomiting, better known as “morning sickness,” would strike her. Of course, she wasn’t alone.
Nearly 75 percent of mothers have been through the same bouts of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (NVP).
But there’s hope for all moms-to-be! Fourteen of the clinical trials included in the review discovered that consuming ginger had a significant ability to alleviate NVP.
2. Ginger and Gastrointestinal Function:
Given ginger’s proven antiemetic effects, researching its protective effects on the gastrointestinal system made perfect sense.
The researchers looked at multiple studies focused on the “gastric emptying rate” (how smoothly the gastrointestinal system functions). Nearly all the research agreed: ginger is a “digestive enhancer.”
Four randomized controlled trials studied ginger’s protective effects against colorectal cancer. After reviewing them, the researchers confirmed:
“Collectively, ginger has a beneficial effect on colorectal cancer by reducing tumorigenic risk factors.”
3. Ginger’s Pain/Analgesic Function:
Pain can afflict almost any part of the human body. Ginger’s pain-reducing properties can relieve pain in nearly every part of it.
One extensively studied area of ginger’s pain-relieving health benefits is its analgesic effects on women with painful menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea).
Up to 91 percent of women suffer dysmenorrhea during their reproductive years. Ginger can lessen the pain.
The pain-relieving health benefits of ginger also apply to:
- muscle pain
- migraines and headaches
- lower back pain
- chest pain
4. Ginger’s Anti-Inflammation Effects
The review included eight randomized controlled trials reporting on ginger’s anti-inflammatory effects. Six looked specifically at osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis results when joint cartilage begins wearing down. It’s most common in the hands, hips, and knees.
The eight trials agreed that osteoarthritis sufferers consuming ginger had lower disease-related inflammation than those taking a placebo. Rheumatoid arthritis patients enjoyed the same improvement.
5. Ginger and Metabolic Syndrome:
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) occurs in anyone with three of these five health issues:
- elevated blood sugar
- elevated blood pressure
- low HDL cholesterol
- elevated triglycerides
- excessive fat around the waist
MetS raises the risk of death from stroke, diabetes, or heart disease.
Several studies have evaluated ginger’s “significant lowering” of some MetS factors, particularly blood sugar and triglyceride levels.
Evidence also indicates that the health benefits of ginger extend to obesity-related factors, including:
- body fat percentage
- body fat mass
- waist circumference
- waist-to-hip ratio
- total cholesterol
and insulin resistance.
Ginger’s Other Clinical Functions:
The extensive review ended with a few miscellaneous studies.
One revealed ginger’s ability to reduce an adult respiratory distress (ARDS) patient’s time on a mechanical ventilator and in an intensive care unit (ICU). Ginger also helps alleviate asthma symptoms.
And, in a random study of girls aged 15 to 18 with heavy menstrual bleeding, the teens taking ginger lost significantly less menstrual blood loss than the control group.
Ginger even boosted breast milk volume impressively in women on the third day after they’d given birth!
An enormous body of supporting evidence indicates that the health benefits of ginger place it among the most potent plant-based healers.
So now it’s time for another ginger smoothie!