Among the various types of herbal medicines, some have gained wide popularity as well as universal acclaim. Ginger is one such herb. It is known for its rich texture, fleshiness and juiciness. The legendary Chinese philosopher Confucius is believed to have eaten it with almost each meal. In kitchens all over the world, this herb is used as a seasoning agent in many recipes. In its dried and powdered form, it can be used in breads, ginger ale, beer, and in baked foods such as cookies, cakes, etc. The benefits of ginger are very many. However, you also need to know a few adverse side effects it is likely to trigger.

Ginger is a popular ingredient in global cuisine today. Its use is influenced by its medicinal properties, rich aroma and taste. This is a flowering herb which is believed to have originated from the southern parts of Asia. What we actually use in our kitchens is ginger’s root, i.e., a part of its stem which grows underneath the ground. This herb finds its use in multiple forms – namely, as a fresh root, juice, oil, and also as a dried or powdered variant.

Side effects of ginger

Ginger is generally considered as safe when taken orally. However, in some people, it can cause a few minor side effects such as excessive burping, indigestion, diarrhea, heartburns, a few other abdominal discomforts and an excessive discharge of blood from vagina during menstrual periods.

Intake of ginger by pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding

Is it safe to take ginger during pregnancy? This remains as a blurred area. Some people believe that ginger can alter hormonal balances in pregnant women, and may lead to miscarriage; the risks of delivering stillborn babies are also assumed to be high. However, a few scientific studies rule out such risks; in fact, use of ginger to cure morning sickness during pregnancy is widely considered as a safe practice. But, as the risks of internal bleeding are high, pregnant women are advised not to take it at advanced stages of pregnancy; especially, closer to the date of delivery. The same dilemma exists over intake of ginger by women who are nursing an infant. Not much scientific evidences exist to clear the use of this herb among breastfeeding women. Hence, mothers who are nursing a baby are advised to stay away from it.

Ginger changes the blood clotting time

Large portions of ginger can harm your cardiac wellbeing. This is because of this herb’s capability to alter blood clotting time. If you already have cardiac conditions, you are advised not to take it regularly, or in sizeable quantities. For the same reason, people who are likely to undergo a surgery may run the risk of excessive bleeding. Ginger may also make you bleed profusely while the surgery is being performed as well as during the time of post-surgical recovery.

Interactions with antihypertensive medications

Ginger is known for its interactions with a few drugs, if co-administered. As ginger can decrease your blood pressure levels, it can lead to hypotension when taken with a few antihypertensive meds. People who took ginger along with these drugs reported erratic heartbeats. Drugs which are likely to react with ginger are amlodipine, verapamil, diltiazem, etc. It is important to share details about the diet you regularly take with your dietitian or treating doctor. If your diet includes intake of a sizeable amounts of ginger, your doctor may either reduce the strength of antihypertensive drugs or may tell you to reduce the quantum of ginger.

Interactions of ginger with diabetic drugs

This herb can also bring down the level of blood sugars. So, you may hit a very low sugar level when you take ginger along with diabetic meds such as glipizide, glimepiride, insulin, glyburide, etc. You need to share details about how much ginger is present in your daily diet. Your treating physician will then reduce the dosage frequencies or minimise the strength of your diabetic meds if your daily diet has a marked presence of ginger in it.

Interactions with blood thinning drugs

Ginger is known as a naturally available antiplatelet herb. It is known to work similar to anticoagulants (i.e., antiplatelet meds), thus slowing down the time taken for blood to clot. As a result, you are more likely to witness internal bleeding as well as bruising. Ginger can worsen bleeding conditions if you take it along with drugs like warfarin, heparin or other generic equivalents of Coumadin. A few non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin may also reduce the time taken for your blood to clot. Intake of ginger along with such NSAIDs are likely to trigger added risks of bleeding.

Safer intake of ginger to avoid likely side effects

As mentioned, ginger has multiple applications. It is used for treating morning sickness in pregnant women, a few abdominal discomforts such as vomiting or nausea, cramps experienced during periods, etc. Your dietitian may advise you to stay away from an excessive use of ginger while treating any of these medical conditions. Safe levels of intake are often recommended; for instance, for morning sickness – a dose of 500 milligrams (mg) is considered as safe; this dose is divided into three or five doses and administered over not more than 7 days. In case of cramping of muscles (especially, during periods), a dose of 200 mg is safe if taken for 2 days.

Benefits of ginger

Ginger is classified under a family of plants called as Zingiberaceae, which has similarities with other spices such as cardamom, turmeric, etc. The root of ginger is where most of its medicinal properties reside. Key benefits of this herb include –

Ginger has therapeutic properties to treat autoimmune conditions

Ginger has a substance called gingerol; this herb’s properties to treat cancers is chiefly due to this substance. Consumption of this herb is strongly associated with reduction of inflammatory agents in sites such as the gastrointestinal tract. Some studies also indicate the possibilities of using ginger as a treatment option to manage hepatic cancers, ovarian cancers and cancerous growth in pancreas or breasts. However, more evidences are awaited from clinical studies on ginger’s efficacy to treat these autoimmune disorders.

Reduction of blood cholesterol with the use of ginger

Blood cholesterol shows up as low density lipoproteins (LDL), high density lipoproteins (HDL) as well as triglycerides. Of these, the low density form is considered as bad cholesterol; this is mainly a derivative of the types of foods you consume. Studies done on people with high cholesterol levels showed a significant reduction in LDL levels when they regularly take ginger. However, the dosages administered to bring about this effect were high; at more than 4.50 grams every day for a period of 90 days. The dosage levels were so strong that many respondents of these studies dropped out without completing the trials in full.

The most heartening finding however is – people who took relatively smaller doses of about 2.75 grams or slightly more every day also reported a reduction of more than 9.50% in their cholesterol levels. A few other studies also revealed possibilities associated with the reduction of triglycerides upon adding ginger to their diet on a daily basis.

Ability to treat abdominal discomforts such as indigestion

People living with abdominal problems such as indigestion may experience persistent spells of pains as well as cramps; these discomforts are often witnessed in the upper side of the abdomen. The causes of such persistent spells of indigestion (also, known as functional form of dyspepsia) remain largely elusive to medical sciences. Often times, inability to clear-out your stomach is observed as a main cause. Consumption of ginger is widely considered as a cure to clear your stomach and ease abdominal pains or discomforts.

Management of bodyweight

Those who are overweight or obese will know the challenges in managing an optimal bodyweight. There are many anti-obesity medications that are widely prescribed to manage weight loss goals. Consumption of ginger is a natural way to lose excessive body weight. How? Studies done on this topic indicate the possibilities of few weight loss capabilities resident in ginger. These properties enable reduction of internal swelling or inflammation as well as serve as a catalyst to burn calories. When administered at dosage strengths – of more than 1.90 grams per day for a period of 85 days – led to significant reduction in body mass index. As an added benefit, the respondents also reported a lower level of insulin; you need to note that high levels of insulin are often linked to obesity or overweight conditions.

Ginger for people living with diabetes

This natural root is endowed with properties to benefit people living with diabetes. It has capabilities to reduce blood sugars by as high as 10% or more when taken every day. However, the dosage needs to be restricted within a range of 1.75 to 1.95 grams per day. Though the link between ginger and its ability to manage diabetes (type 2) is still not fully evidenced, more results are awaited to establish a stronger link.

Treatment of morning sickness

Ginger is widely used as a natural remedy to reduce or stop morning sickness, especially among women who are pregnant. This root is also used to provide relief from vomiting or nausea in people who consume cancer drugs – i.e., chemotherapeutic meds. However, pregnant women are not advised to take ginger in sizeable proportion. The most commonly administered dose of ginger during the early stages of pregnancy is less than one (1) gram per day for a very short span of time. Doses larger than the 1 gram / day – especially, during the later or final stages of pregnancy can lead to serious problems such as miscarriage, complications during labor, etc.

Other benefits of ginger include (a) safeguarding your brain function to minimize risks associated with an onset of Alzheimer’s, (b) protect your system against infections caused by microbes such as bacteria – especially, those causing oral infections, including gum diseases or gingivitis.

In sum, ginger has several nutrients, anti-inflammatory substances and chemicals in it. Its abundant medicinal properties make it one of the commonly used home remedies for a wide range of medical conditions. However, the herb may also trigger a few side effects – for instance, changing your blood clotting time. It is hence strongly recommended to talk to a qualified medical professional or a trained dietitian before starting to add ginger to your daily diet.

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