The primary ingredient in ginger beer -- ginger root -- contains active compounds that can help relieve nausea and possibly fight inflammation and prevent the growth of cancer. A few brands of ginger beer report the actual amount of real ginger in a serving, but for other brands, you won’t know how much real ginger is in the beverage. There are also no studies specifically studying the benefits of ginger beer. The best way to maximize benefits is to make your own at home using plenty of fresh ginger.
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Ginger Beer Ingredients
Ginger beer is made from fresh or dried ginger, sugar and some lemon juice. These are the same basic ingredients used in ginger ale, but the ale adds seltzer water, while the beer uses water and yeast to produce gas and a carbonated effect.
Most brands of ginger beer on the market are nonalcoholic, but you can find a few that contain alcohol. Beyond the taste difference due to alcohol, the flavor of ginger beer varies from one brand to the next depending on the amount and type of ginger used.
Beneficial Oils in Ginger
Fresh and dried ginger contain a variety of natural oils, but the two associated with ginger's health benefits are gingerol and shogaol. Both oils have been studied, but none of the studies to date have used actual ginger beer.
Research studies use various forms of ginger in differing amounts. While the studies show ginger's overall benefits, your glass of ginger beer may not contain as much ginger as the amount used by researchers.
Ginger relieves nausea by improving digestion and helping food move through your stomach, notes the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
If you’re pregnant and have morning sickness, nonalcoholic ginger beer may provide some relief from nausea, according to a review in the Nutrition Journal in March 2014. More importantly, the review reported that ginger is safe and doesn’t cause side effects.
A study published in the July 2012 issue of Supportive Care in Cancer found that ginger reduced nausea in adult cancer patients. However, a review of seven studies noted mixed results, with only some cancer patients experiencing nausea relief, according to Nutrition Reviews in April 2013.
Even though more studies are needed before experts will know whether ginger effectively and safely prevents cancer, it shows some promise. For example, a 2008 report in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found that ginger inhibited the growth of human cancer cells in the laboratory.
In a pilot study, researchers divided people at risk for colorectal cancer into two groups. One group took ginger every day for 28 days, while the other group took a placebo. In the ginger group, but not the placebo group, biological markers for cancer risk went down, according to Cancer Prevention Research in April 2013.
Ginger has a long history of use as an anti-inflammatory agent, but for years, studies produced contradictory results, according to a review in Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. That work was published in 2011, and by the end of 2012, researchers had more progress to report.
Cells obtained from people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis were cultured in the lab. Some were treated with ginger extract and others with a steroid anti-inflammatory medication. The ginger was equally effective as the medication at fighting inflammation, noted the results published in Arthritis in December 2012.