Ginger, or Zingiber officinale as it's scientifically known, has been used as both food and medicine for thousands of years and is still the go-to treatment for motion and morning sickness. This underground stem, which is used as both a spice and herb, is packed with active ingredients that play a variety of roles in your body. It’s available in various forms, such as capsules and as an extract. But you can also eat raw ginger to benefit quickly from its healing powers.
The amount of ginger you can eat varies depending on the reason you’re eating it. For instance, to treat nausea or gas, adults can chew a one-quarter-ounce piece of fresh, raw ginger, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. To treat bursitis, you can eat about 1 ounce, or 6 teaspoons, of ginger daily, notes James A. Duke, author of the book “The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healthy Foods.” In general though, adults should not take more than 4 grams of ginger daily -- from all sources.
Some of the healing compounds in ginger are pungent anti-inflammatory phenols called gingerols and shogaols. Ginger also contains a potent proteolytic, anti-inflammatory enzyme called zingibain and has 180 times more of these types of enzymes than does the papaya plant, according to Duke. Other compounds called sesquiterpenes help fight rhinoviruses that lead to cold and flu. While these compounds are generally considered safe, you should always check with your physician before attempting to take raw ginger to treat an ailment.
In terms of motion sickness, ginger consistently performs as effectively or more effectively than a drug commonly prescribed for motion sickness, dimenhydrinate. It also produces fewer side effects, including drowsiness, than does dimenhydrinate, according to one study published in a 2007 issue of the “Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand.” Ginger can also relieve conditions such as colds and flu, coughs, constipation, indigestion, menstrual cramps and laryngitis or sore throat.
Despite its many medicinal properties, ginger can cause a few side effects. In some people, it may trigger diarrhea, mild heartburn, stomach upset, belching and irritation of the mouth. However, side effects from eating raw ginger are rare. If you are prone to them, you might find some relief by taking ginger supplements, making ginger tea or sprinkling ginger powder into your foods. Finally, speak to your doctor about taking ginger if you are on blood-thinning medications or taking other blood-thinning herbs. Ginger could impact the efficacy of these drugs.
- The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods; James A. Duke, Ph.D.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Ginger
- Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand: A Randomized Comparison of Ginger and Dimenhydrinate in the Treatment of Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy