Benefits of Ginger: How It Heals Indigestion and More

Updated: Jul. 01, 2016

Think beyond ginger ale.


This tasty spice has been used as both a condiment and a medicine for centuries. It was a staple at Roman banquets, to counter symptoms of overindulgence, and was much favored in ancient China and in India’s Ayurvedic medicine as a remedy for indigestion, stomachaches, respiratory congestion, constipation, and diarrhea. It was also used as a tonic for women’s gynecological conditions, being thought to stimulate the flow of qi, or energy, to the reproductive organs.

How Ginger Works:

Ginger contains antioxidant substances called gingerols, which are thought to be responsible for its ability to alleviate nausea and indigestion. Unlike many conventional antinausea medications, ginger has the important benefit of not causing undesirable side effects such as a dry mouth or sleepiness. Research has shown that ginger can address nausea caused by a variety of causes, including food poisoning, motion sickness, pregnancy, postsurgical procedures, or the side effects of conventional drug treatment, notably chemotherapy. Similarly, ginger has been shown to alleviate symptoms of indigestion, including flatulence, bloating, and griping pain.

The gingerols in ginger are also thought to account for its ability to alleviate some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and muscular discomfort such as pain, inflammation, and swelling, possibly by inhibiting the production of inflammatory substances called prostaglandins and leukotrienes. This may also account for its ability to naturally relieve menstrual cramping.

Ginger is often given as a tonic to fight colds and chills and improve circulation, with Taiwanese research confirming its benefits for circulatory health, as it does have mild blood-thinning properties. Ginger also has antimicrobial, carminative, and diaphoretic (increases sweating) properties and may help to boost the immune system. These qualities make it of some benefit in treating coughs, colds, laryngitis, or a sore throat where it is often combined with honey and lemon.

How to Use Ginger:
Ginger can be eaten fresh or dried, or in pickled, jellied (candied), crystallized or syrup form, as a tea, or taken as a supplement, either as a tablet or capsule. When using supplements, follow label instructions or take as professionally prescribed.

Safety First:
Consult your doctor if using high doses of ginger while taking anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medications.

Where to Find Ginger:

Ginger supplements and tinctures are available in health food stores. Fresh ginger is sold in supermarkets.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest