review of 109 controlled studies proves ginger helps nausea, vomiting, arthritis, migraine, diabetes, obesity, asthma and more

Ginger is a popular traditional herb loved in both cooking and herbalism. It turns out it is loved just as much by science.

Ginger is a well known traditional herb, used in cooking, sipped as teas and taken by pregnant women. What is less well known is that this traditional herb is extensively studied. A recently published systematic review found 109 controlled studies. And the overall results were exciting.

Nausea, Vomiting & Digestion
Ginger is best known as a herb for nausea and vomiting. This review included 14 studies on the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, including the severe form known as hyperemesis gravidarum. Every one of the studies found ginger to be better than a placebo and as good as or better than a drug: every one of them! And it did it safely. The results for the nausea caused by chemotherapy or surgery were more mixed.

Nausea and vomiting are not the only gastrointestinal problems ginger can help. A convincing six out of seven studies of gastric emptying proved that ginger enhances digestion. Gastric emptying is the speed at which your stomach empties its contents. The test is usually given to people with frequent nausea, vomiting, heartburn, abdominal pain or feeling of fullness. So, ginger could help all of these people.

Killing Pain
Ginger kills several kinds of pain. Placebo controlled studies showed that ginger improves painful periods, while several showed that it does so as well as drugs. The only negative study used a placebo dose of ginger.

Two studies showed that ginger helps people suffering from migraine headaches. In one of them, it beat a placebo; in the other, it was as good as, but safer than, a drug.

When it comes to arthritis, several studies proved ginger to be effective for osteoarthritis, and an additional study showed it to help rheumatoid arthritis too.

Diabetes & Weight Loss
Several studies have looked at ginger for metabolic problems like diabetes and obesity. At least three studies found that ginger benefits diabetics by significantly lowering all of fasting blood sugar, HbA1c (the most important marker of long term diabetes and blood sugar control), insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance. Diabetics also saw their LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammation and antioxidant activity improve.

Ginger also helped obese women to lose weight while improving insulin resistance and sensitivity. For cardiovascular risk factors related to obesity, ginger lowered body fat, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, total cholesterol and insulin resistance.

Respiratory Diseases
When patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) were given ginger, they had to spend less time on mechanical ventilation and less time in intensive care. Asthmatics also experienced benefit with ginger.

Breast Feeding
One study also found that ginger significantly increases breast milk compared to a placebo.

Not included in this systematic review is a just published study that found ginger to be superior to a drug for hay fever.

Nutrients 2020;12(1): 157

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For much more on ginger, see our book Healthy Herbs: Your Everyday Guide to Medicinal Herbs and Their Use.

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