The stem of the common ginger plant, grated or powdered, is a spice widely used throughout the world. It has been used in Asia and the Far East for thousands of years, and its effects have been observed in Chinese medicine as early as 400 BC. It has been used to treat cold, fevers, sore throats, infections, arthritis, muscle aches and spasms, high blood pressure, migraines, dementhia and other neurological conditions, toothache, asthma, stroke and diabetes, among other things, and its beneficial effects on digestive health are well documented in modern medicine.
As you can see, the range of uses is incredibly wide. This is due to the more than 400 different active ingredients found in ginger. Phenols and terpenes make up the bulk of the active ingredients, and it is not necessary to know the exact names of the active ingredients to understand where and how ginger works.
It affects the digestive system in a number of different ways. It helps to combat bloating through its diaphoretic effects by stimulating stomach contractions and bowel movements, which also has mild lacative effects, so it can help to combat constipation.
It is also effective against vomiting and nausea, with studies using 1 gram of ginger per day to achieve this. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence have both endorsed ginger as an antiemetic in the early stages of pregnancy.
Ginger may also be beneficial for liver health, with studies showing that 2 grams of ginger per day can significantly improve liver values in subjects with non-alcoholic fatty liver, when ginger consumption is accompanied by lifestyle and dietary changes. This effect is due to the presence of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents in ginger - the liver happens to be damaged by inflammation and oxidative stress, so these agents are designed to neutralise these effects.
As mentioned above, ginger contains powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents, so it protects not only the liver but all the organs in our body. Because all our body cells are exposed to the damaging effects of oxidative stress. Free radicals from an external (or internal) source oxidise cells - they take electrons from them. This results in the cell losing function, becoming inoperable and damagesód. Antioxidants provide electrons so that cells have encountered free radicals can "get back to work". Both phenols and terpenes are such antioxidant agents. Inflammatory cells are essential for wound healing, but excessive inflammation, rather than healing, has cell-destroying effects. This is combinated by anti-inflammatory agents that prevent inflammatory cells from functioning or multiplying. Unfortunately, in autoimmune disease, inflammation is increased so that inflammatory cells start to destroy their own body cells.
So, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents work for whole system health, reducing the risk of cancer, autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation and damage from free radicals are also responsible for the outward signs of ageing, so ginger also has rejuvenating, anti-ageing effects.
High cholesterol levels, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure are also caused by inflammatory processes, so anti-inflammatory ginger may also have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system.
Since the inflammatory process and the sensation of pain are linked, the same enzyme stimulates inflammatory cells as it causes pain, anti-inflammatory ginger also has analgesic effects, which have been reported in studies - the dose used is 2 grams/day.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory durgs (NSAIDs), which are often prescribed for pain relief, can cause stomach cramps and a number of other unpleasant side effects. Ginger, on the other hand, supports the digestive system and is considered safe to use, causing no significant unpleasant side effects.
In early pregnancy, 1 gram of ginger extract per day is recommended to prevent nausea, this is the tested amount for pregnant women, do not exceed it.
In other cases, most studies have used 1-2 grams of ginger extract per day.
As mentioned above, the use of ginger extract is considered safe, but at high doses, animal studies have reported side effects in some cases. The dose used was 320 mg/kg body weight, which is 25 grams for an 80 kg human.
Because of its possible anticoagulant effects, it should not be used concomtantly with anticoagulant medication.