You can find it in everything from a zingy green juice to a spicy curry—but is ginger good for you? Absolutely. Ginger has historically been used to treat a variety of ailments, including colds, nausea, hypertension, arthritis, and migraines—and modern science backs up the benefits.
Cultivated since ancient times, ginger has long been valued as a flavoring, spice, food, and as natural medicine. Due to its history as a traditional medicine, there’s a wealth of scientific studies which delve into its healing properties, from helping to reduce inflammation, to easing cramps. “Some studies even show that ginger supplementation can help improve blood sugar,” says Lauren Kelly, MS, RD, and Head of Community & Nutrition at Sound.
We asked nutritionists, “Is ginger good for you?” and got the lowdown. Read on and then stock up ahead of cold season—you can find ginger in your local supermarket as a root (it’s nobby, it’s whimsical, it’s wild), ground into a powder, or as a tea.
Ginger health benefits
There’s a reason why ginger has been favored as a traditional medicine throughout the ages: there are many health benefits to eating ginger.1. Helps reduce nausea
Ginger is perhaps best known for easing nausea and vomiting (particularly in pregnant women). When it comes to soothing an upset stomach, ginger functions as a kind of super plant, which studies suggest works by supporting your digestive system.2. Reduces inflammation
Ginger has also been found to have many anti-inflammatory properties. “As we know pretty much everything, from colds to cancer, is caused by or related to inflammation, ginger seemingly has the potential to benefit many,” says Kelly.3. Eases muscle soreness
Next time you hit the gym or get stuck into a home workout, you might like to have a little bit of ginger at the ready. “Because of ginger’s anti-inflammatory benefits, it has even been shown to reduce muscle soreness due to exercise,” says Kelly. Pop it into your next green smoothie after your morning run.4. Relieves menstrual pains
Ginger has historically been used as a natural form of pain relief. Recently, it’s been clinically proven to be an effective home remedy for menstrual pain. A study found that ginger was as effective as ibuprofen in relieving pain in women with painful menstrual periods. So when your time of the month rolls around, try reaching for that root to ease those menacing menstrual cramps in an alternative way.
Ginger side effects
Ginger is on the low-risk side when it comes to side effects. However, for some people, ginger might cause heartburn, diarrhea, or gastrointestinal discomfort.
“For those on blood-thinning medication, ginger may be contraindicated because it also can thin the blood and increase the risk of bruising and bleeding,” says Kelly. If you’re not sure about whether it is safe for you to consume ginger, be sure to check with your doctor.
Healthy ways to ingest ginger
Fresh ginger can be enjoyed in a number of ways. But which way is healthiest? “Ginger is beneficial in its many forms. It’s been shown to yield benefits raw as well as heated in a tea,” says Kelly.
Ginger has a strong flavor, being peppery, sweet, and spicy all at the same time. So in this sense, it can be an acquired taste—particularly when consuming it raw. That is one surefire way to kickstart the day, so add a unique boost to your breakfast by grating ginger into your granola, or simply enjoy it as a tea. “For an easy ginger tea, slice raw ginger and add to hot water. You can also add lemon for a little balance,” says Kelly. If you’re struck with a sore throat, this hot drink is perfect with a dash of honey.
If you’re wondering how to peel ginger, our tip is to avoid using a vegetable peeler. This tool will remove too much of the flesh along with the skin. Instead, use the tip of a metal teaspoon to gently push away the skin. Trust us, it’s much easier than it sounds!
Ginger products to avoid
While it’s satisfying with a bit of rum and lime, ginger ale is not the best way to get your ginger fix. Shocker! “Interestingly, ginger ale used to have ginger in it—now, not so much. Instead, flavorings create the taste of ginger ale. Just like Coke or any other soda, ginger ale is also loaded with sugar which we know to be inflammatory,” says Kelly.
If you’re looking to consume ginger in drink form, avoid ginger sodas and opt for a homemade ginger tea or for sugar-free ginger drinks which contain ginger botanicals.