We all love a bit of ginger – it’s the ‘spice of life’ in our cooking and baking. In fact, many people perceive it as an indispensable ‘health supplement’ due to its purported health benefits like relieving nausea and aiding digestion.
Recent years, however, have seen an influx of new ginger-based products that make bolder claims like boosting your immune system or ‘curing’ inflammation.
Part of our mission at Caffeine Bullet is to provide evidence-based recommendations on how you can improve your health and athletic performance. With the launch of our new super-tasty raw ginger chews Ginger Roars (see what we did there?), we wanted to discover whether the scientific research behind ginger lives up to the marketing hype.
We’ve evaluated the claims and their authenticity based purely on the current scientific evidence, and ultimately establish whether ginger can provide genuine health and exercise performance benefits or if it’s just a tasty snack.
ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF GINGER BACKED BY SCIENCE?
In this blog, we’ll dissect the most frequently searched claims tied to the benefits of ginger: its reputed ability to alleviate nausea, improve digestion, reduce inflammation, prevent diabetes, boost your immune system and improve cardiovascular health.
DOES GINGER PREVENT NAUSEA?
Ginger is often used as a remedy for nausea, whether stemming from morning sickness, motion sickness, or exercise-induced. There’s substantial evidence supporting this claim, suggesting that ginger for nausea and ginger for morning sickness are not just old wives’ tales, but have a basis in scientific fact.
This is supported by the findings in a 2016 Spanish Medical research review that analysed studies researching the effectiveness of ginger in preventing nausea. The authors propose that the gingerols and shogaols found in ginger are effective in preventing nausea and vomiting, with ginger being a more effective treatment compared to a placebo and when compared to B-vitamin supplementation.
This is further supported by a 2020 research review on studies examining the role of ginger on human health, conducted by researchers at the College of Pharmacy at Seoul National University. They found that over half of the studies they analysed showed that ginger significantly relieves nausea when compared to a placebo.
DOES GINGER PREVENT EXERCISE-INDUCED NAUSEA?
Approximately one-fifth of marathon runners report experiencing nausea during their self-described ‘hard runs’, with a higher prevalence among females. This can force you off the road and out of the race, but also ruin a lovely pair of running shorts.
During prolonged exercise, the body prioritises supplying oxygen to the muscles in use; this is achieved by redistributing blood flow away from areas like the stomach. This can be problematic for digestion, causing exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome. Symptoms can range from mild discomfort to severe pain and can include nausea, bloating, and diarrhoea.
A 2015 study conducted at Heriot-Watt University found that ginger can alleviate nausea experienced during endurance exercise. Symptoms of nausea and gastric issues increased during exercise in all groups, however they significantly decreased after exercise in the group that consumed an intra-exercise beverage containing ginger extract. With the ginger beverage reducing perceived nausea and gastric distress scores by approximately 10% when compared to the placebo beverage. The mechanism behind this effect is believed to be related to ginger’s antagonistic effects on serotoninergic 5HT receptors.
It’s important to note, that in this study, participants were only involved in a a 5k run, where significant GI issues are not typically expected. Therefore, the study primarily showed the impact of ginger on post-exercise nausea and GI distress rather than during the exercise itself. In longer-duration events, where GI issues are more likely to arise, the beneficial effects of ginger would likely be even more pronounced and alleviate issues during exercise as opposed to after exercise.
In conclusion, extensive scientific research supports the effectiveness of ginger in preventing nausea, be it from morning sickness, motion sickness, or exercise-induced. Active compounds in ginger, like gingerols and shogaols, have been found to significantly reduce nausea symptoms, possibly due to ginger’s antagonistic effects on serotoninergic 5HT receptors.
DOES GINGER IMPROVE DIGESTION?
Ginger is also commonly used to promote digestion and aid in mitigating gastrointestinal discomfort.
Ginger can significantly enhance digestion by speeding up gastric emptying – the journey of food from our stomach into the small intestine. A sluggish gastric emptying process can lead to discomfort and bloating due to the sensation of a fuller stomach, so ginger can be used to provide substantial relief.
Ginger also promotes contractions in the antrum, a region at the lower end of the stomach. These contractions are crucial in the digestion process as they help mix food with stomach acid and digestive enzymes, breaking down food into a more digestible form. This can facilitate more efficient nutrient absorption and decrease instances of indigestion and discomfort.
The 2020 systematic review conducted at the college of pharmacy at Seoul National University also analysed seven randomised controlled trials that investigated ginger’s effect on gastric function, primarily focusing on gastric emptying. All studies reported that ginger enhances gastric emptying. In addition, research suggests that ginger’s enzymes can help break up and expel gas formed in the intestinal tract during digestion, relieving discomfort.
For endurance athletes, this could have a significant impact, as faster gastric emptying is likely to reduce stomach discomfort during long training sessions or races, making it easier to consume more fuel and maintain comfort throughout the duration of exercise.
In conclusion, ginger aids digestion by accelerating gastric emptying and promoting contractions in the stomach, which improves nutrient absorption and reduces discomfort. A 2020 research review of multiple studies confirmed ginger’s positive effect on gastric function. Therefore ginger can benefit individuals with gastric distress and benefit endurance athletes by reducing stomach discomfort during prolonged exercise.
DOES GINGER REDUCE INFLAMMATION?
The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger constitute another widespread claim.
Ginger’s bioactive compounds, specifically gingerols and shogaols, possess a unique capacity to inhibit inflammatory pathways. This characteristic has sparked interest in using ginger to treat inflammation and pain. Although it is important to note that these studies often supplement with ginger in high doses and on a daily basis.
A 2020 umbrella review (a review of reviews) found that 25/31 studies reported a modest decrease in inflammatory markers CRP, TNF-Alpha and IL-6 when supplementing with ginger. However, this does not necessarily mean there is any carryover to general health improvements as inflammatory markers are not always an indication of disease or dysfunction.
Some studies indicate that ginger might be beneficial in conditions marked by chronic inflammation, however the studies that report these beneficial effects are often contradicted by other similar studies and have small samples sizes, making it difficult to determine how effective ginger is for treating chronic inflammatory diseases.
The Department of Rheumatology at Copenhagen University Hospital conducted a research review in 2014 on 5 studies that used ginger to treat knee osteoarthritis, finding that a daily intake of high doses of ginger moderately reduced pain and disability when compared to a placebo.
However, it is important to note that ginger shouldn’t be viewed as a standalone treatment for osteoarthritis. While it can provide some relief and aid in managing the discomfort, it isn’t a cure-all, making it difficult to recommend for this purpose alone.
In conclusion, the bioactive compounds in ginger, namely gingerols and shogaols, show promise as anti-inflammatory properties. There’s reasonable evidence to suggest ginger reduces inflammatory markers, though the effect on general health remains unclear. Unfortunately, the potential benefits from ginger supplementation are often contradicted or limited due to small sample sizes. While ginger shows potential in assisting with symptoms of inflammatory diseases alongside traditional treatment, its standalone efficacy requires further research.
DOES GINGER PREVENT DIABETES?
Supplementation of ginger has been shown to improve glycemic control, meaning the body is manage and maintain stable blood glucose levels.
HbA1c is a test that measures the average level of blood sugar (glucose) over the past 3 months. High levels of HbA1c suggest that you’ve had too much sugar in your blood over time, which may be a sign of diabetes.
What is particularly encouraging is an approximately 1% decrease seen in HbA1c levels following ginger supplementation – as a 1% increase in HbA1c is associated with a 30% increase in all-cause mortality.
This may have benefits for individuals with diabetes or are pre-diabetic as part of their nutritional strategy to manage or reverse the onset of type-2 diabetes. Although as mentioned previously, ginger can not be seen as a cure-all.
DOES GINGER BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM?
While the evidence is largely anecdotal, numerous individuals resort to ginger for recovery from a cold or flu.
However, the research on this is fairly limited so we wouldn’t expect to see a noticeable difference in cold and flu symptoms when using ginger.
Findings from the aforementioned 2022 umbrella review have indicated that there is very little research in humans investigating the impact of ginger on immune health. Making it difficult to recommend as a supplement for improved immune function.
DOES GINGER IMPROVE CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH?
A 2017 study suggests that ginger extract may help prevent cardiovascular disease as there is an association between daily ginger intake and reduced risk of developing high blood pressure, however this evidence is merely correlational and could be explained by other factors such as socioeconomic status.
However this is supported by the 2020 umbrella review that found that daily ginger consumption has been shown to slightly decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressure in 6/6 studies. Meaning ginger could be beneficial for those high at risk for cardiovascular disease.
Nevertheless, this area of research is in its early stages, so these findings should be interpreted with caution. It’s also very important to understand that ginger would have minimal effect when compared to a balanced diet and a healthy, active lifestyle.
HOW CAN GINGER IMPROVE ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE?
In light of the current research, it’s evident that not all claims surrounding ginger are as well supported as some may think. However, there is a considerable amount of evidence suggesting that regular consumption of ginger can contribute to general health, though it is unlikely to have a significant standalone effect and should always be part of a balanced diet and a healthy, active lifestyle.
But where does this leave us in terms of fitness and athletic performance?
Due to ginger’s demonstrated capacity to alleviate nausea and improve digestion, it can be a useful tool to help with these issues during prolonged endurance exercise.
To improve endurance performance, athletes will consume a relatively high amount of carbohydrates during exercise to reduce the decline in performance associated with depleted glycogen stores, and most athletes will also consume caffeine for its performance-enhancing effects.
Unfortunately, a common challenge associated with high carbohydrate intake during prolonged exercise is the increase in symptoms of GI distress, which is due to the additional strain placed on the digestive system. However, supplementing with ginger during training or a race, can help alleviate these issues, enabling you to focus on your performance.
In conclusion, ginger possesses a myriad of health benefits, including the ability to alleviate nausea and improve digestion which can make it easier to perform at your best. However, the strong taste of raw ginger can be off-putting for many. That’s where Ginger Roars come in.
Ginger Roars combine a moderate dose of caffeine with the benefits of ginger, creating a supplement that offers the health and performance benefits of ginger but also mitigates the potentially overwhelming taste. As a result, we’ve crafted a solution that helps combat GI discomfort and also happens to be the most delicious caffeine supplement you’ll find on the market.
So if you’re looking for improved exercise performance via a decreased perception of effort and pain that also helps alleviate an upset stomach or you just want a tasty, little lift during the day then Ginger Roars are just what you need.