Traditional medicine has used the underground stem, or rhizome, of the herb ginger for centuries. Although most medicinal uses of ginger are for gastrointestinal problems, some evidence suggests that ginger may offer cardiovascular benefits as well. Too much ginger can be harmful for people with certain types of heart problems, however, so it is important to talk to your doctor before you add ginger to your diet.
Native to Asia, ginger is a common cooking spice. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that the root of the ginger has active components, including volatile oils and pungent phenol compounds. Ginger may help to reduce inflammation and nausea. The medicinal components of ginger work primarily in the stomach and intestines, according to MedlinePlus. Health care professionals recommend ginger to treat motion sickness, pregnancy-related nausea, nausea and vomiting after surgery or chemotherapy, and osteoarthritis.
The University of Maryland Medical Center cites several preliminary studies that suggest ginger may lower cholesterol and prevent blood from clotting. Stopping your blood from clotting can help people with heart disease, where blood vessels become clogged and lead to heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol can also lead to clogged arteries when the cholesterol builds up on the artery walls. Ginger may also help to lower blood pressure, another indicator of heart disease.
A study published in 2005 in the "Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology" found that ginger lowered blood pressure in controlled experimental conditions. Researchers investigated the cardiovascular effects of ginger on the blood pressure of different animals. Using crude extract of fresh ginger injected intravenously in rats, researchers found a dose-dependent fall in blood pressure. Further experiments in this research suggest that the blood-pressure-lowering effect of ginger is due to the blockage of voltage-dependent calcium channels. However, researchers did not examine the effects of ginger on the blood pressure of humans.
Potential Side Effects
Although ginger may have cardiovascular benefits, it may also be harmful to people with heart disease. MedlinePlus notes that high doses of ginger can worsen heart conditions. People with low blood pressure or who are already on blood pressure medications can experience an unsafe drop in blood pressure or heartbeat irregularities when taking ginger, which can also interact with other medications, including blood thinners. Other side effects are mild and include heartburn, diarrhea and general stomach discomfort. Talk to your doctor before taking ginger.