Ginger is a plant commonly used as a potent spice in cooking. Ginger also has some medicinal properties and has long been used in Asian herbal traditions, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. One of ginger’s most well-understood benefits is its ability to reduce digestive problems.
Ginger has been shown in some cases to help improve appetite and reduce digestive problems such as colic, diarrhea, intestinal spasms, gas and indigestion. But one of ginger’s most well-researched benefits is its ability to reduce nausea and vomiting. For instance, taking about 1 g of ginger prior to surgery may help reduce vomiting and nausea in the first 24 hours after your surgery, according to MedlinePlus. Ginger may also reduce vomiting and nausea in pregnant women and in people with motion sickness or seasickness.
How It Functions
Ginger contains two constituents – gingerol and shogaol – which are thought to help stimulate your body’s flow of digestive juices such as saliva, gastric secretions and bile, according to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center online. Ginger may also help increase muscle tone around the intestines and aid the stomach in moving food down the digestive tract. Additionally, ginger may help reduce nausea by interfering with serotonin receptors, which are responsible for sending “vomit” signals to the brain.
In a Taiwanese study published in the May 2008 issue of the “European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology,” researchers found that men who didn’t eat or drink for eight hours but then had 1,200 mg of ginger before eating a bowl of soup were more likely to experience stomach muscle contractions – helping the stomach contents empty faster into the small intestine – than when they had the placebo. They also reported more digestive discomfort when they had the soup with the placebo rather than with ginger.
Ginger comes in various forms, including an extract, fresh and added to foods, steeped as tea, formed into powder capsules and crystallized into a lozenge. Taking about 2 to 4 g of fresh root per day – or about 30 to 90 drops of the liquid extract – may help reduce indigestion, gas and nausea, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. If you are trying to prevent vomiting, take about 1 g of powdered ginger about every 4 hours or 2 capsules – 1 g – about three times per day. Pregnant women experiencing morning sickness may have about 250 mg of ginger four times per day. Children over 2 can generally have ginger to treat digestive problems, but should have an appropriate dose based on weight. For instance, a 50 lb. child should have about 1/3 the amount of ginger as a 150 lb. adult.
Potential Side Effects
Consult your doctor before you try taking any ginger to treat digestive problems. An excessive dose of ginger – particularly the powdered variety – may cause mild side effects such as heartburn, bloating and gas, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Ginger can also stimulate the gallbladder and lead to further problems if you have gallstones.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Ginger
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Ginger
- "European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology"; Effects of Ginger on Gastric Emptying and Motility in Healthy Humans; K. Wu, et al.; May 2008
- MedlinePlus: About Ginger
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Ginger Summary
- “World Journal of Gastroenterology”; Effect of Ginger on Gastric Motility and Symptoms of Functional Dyspepsia; M. Hu, et al.; 2011