Health Benefits of Ginger: The Stomach Soother
The funky root of the flowering ginger plant isn’t just the base of a great Moscow Mule—it’s also been heralded for its medicinal properties and health benefits. For centuries and across cultures, people have capitalized on these health benefits of ginger, which include the ability relieve pain, nausea, and other stomach troubles.
“It’s a great anti-inflammatory and a wonderful digestive herb,” says Svetlana Kogan, M.D., a family physician in New York City and author of Diet Slave No More. In Ayurvedic medicine, the root is believed to ignite the digestive fire, she says: “For people with indigestion, bloatedness, IBS, those types of things, ginger is indispensable.”
Behind ginger’s magic is its phenol compounds, which include several health benefits:
- The ability to soothe gastrointestinal irritation.
- The ability to stimulate the production of bile and saliva.
- The ability to slow the movement of food and drinks through the GI tract (for better breakdown).
The root is also a powerful anti-inflammatory—especially when combined with other inflammation-fighting herbs, such as ashwagandha, boswellia, and turmeric. One small study found that taking ginger supplements daily cut exercise-induced pain by a quarter. Ginger also seems to reduce menstrual pain; in one experiment, 83 percent of women taking ginger supplements experienced less pain, compared to 47 percent of those on placebo pills. More impressively, research in the journal Cancer Prevention Research noted that ginger capsules significantly cut inflammation markers in the colon within a month. By tamping down inflammation, researchers suspect they cut down the risk of colon cancer, too.
How to Use It
The simplest way to get more ginger is to start picking it up at the grocery store: Mince it and add to stirfrys, chop it up and whir it into smoothies, and (our favorite) muddle it in a cocktail shaker to perk up a mojito, vodka-soda, or even Bloody Mary. You can also chew on fresh or candied ginger or make fresh ginger tea: Slice up about an ounce of fresh ginger and steep it in hot water. Or take the lazy route and pop a ginger pill. “I would have it 10 minutes before a meal so that it hits the stomach first, followed by food,” Kogan adds.