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Ginger – Health Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects

Ginger with scientific name of Zingiber officinale is originated from South East Asia. Iis used in food and beverages for its taste and flavor.

It has been in use for thousand years in Unani, Ayurvedic and Chinese system of medicine.

Ginger is considered safe for human consumption and can be regarded as a functional ingredient in our daily diet.

Functional food is a food that promotes health and prevents disease as an additional benefit. (Srinivasan K, 2017)

Constituents of Ginger:

Ginger is rich in bioactive components known as phytochemicals which are natural plant chemicals that exert their beneficial effects on human health.

Jolad et al (2004) categorized the constituents of ginger into volatile and nonvolatile components.

  • Volatile components as terpenes and terpenoids give taste and aroma to ginger.
  • Nonvolatile ingredients as gingerol, shogaols, paradols, and zingerone are attributed to its pungent nature.

Health Benefits of Ginger:

  • Antioxidant

Volatile oil of both dried and fresh ginger possesses antioxidant potential (El-Ghorab AH et al, 2010).

Antioxidants are the compounds that inhibit oxidation which is a process where free radicals are generated that build up the oxidative stress and damage human cells.

Antioxidants act by neutralizing these harmful molecules (free radicals) which are produced in response to negative factors like smoking, environmental, emotional and physical stress, disease conditions, alcohol abuse etc. thus exhibiting the positive impact on health and has shown to reduce the risk of chronic conditions like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, obesity and aging. (Yashin A et al, 2017).

  • Anti-inflammatory

Ginger is found to possess strong anti-inflammatory potential and because of this property it can be used in various allergic conditions and inflammatory diseases (Mashhadi et al, 2013).

Due to its property of anti-inflammatory action, it can be used to relieve the symptoms of arthritis which is the swelling and inflammation of joints (Grzanna et al, 2005).

  • Analgesic

These are the agents that relieve pain. Ginger is found to possess the activity of relieving pain. Black et al (2010) showed that supplementation with ginger on patients with muscle injury and pain caused by exercise, resulted in relieving moderate to high intensity pf pain.

These results were supportive of those by Altman & Marcussen (2001) that ginger reduces knee pain in patients with arthritis.

  • Cardioprotective

Ginger has a potential for treating and preventing heart conditions as blood pressure and atherosclerosis (cholesterol accumulation in arteries).

It reduces total cholesterol and lipids level (Nicoll & Henein, 2009)

Ginger extract is found to thrombolytic and can be useful in preventing platelet aggregation/ accumulation thus preventing the incidence of heart diseases and stroke. (Bordia A et al, 1997)

  • Antidiabetic

Ginger is found to treat diabetes and its complications. It was found that ginger when given orally for 20 days, reduced the increased glucose levels in diabetic rats (Bhandari et al, 2005).

  • Anticancer

Ginger contains many bioactive constituents that are pungent and possess strong anticancer activity. (Kundu JK et al, 2009).

Ginger and its components are effective in treating and preventing the progression of various types of cancers as colorectal, gastric, ovarian, liver, skin, breast, and prostate cancer (Mashhadi et al, 2013) 

  • Gastro protective

Ginger extract is found to have a gastroprotective effect. It can reverse the gastric ulcers by reducing lesions. (Singh PK, Kaur IP, 2012). It promotes digestive health relieving indigestion, constipation and ulcer (Mashhadi et al, 2013)

  • Hepato protective

Ginger and its extract are found to protect liver against liver toxicity induced by drugs so it can be used in incidence of acute liver injuries.

(Mallikarjuna K et al, 2008)

  • Nephroprotective

Ginger is found to be effective in treating acute and chronic renal failure. This protective effect on kidneys is due to its anti-inflammatory action.

Mahmoud et al (2012) reported that Intake of ginger not only prevents the progression of disease but also delays the need for replacement therapy.

In another study, it was observed that ginger either used alone or in combination with Vitamin E is found to protect the kidneys from toxic effects of an anticancer drug i.e. cisplatin. (Ajith et al, 2007)

  • Antimicrobial

Ginger possess strong antibacterial and mild antifungal activity and is found to be effective in preventing the growth of colon bacteria (Zadeh & Kor, 2014)

  • Alcohol abuse

Extract of Ginger is known to show a protective effect on alcohol-induced liver and brain injury. Ginger is found to possess detoxifying and antioxidant property against alcohol. (Shati AA, Elsaid FG, 2009)

  • Metabolic Functioning

Ginger was found to exert a protective effect on preventing the development of metabolic syndrome (Nammi et al, 2009).

Metabolic syndrome is the group of conditions that occurs due to too much fat and weight.

These include raised blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides levels, sugar level that leads to heart attack, hypertension, diabetes and stroke. Ginger reduces body weight and maintains healthy levels of sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.

  • Immunostimulant

Ginger is one of the major herb that can be used to boost immunity and promotes immune system of the body(Bárta et al, 2006)

  • Effectiveness in Nausea & Vomiting

Various studies have shown that ginger is effective in treating nausea (unease and urge to vomit) and vomiting in pregnancy and can also be used in combination with chemotherapy (cancer treatment) to reduce or resolve the incidence of nausea and vomiting associated with cancer treatment (Lete & Allué, 2016). It can also be used to relieve vertigo that is the spinning dizziness.

  • It is listed by British Herbal Compendium as a remedy for treating vomiting associated with pregnancy (Bradley, 1992).
  • Ginger can be considered as an inexpensive and safe alternative for nausea and vomiting when given in optimal doses.

Side Effects of Ginger:

Ginger is generally “recognized as safe” by US Food and Drug Administration (Bode & Dong, 2011).

Minor side effects that may occur may be (WebMD);

  • Heart burn
  • Diarrhea
  • Flatulence
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Stomach Discomfort
  • heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Skin irritation with topical use
  • Mouth irritation
  • Increased tendency of bleeding due to its thrombolytic property
  • In large doses it may cause irregular heartbeat.

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