Ginger is valued for many reasons—as a delicious, pungent spice, a tasty tea ingredient, sometimes even as a natural home remedy—but rarely as a bonafide medicine. This beautiful, golden root of ancient and widespread origin has been used for over 5,000 years in the healing systems of India and China, and yet it has been largely ignored by modern medicine.
As interest in functional foods as alternative medicines has grown, however, researchers have finally turned their attention toward the therapeutic properties of ginger. Unsurprisingly, they have confirmed the veracity of nearly every one of its ancient applications—and many experts believe that there are more still to discover. To date, studies suggest that ginger could be helpful for over 170 different medical conditions.
Let’s briefly review what medical research literature says about ginger as medicine. Even this small sampling should make it clear that ginger should be a staple in every household.
Antioxidant activity. One of the first things that researchers noticed when they dug into the bioactive components of ginger was its powerful antioxidant properties. The bioactive compounds in ginger are called gingerols, thirty-one of which have been discovered, and all of which effectively combat oxidative stress.
A large body of research demonstrates that ginger passes all antioxidant tests with flying colors. It has been shown to reduce age-related oxidative stress markers, to suppress the damaging peroxidation of fats, to reduce the production of superoxide (a powerful kind of damaging free radical), to protect levels of glutathione (the body’s “master antioxidant”), to guard against alcohol-induced liver toxicity, and even to reduce a special variety of oxidative stress associated with leukemia and other serious health conditions.
Anti-inflammatory activity. Ginger also fights inflammation, another one of the root causes of disease (along with oxidative stress). This property has made it a popular home remedy for arthritis and other painful conditions. When researchers put it to the test in a controlled setting, they found that ginger did exhibit potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects (especially a compound called -gingerol), and that it can be effectively used to manage both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
The mechanisms through which ginger quells inflammation are much less straightforward than some other remedies (certainly more than NSAIDs and similar painkillers)—it works through a complex web of both inhibitory and excitatory processes that modulate inflammatory response and relieve pain without any of the side effects of OTC medications and prescription drugs.
Nausea relief and stomach support. This is perhaps the folk use for which ginger is best known—at some point, you’ve probably been offered ginger tea for a sour stomach. Once again, modern research has vindicated this well-established use, demonstrating that it effectively calms the nausea and vomiting associated with stomach illness, pregnancy, chemotherapy treatment, and postoperative distress. It also effective for alleviating gas, preventing seasickness, and even treating stomach ulcers.
Natural cancer treatment. As we’ve covered at length in another article, ginger is an incredible natural cancer fighter. It’s been shown to be a whopping 10,000 times more effective than chemotherapy at targeting cancer stem cells (CSCs), the mother cells that control the proliferation of cancer cell colonies—and it works without any side effects. While it’s unlikely that ginger will completely replace chemotherapy and other toxic cancer treatment modalities anytime soon, ginger is being used in clinical settings to attenuate the toxicity, nausea, and other negative side effects associated with chemotherapy.
Disease protection and prevention. The more researchers dig into ginger, the more disease-fighting properties they uncover. Research has demonstrated that ginger can offer powerful protection for your heart (thanks to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiplatelet, hypotensive, and hypolipidemic properties).
And that’s just the beginning. A steady flow of research has shown that ginger can help prevent or even treat high cholesterol, asthma and allergic diseases, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and inflammatory bowel conditions like ulcerative colitis.
How to make the most of ginger
Some of the studies cited above simply used raw ginger powder to achieve the reported results, so this approach certainly has proven merit (and it’s nearly always the least expensive).
Simply brewing tea with ginger powder (or even mixing the powder into room temperature water) can provide relief from nausea, headaches, and other everyday maladies. Raw ginger root also adds a nice kick to smoothies and cooked dishes, so for an extra antioxidant and anti-inflammatory boost, throw some in whenever you think of it.
If you want to implement ginger as an acute therapeutic agent for the prevention and treatment of disease, though, it’s best to work with concentrated full-spectrum extracts and oils (especially those that have been optimally formulated for high bioavailability).
This product is our favorite, especially if you’re seeking out ginger for any kind of pain relief—it’s a powerful complex of liposomal ginger oil, curcumin (the famed healing component in turmeric), and vegan DHA (which also work wonders for many of the conditions discussed above).