The Cardiovascular Benefits and Harms of Ginger

Traditional healers have used ginger to treat common ailments for centuries. Modern researchers have documented ginger benefits and side effects. Learning how this interesting spice can improve your heart health will motivate you to include it your next meal.

Ginger has positive cardiovascular effects.
Credit: KariHoglund/iStock/GettyImages

Ginger and Your Heart: Benefits

Ginger is an antioxidant and has potent anti-inflammatory effects, according to an article published in the January 2015 issue of the Journal of Renal Endocrinology. These properties likely underlie ginger's positive effect on your cardiovascular system.

The authors of an article featured in the February 2014 issue of the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition documented these effects in people with diabetes. The researchers gave 70 people with diabetes ginger each day for three months. Compared to the placebo, the ginger decreased triglyceride and cholesterol scores. It also helped them better control their blood sugar and manage their symptoms.

These short-term effects of ginger might have long-term consequences. The writers of an article published in June 2016 in the journal Nutrition looked at the relationship between ginger use and chronic disease. These researchers studied the data of more than 4,000 subjects and found that people with greater ginger use had a lower chance of having chronic heart disease or hypertension.

Read more: 6 Types of Heart Doctors You Should Know About

Ginger and Your Hearts: Risks

Unfortunately, ingesting ginger might cause side effects. The author of a paper published in 2012 in the Marmara Pharmaceutical Journal noted that ginger can prolong bleeding time. The author also reviewed two case studies showing that ginger use can cause a drug interaction in people taking blood-thinning drugs like coumadin, and it's important to note that some foods augment this blood-thinning effect.

Ginger can prevent the clotting of your blood, according to a review that appeared in the August 2014 issue of Natural Product Communication. These researchers believe that a small dose of ginger won't interact with blood-thinning drugs, but they encourage patients using these drugs to avoid the long-term use of ginger.

Ginger's effect on blood clotting should also concern patients with heart disease. A single dose of 10 grams prevented clotting in such patients, according to a report that was published in PLOS One in October 2015. However, this effect disappeared with a single dose of four grams.

Ginger can also enhance the effects of the blood pressure medication nifedipine, according to a 2015 paper from the University of Porto. While this effect could have health benefits, it could also prove problematic. Given these findings, a May 2016 review in eCAM recommended that patients on anticoagulants or nifedipine stay cautious about their ginger use.

Read more: 8 High-Tech Gadgets to Keep Your Heart Healthy

Ginger Benefits for Women

The authors of a report that was published in March 2014 in the Nutrition Journal looked at the effects of ginger in more than 1,000 pregnant women. Participants taking any oral form of ginger, including ginger water and ginger tea, qualified for the analysis. The results indicated that ingesting ginger decreased nausea but not vomiting. Most importantly, ginger didn't cause any side effects.

Ginger tea benefits also include improved digestion, according to a review in the July 2012 issue of the Journal of Medicinal Plants Research. To making ginger tea, grind 2.5 centimeters of raw ginger into a powder, and add half a dessert spoon to a full glass of cold water. Boil this mixture for five minutes and serve. The authors noted that drinking one to two cups a day won't cause any problems and will help your digestion.

Ginger might help relieve nausea in other situations too. The authors of a paper published in April 2015 in Complementary Therapies in Medicine tested the effects of ginger aromatherapy in 60 women with breast cancer. These patients received ginger during their chemotherapy. Compared to a placebo, the spice decreased nausea in the most intense part of chemotherapy — the acute phase.

Ginger Benefits for Men

It's unclear if there are similar ginger benefits for men. Most studies addressing this question have exclusively tested women, and the ones including men didn't show a positive result for that gender.

For example, the writers of a report in the October 2017 issue of the Annals of Oncology evaluated the effects of ginger on chemotherapy nausea. In this study, 38 men and 83 women received ginger during treatment. Compared to a placebo, the women given ginger had less nausea. The men didn't benefit from ginger use.

Yet ginger can improve men's health in other ways. For example, overweight men often have high levels of oxidative stress. Having raised levels of oxidative stress put you at risk for developing diabetes, according to a review in March 2015 issue of the Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal.

The authors of an article in the June 2014 issue of Journal of Exercise Science and Fitness tested the effect of ginger intake on oxidative stress. In a small study, these researchers gave eight men daily doses of ginger for 10 weeks. Compared to a placebo, ingesting ginger decreased the participants' oxidative stress. This change should lower their risk of disease and help them slow the aging process as well.

Read more: 14 Best Foods for Your Heart

Ginger is generally safe for most adults — especially with small doses taken for a short period. Still, patients on a blood pressure medication or a blood thinner should avoid taking ginger. People with heart disease should also take extra precautions. In fact, everyone should speak with their doctor before supplementing ginger. You should also stay vigilant for possible health changes while taking it.

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