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8th March 2023

Spice Up Your Health: The Surprising Benefits of Ginger

The Surprising Benefits of Ginger

A member of the same botanical family as turmeric and cardamom, ginger has an aroma and flavour well known to most of us from the biscuits, ginger beer, and bonfire-night parkin of childhood to mixers for spirits. But there is much more to this popular spice than we may have realised. It would appear from health-related scientific findings that ginger can provide us with very much more than gingerbread men and sponge pudding.

The History of Ginger

Indian and Chinese medicine has made full use of the health-giving properties of ginger for over five thousand years. Two thousand years ago it became a very important trading commodity between India and the Roman Empire where it was highly valued for its medicinal properties. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, European countries were still desperate to get their hands on a regular supply of ginger, not only for its spicy flavour but also for medicinal purposes. For many centuries they had to trade with Arab merchants who controlled the spice trade, and during the 13th and 14th centuries the value of one pound of ginger was equivalent in value to one sheep.

The word ‘ginger’ is derived from the Middle English word gingivere, but going back still further, the Sanskrit word for ginger was srngaveram, meaning horn root, from the appearance of its curling roots. The Greeks knew it as ziggiberis, and in Latin it was called zinziberi. It is thought that ginger has only ever been grown in cultivation and its true origins are not known.

Indian and Chinese medicine has made full use of the health-giving properties of ginger for over five thousand years.


The sweet but peppery flavour and aroma of ginger is due to the presence of a ketone known as gingerol. This is the primary compound extracted from within the ginger plant, and particularly from the rhizome, which is the horizontal stem out of which the roots grown. It is this ketone which has been the subject of much scientific research.

The Many Uses of Ginger

You will find ginger in many forms, including fresh, dried, powdered, ground, preserved, pickled, and crystalized. In fresh roots, the concentration of essential oils is higher in older plants, so for most culinary purposes and for making herbal teas, the ginger is harvested at about 9 months old.

When making pickled ginger, the root is sliced into a sweetened vinegar which turns it pink. This is often used in Asian dishes, particularly sushi.

When ginger is harvested at more than 9 months old it has a tougher skin which needs to be removed and it is usually used for drying and storing in powdered or ground form, such as the bottle you may have in your spice rack. In this form it is often used in recipes for cakes and biscuits.

Crystallised ginger is usually made from young rhizomes, about 5 months old, and is cooked in sugar syrup before being bottled or coated with sugar. This young ginger has a milder flavour.

Health Benefits of Ginger

Ginger is a spice with huge versatility. Apart from its ability to add a zingy flavour to both sweet and savoury dishes, it has been used for centuries as an effective natural remedy for a variety of ailments. These include:

  • Helping to relieve nausea
  • Easing the discomfort of a sore throat
  • Calming acid reflux
  • Improving digestion
  • Supporting cognitive health
  • Reducing risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Giving antioxidant protection
  • Providing anti-inflammatory support

How Does Ginger Relieve Nausea and Vomiting?

Research has shown that gingerol, which is the main bioactive component in fresh ginger, and shogaols, a related compound responsible for the pungent flavour of ginger, work by accelerating gastric emptying and stimulating gastric contractions.

Motion Sickness

This is a type of nausea that could cause you to feel sick when traveling on boats, cars, or planes. Ginger has been found to reduce this type of sickness for many sufferers. Researchers are not certain, but presume, that it works by keeping the digestive function stable and blood pressure consistent, two criteria which can reduce feelings of nausea. One study concluded that ginger was more effective than Dramamine, a commonly used travel sickness medication. Another study found that taking 1 gram of ginger reduced the intensity of seasickness.

Pregnancy Sickness

Clinical studies have focussed on the therapeutic role of ginger on pregnancy-induced nausea. The emphasis has been to establish a role for ginger as a side-effect free alternative to pharmaceutical anti-sickness drugs. For pregnancy sickness, particularly in the first trimester, ginger has been found to be very helpful in alleviating morning sickness and easing vomiting.

It is not advisable to take ginger supplements close to labour, as it could worsen bleeding, and this applies also to women with a history of miscarriage or blood-clotting disorders.


For chemotherapy patients, ginger has been found to be a good alternative to pharmaceutical drugs in easing nausea.

How Does Ginger Ease a Sore Throat?

We are all too familiar with that itchy, dry soreness in the throat that can often herald the start of a cold. The throat may be red and swollen and this is one of the first signs of a viral or bacterial infection such as flu, tonsillitis, pharyngitis or laryngitis. It could also be the result of acid reflux irritating the throat. Swallowing becomes painful and often difficult and sometimes the voice is affected, making you sound hoarse and croaky.

Research has found that ginger can help both in prevention and treatment of a sore throat.



Research has found that ginger can help both in prevention and treatment of a sore throat for the following reasons:

  • Anti-inflammatory
    • A sore throat is the result of inflammation and because ginger has anti-inflammatory properties it works in the same way as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug which is used to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Immune System Support
    • Ginger contains gingerols, paradols, sesquiterpenes, shogaol, and zingerone which are all rich in antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are the compounds in food that scavenge and de-activate rogue cells known as free radicals. This process strengthens the immune system.
  • Inhibiting Bacteria, Pathogens, and Toxins
    • These are all known as microbes, and can cause a sore throat. A bacteria called streptococcus pyogenes is what causes the condition known as strep throat. A clinical study has found that ginger extracted from the root and leaves of the plant may potentially prove effective for inhibiting the streptococcus bacteria.
    • When your body is fighting a bacterial infection or virus, a sore throat is often the first sign that your lymph glands are doing their job of fighting the pathogens. As reassuring as this is, the discomfort it brings can benefit greatly from plenty of drinks containing natural infection-fighting herbal extracts.

Our Soothe Tisane is a combination of ginger, liquorice root, cinnamon, echinacea and marshmallow, all of which are known to ease the discomfort of a sore throat. Read more about Soothe Tisane.

Certain cases of throat infection may require medical attention so if you are concerned you should consult a doctor.

How Does Ginger Relieve Acid Reflux and Heartburn?

Studies into the use of ginger for easing the symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn are ongoing but there is a great deal of evidence that it has been used for this purpose for centuries in civilisations worldwide. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger provides natural support for gastrointestinal disorders, and it may be taken as an ingredient in either sweet or savoury dishes. It is often made into a soothing tea or taken in supplement form as a capsule. Some of the reasons why including ginger in your diet to help with acid reflux and heartburn:

  • Ginger contains phenolic chemicals that can help with gastrointestinal inflammation (GI). Phenols also inhibit gastric contractions which could otherwise allow stomach acid to flow into the oesophagus. Participants of a 2011 study found that taking ginger supplements caused a significant decrease in GI inflammation within one month.
  • When you consume ginger, it causes a tightening of the lower oesophageal sphincter which is the band of muscle connecting the stomach with the oesophagus. This reduces the risk of stomach acid flowing back into the oesophagus.
  • Drinking ginger tea or including ginger with food has been found to help with reducing excess stomach acid after meals.

An interesting fact is that one of the chemicals occurring naturally in ginger is also an ingredient in certain antacid medications.

It’s fine to use ginger for the occasional relief of acid reflux or heartburn, but if the problem keeps recurring, medical advice should be sought to ensure it is not an indication of something more serious.

Read more about acid reflux and heartburn in our blog.

Ginger For Improved Digestion

One of the natural components of ginger root, known as gingerol, provides great gastrointestinal benefits.


One of the natural components of ginger root, known as gingerol, provides great gastrointestinal benefits. It increases the speed at which foods leaves the stomach and get used in the digestive process. This is one of the main reasons that eating ginger encourages efficient digestion, but another factor is its ability to reduce gastrointestinal irritation.

There have been research studies and clinical trials conducted on the use of ginger to treat a wide range of gastrointestinal conditions, including gastritis and ulcers. In assessing the use of the compounds extracted from ginger for medical purposes, it would seem that further research is needed to firmly establish the required dosage.

Including ginger in various dishes has the effect of helping to boost the nutrient absorption of your food. This is because ginger has a controlling effect on the flow of juices in the gastrointestinal tract.

Ginger from fresh root may be peeled, sliced, diced, or minced and added to dishes such as stir-fries, fish, meats, and vegetables. It’s a staple ingredient in curries and most Asian dishes. Ginger is also great in soups and fruit or vegetable smoothies. A tea made with ginger is very soothing for the digestive system.

Ginger for Cognitive Health

When it comes to boosting brain function, ginger is packed with anti-inflammatory properties that can support cognitive health. It can increase serotonin and dopamine levels which means it may be helpful in cases of low mood and depression.

Because of the two major active components of ginger – gingerol and shogaol, which are essential for preventing oxidative stress and inflammation, ginger has a positive effect on degenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Because it reduces inflammation, research has found that it can have a positive effect on memory and concentration. One particular study found ginger to be particularly helpful for middle-aged participants already displaying a degree of cognitive impairment.

Ginger has also been found to provide benefits for anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as reducing the frequency of migraine headaches.

‘Balance’ is our natural, herbal tisane made with lemongrass and ginger. As well as ginger to boost mental energy levels, it contains Siberian Ginseng, a powerful tonic herb to help calm mental stress and exhaustion. Gotu Kola, a herb used for centuries in India to help memory, concentration, slow ageing, and calm anxiety. Lemongrass which contains many nutrients and antioxidants to help detoxify the body, relax tense muscles, and calm nerves.

Can Ginger Help with Cardiovascular Problems?

In recent years there have been several clinical studies to examine the potential of the bioactive compounds of ginger to control or improve certain cardiovascular risk factors. These are mainly such issues as cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, or atherosclerosis.

The main object in the research into herbal treatments for what is a widespread condition with high mortality, is to find new drugs with greater potency but fewer adverse side effects. To this end, ginger has been found to be among the medicinal plants with appropriate beneficial health effects for use in cardiology medicine. It has also been deemed beneficial for including in the diet for therapeutic effect on cardiovascular issues.

Findings of the research studies state that the extracts of ginger are ‘cardioprotective due to its antihypertensive, antiplatelet, and cardiotonic effects.’

Using Ginger in Your Diet

Including ginger in your regular diet is very easy to do.


Including ginger in your regular diet is very easy to do. Due to its pleasant spicy flavour ginger enhances many dishes and has the advantage of offering anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to give your health a boost.

Here are a few ideas for using ginger in your everyday diet:

Ginger Tea (to soothe digestive discomfort or ease a sore throat)

  1. Take a one-inch piece of fresh root ginger, peel and finely chop
  2. In a small pan boil enough water for one mug or cup
  3. Add the chopped ginger to the boiled water and simmer for five minutes
  4. Remove from heat, cover, and steep for about 10 minutes
  5. Strain the liquid from the ginger pieces
  6. Re-heat if you wish
  7. An optional extra is to add a teaspoon of honey

Carrot, Apple, and Ginger Soup

2 tbs olive oil (add a little more if needed)
1 medium onion
2 tbsp of grated fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced, or grated
1 large apple, diced (no need to peel)
4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 pints of vegetable or chicken stock
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Small bunch of coriander, chopped
Swirl of cream to serve (optional)

  1. In a heavy-base pan, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook for approximately 5 minutes until clear but not browned.
  2. Add garlic and ginger and cook for a few minutes on low heat.
  3. Add chopped apple and carrots. Cook for a few minutes longer.
  4. Add stock, mix all thoroughly and increase heat to bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all ingredients have softened.
  5. If you have a stick blender, use to make soup smooth. Or you can put the liquid into a blender goblet, but be sure to do it in two stages, only half filling the goblet to avoid the hot liquid spurting out of the lid, and then return to the cooking pan.
  6. Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
  7. If the soup is too thick add more stock until it is the right consistency.
  8. Serve with a swirl of cream and sprinkle with chopped coriander.

Grilled Ginger Salmon

4 salmon fillets (about 4 oz each)
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice wine or rice wine vinegar

  1. In a shallow dish mix the sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, and rice wine/vinegar.
  2. Add salmon to the dish containing the marinade and turn it around until all sides are coated. Cover and put in the fridge for about an hour, longer if you have time. If you can turn the salmon over in the marinade a few times, it will help the flavour.
  3. Lightly oil a grill pan and heat to medium-high. Place the salmon fillets onto the grill and cook for five minutes, then turn them over and cook for five minutes on the other side. The fish is cooked when a knife inserted into the middle shows that the pink flesh is opaque.
  4. The remaining marinade may be heated and simmered in a small saucepan to pour over the finished dish.
  5. Serve with rice or noodles and some stir-fry vegetables.

Does Ginger Cause Side Effects?

A great deal of research has shown that ginger is safe to use for many conditions. Some people may experience side effects such as heartburn, wind, diarrhoea, or an upset stomach after eating it, but this depends upon the individual, the amount of ginger they have eaten and the frequency of use. These side-effects are usually associated with taking very large amounts.

In Pregnancy

If you are thinking of using ginger to ease the nausea of pregnancy, these research statistics will be of interest:

A review of 12 studies in 1,278 pregnant women concluded that taking less than 1,500 mg of ginger per day did not increase the risks of heartburn, miscarriage, or drowsiness. Doses above 1,500 mg of ginger per day were found to be slightly less effective at reducing pregnancy associated nausea.

It is not advisable to take ginger supplements close to labour, as it could worsen bleeding, and this applies also to women with a history of miscarriage or blood-clotting disorders.

Gallbladder Disease

If you experience gallbladder-related problems such as bilious attacks or pain after eating, taking large doses of ginger is thought to increase the flow of bile in your body, so using too much is not recommended.

Blood-Thinning Medication

Caution is advised if you use blood thinning medication, as ginger may interact badly with this type of drug.

If you are planning to use ginger as a medication for a particular condition, it is advisable to check with your doctor to be sure it will not interfere with any drugs you are taking.

The Big Picture

The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger make it a great choice for improving your immunity. It can help to reduce inflammation and boost your body’s natural ability to fight off infections. It is also great for aiding respiratory issues such as colds and sore throats. Plus, it’s a potent source of antioxidants, which can help to protect your body from damage caused by free radicals. So, if you’re looking for a way to improve your health and wellbeing, adding ginger to your diet could be a step in the right direction.

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