Tone Up, Toronto!

Health Benefits (and Risks) of Ginger

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Ginger Zak Greant

[Photo: Ginger grown in Vancouver, Photo Credit: Zak Greant]

Ginger has been used as a traditional remedy in my cultures for thousands of years.

Health Benefits of Ginger

Ginger is wonderful for nausea or an upset stomach. It also aids in digestion. If you suffer from painful period cramps, ginger should be your go-to for lessening them. Ginger can also help reduce the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, muscle and join pain, and even headaches.

More research needs to be done on the following claims, but lab and animal studies have shown that ginger can help reduce swelling, lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar, and prevent blood clotting, but again, more research needs to be done to prove that ginger can have these effects and I cannot stress enough that you should be speaking to your doctor about these health risks rather than trying to cure them exclusively with natural medicine (though your doctor may decide they can play a role in restoring you to health).

Ginger was very helpful for me when I was suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It seemed to calm down the cramping and nausea. I would blend a small amount of ginger (skin and all – after washing it thoroughly of course) with half a lemon’s worth of juice and drink it. If that is a little too extreme for you then you can add a little maple syrup or honey to make it more like a spicy lemonade. The unsweetened version is still my favourite drink when I have PMS cramps or an upset stomach. I truthfully have not noticed that it helps relieve any of my fibromyalgia pain, but I’d love to hear feedback about whether it has helped anyone with their arthritis pain.

I’ve also heard of people diluting the juice from ginger root with water and spraying it on their bodies as insect repellent, which I have yet to try. I’d be very interested if this had any effect against the mosquitoes up in cottage country.

Health Risks and Side Effects of Ginger

Pregnant women should be very careful with ginger. There is some evidence that it can raise the risk of miscarriage, especially in high doses.

There are also side effects for non-pregnant women – even in small doses. Ginger can cause heartburn, gas, mouth irritations, and an upset stomach. If you are ingesting a high dose of ginger (more than 5 grams a day) then it increases the chances of side effects.

If you have a bleeding disorder, ginger might raise your risk of excess bleeding so be very careful and talk to a doctor before ingesting ginger. You should also be cautious if you have diabetes or heart problems.
Do not take a ginger supplement if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and it is best not to give it to a child because it is still not known whether it is safe for small children.

Also note that applying ginger to the skin can cause a rash. Some people swear by applying a ginger compress to skin for pain, so if you are going to try this start with a small area and watch it closely to see if a rash develops).

As always, if you are on medication, you should speak to your doctor about any possible interactions with a high dose of ginger or a ginger supplement.

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