Ginger's Medicinal Benefits
From nausea to arthritis, ginger products can provide relief.
A common mother's home remedy for a tummy ache or nausea has long been a glass of ginger ale or ginger tea. It turns out mom was onto something.
"Ginger does appear to have several medicinal qualities," says Suzanna Zick, N.D., MPH, research investigator in family medicine at the University of Michigan Health System. Zick is specifically looking at whether ginger can be used to prevent nausea from chemotherapy. But, she says, ginger has also been shown to warm the body, settle the digestive tract and relieve some types of arthritis.
There are three main ways that ginger appears to help. First, its main constituent is a substance called gingerol, a strong free-radical that acts as an antioxidant. This works in nausea by decreasing oxidative products made in the digestive tract that cause nausea to occur.
Second, ginger causes the blood vessels to dilate, explaining its warming effect. The third factor is that it blocks serotonin receptors in the stomach that cause nausea. "What it actually does is blocks those receptors so serotonin can't go into them and cause more nausea," Zick says.
Fresh ginger root appears to have the most medicinal qualities. Zick recommends buying fresh ginger at the supermarket and grinding or chopping it to add to foods. The dried form of ginger may work well too. Ginger is available in capsule form, or you can get benefit from ginger tea, ginger ale and even things like ginger snap cookies as long as they are made with real ginger.