Benefits of Ginger for Your Heart
Ginger root has been used for hundreds of years as a spice and a medicine in Asian countries like Japan, India, China, Thailand and others. Today it is becoming more and more popular in the West – not only can it make our food taste spicier, exquisite and delicious, but it can also be beneficial for our health.
Cardiovascular Benefits of Ginger
It is believed that ginger can reduce the risk of some cardiovascular diseases. A double- blind clinical trial was conducted in 2004 where the main aim was to investigate the effect of ginger on the levels of lipids in blood. The results were published in 2008.1
Patients with hyperlipidemia were divided into two groups:
- Treatment group of 45 patients received capsules with ginger in three divided doses, 3 g per day;
- Placebo group of 40 patients received capsules with lactose using the same treatment regime as those from the first group.
The study lasted for 45 days and once it was completed, the lipid concentration profiles of the patients were measured and compared to those measured before the treatment. The results showed that the patients who received ginger capsules had a considerable reduction in cholesterol, triglyceride, very low density lipoprotein and low density lipoprotein. Therefore, as ginger had a noticeable lipid lowering effect, it might play an important role in the prevention of atherosclerosis.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, ginger can also prevent blood from clotting. The lowered level of cholesterol and reduced blood clotting caused by ginger can be beneficial for those people who have heart conditions where blood vessels become clogged and which may lead to stroke or heart attack.
Another study published in 2005 showed that ginger could lower blood pressure by blocking the voltage-dependent calcium channels.2 However, this study was conducted with animals – a crude extract of ginger was injected into rats. More studies involving humans are required to draw a definite conclusion whether ginger can be used as a hypertensive agent.
Other Benefits of Ginger
Ginger has anti-inflammatory and stimulating effects which result in the promotion of metabolic processes; it is also a good antioxidant. This root is very useful for the prevention and treatment of flu and cold since it boosts the immune system. It helps ease nausea and vomiting, reduces the symptoms of dizziness and morning sickness, can relieve menstrual pain and pains caused by arthritis, etc.
Precautions and Interactions
Once taken, ginger firstly influences the mucous membrane of the stomach. If it is irritated, has erosions or ulcers, ginger will undoubtedly increase this inflammation. That is why it should not be taken if the person has gastritis, peptic or duodenal ulcers or any erosive disorders of the intestine.
Although ginger root can be beneficial for some cardiovascular diseases, it may also provoke side effects in people with certain heart disorders. Ginger can interact with certain types of medications:
- Keeping in mind that ginger can lower blood pressure, it should be avoided by those patients who are already on any anti-hypertensive medications because it can cause overdose and thus raises the risk of irregular heartbeats and dangerous drop in blood pressure.
- Those patients who are on diabetes medications should not use it, as ginger is known to lower blood sugar, thus, it raises the risk of developing low blood sugar or hypoglycemia.
- Having a blood thinning effect, ginger increases the risk of bleeding in patients who take blood-thinning medications like warfarin, aspirin or clopidogrel.
Even though ginger is an herb and not a pharmaceutical substance, it is highly recommended that you consult your doctor before using ginger for therapeutic purposes.
How to Choose, Store and Use Ginger?
There are many types of ginger with differing scent, form and color of the root and there are even types with blue streaks. A good and fresh ginger root should have a smooth and even peel (the older the root, the more crumpled it is). The root should be mold-free, resilient and hefty.
Unpeeled ginger can stay fresh for several weeks if stored in a fridge either in a paper bag or in a plastic self-sealing bag with the air pressed out. Dried ginger root can be stored either at room temperature or in the fridge for quite a long time – up to 6 months. But remember that before using it, you should soak it in water for at least 6-8 hours.
Ginger products are made of either dried or fresh root or from steam distillation of its oil. It can be used in the form of capsules, tinctures, powders and oils; or you can purchase a fresh root and make a tisane. In general, it is not recommended to take more than 4 g of ginger a day (including various food sources). Pregnant women are limited to only 1 g per day.
- Alizadeh-Navaei R, Roozbeh F, Saravi M, Pouramir M, Jalali F, Moghadamnia AA. Investigation of the effect of ginger on the lipid levels. A double blind controlled clinical trial. Saudi Med J. 2008 Sep;29(9):1280-4.
2. Ghayur MN, Gilani AH. Ginger lowers blood pressure through blockade of voltage-dependent calcium channels. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2005 Jan;45(1):74-80.