Ginger has a long history of use in folk and alternative medicine. While you may associate ginger with its stomach-settling properties, practitioners also use it to treat high blood pressure and to improve blood circulation, among other uses. Ginger, which comes from the rhizome, or root of the plant, can cause problems if you have gallstones. Don't take ginger supplements or consume large amounts of ginger without your doctor's approval.
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The gallbladder, which lies beneath your liver, is not an essential organ. If you have it removed during surgery, your digestive system still functions without much difficulty. A small sac-like structure connected to the liver by the bile duct, the gallbladder serves as a storage facility for bile. Bile breaks down fat in the intestines. The gallbladder stores bile until the presence of fat in the digestive system calls for it. Gallstones often form in the gallbladder, where they typically cause few problems. If they migrate into the bile duct and get stuck there, however, they can block bile flow, causing bile to back up in the liver. In large quantities, ginger can affect your gallbladder's functioning.
In large doses, ginger can increase bile production and contractions in the bile duct. If you have stones in the gallbladder of in the bile duct, increased contractions raises the risk that a stone will lodge in the duct and block bile flow. Not all practitioners agree that ginger is harmful if you have gallbladder disease. The Chinese Herbs website recommends ginger root as a treatment for gallstones because of its bile-stimulating properties. Follow your doctor's recommendations for taking ginger if you have gallbladder disease.
While gallstones often cause few symptoms and go undetected unless you have an ultrasound of the abdomen, a stone stuck in the bile duct can cause serious illness that necessitates emergency surgery. Inflammation causes pain in the right upper abdominal quadrant; nausea and jaundice can occur. Unrelieved blockage of the bile duct from gallstones can be life-threatening without immediate surgery.
Doses of small amounts of ginger--up to 4 grams per day--are generally considered safe, according to the University of Texas Herbal Safety website. Do not take larger doses without your doctor's approval. In addition to possibly worsening gallbladder problems, ginger in large doses can act as a blood thinner.