Growing up in a multicultural family, spices from all over the world peppered my life with flavour and colour at every meal. Paprika from Spain, Cumin from Egypt, Saffron from Persia, Ras el Hanout from Morocco (which, by the way, literally translates as ‘head of the shop’, where grocers blend together every single spice they sell), and the hottest chilies you can get your hands on from Nigeria. It’s no surprise then, that researching their health benefits is one of my favourite pastimes. Without a doubt, spices are a powerhouse of nutrition. You only need a little, yet, they provide us with so many healthful plant-nutrients. Adding them to your daily meals is a sure way to ramp-up your nourishment. And Ginger is one of my favourites for the female body.
A little bit of history
Ginger comes from the rhizomes of the plant Zingiber officinale. It’s commonly used in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines and revered in both Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Its history in health is deep, dating as far back as 3,000 years ago in India. From issues such as colds, nausea and migraines, to high blood pressure, arthritis and pain its uses are vast. But more on its scientifically proven benefits later.
Ginger’s active compounds
Many of gingers health benefits are attributed to its plant compounds. Astonishingly, over 100 active compounds have been identified. By far, gingerols are the most well-known found in higher concentrations in fresh ginger. However, there are many more gradually gaining empirical data. Shogaols (highest in dried ginger), zingerone, zerumbone, oleoresins, terpenoids and flavonoids too.
All of these compounds, ultimately function as antioxidants. However, some have been shown to exhibit anti-tumour, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and liver-protecting properties. Here are my favourite proven benefits of ginger for the female body.
1. Menstrual Cramps
Reviewing the scientific evidence I found 6 studies that demonstrated that ginger is more effective than placebo and may be just as effective as painkillers such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) in relieving menstrual cramps. Of course, it’s important to acknowledge that some of these studies were small scale which limits our ability to generalize these findings for the majority. However, over the years I’ve used ginger to much success in helping women manage dysmenorrhea (that’s the medical term for painful periods).
The studies ranged from 750mg to 3000mg a day, most commonly taken on the first 3 days of menstruation. Personally, I’ve found ginger to work more effectively when taken in the week leading up to menstruation in addition to the first 3 days of your cycle.
2. Nausea & Morning Sickness
It appears there’s something to the old wives’ tale of ‘give a pregnant woman ginger to relieve her morning sickness’. Some evidence suggest that ginger may indeed help with pregnancy related nausea and sickness. Averaging across 6 different studies, 1000mg of ginger a day helped reduce morning sickness in the early stages of pregnancy, fivefold when taken for four consecutive days.,
How does it work? Researchers hypothesize that it reduces nausea by working on the vagus nerve. Most of us known that when we activate the vagus nerve we feel more relaxed and happier. However, hyper-stimulation can be just as problematic as under activation. When serotonin receptors along the vagus nerve pathway to the gut are over activated, it results in nausea and vomiting. According to studies carried out on tissue cultures, ginger may block excessive serotonin and vagus nerve activation in the gut, helping to relieve nausea.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis where the cartilage between joints breakdown resulting in friction and pain. Unfortunately, it is more common in females than males with approximately 60% of diagnoses given to women. Of course, hormones help explain why women are more susceptible; oestrogen helps protect our cartilage from inflammation. As levels decline through menopause, risk for osteoarthritis increases. The good news is ginger might help. One large scale study on 261 individuals with osteoarthritis, concluded that ginger extract helped alleviate symptoms after just 6 weeks of ingestion.
Both Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine revere ginger for optimal digestion and helping to relieve abdominal discomfort. It’s thought that it helps to increase gut flow. As far as research goes, a study on 126 people found that ginger helps with indigestion. When combined with artichoke it also improved nausea, bloating and abdominal pain after just 4 weeks of use. At 1,200mg a day, another study demonstrated that ginger helps to increase stomach emptying supporting optimal digestion.
The majority of the reported benefits of ginger for digestion are limited to animal studies. However, drink a cup of ginger tea the next time your gut feels irritable and you’ll see just how beneficial ginger can be for the gut, despite the limitation of humans studies. Animals studies have demonstrated ginger relaxes the gut which may help with spasms often experienced in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS),, as well as increase antioxidant enzymes and reduce cortisol in rats with IBS.
5. Inflammation & Pain Relief
Inflammation hijacks of our sex hormones. It interferes with hormone communication, can undermine hormone production and drive hormone imbalance. Keeping inflammation in-check is essential for hormone health. According to a review of nine clinical studies, ginger is very effective in reducing inflammation and the biomarker CRP, that is commonly tested in blood. This was proven with 1000-3000mg a day, over a course of 3 months.
Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties are attributed to its oleoresins. One study demonstrated that they blocked the inflammatory NF-KB pathway, which reduces the activity of inflammatory genes in immune cells.
In fact, ginger functions very similarly to NSAID. Mapping its pharmacodynamics, it works by blocking pain-causing and inflammatory COX enzymes. As a result, it helps mediate the production of inflammatory chemicals such as leukotrienes and prostaglandins (you can read all about how they impact ovulation here).,, 
6. Liver Function & Blood Sugar Management
A big part of hormone balance is supporting detoxification and liver health so that your body can process excess or redundant hormones efficiently. Whilst your liver automatically carries out detoxification, it can become overburdened due to lifestyle and environmental toxic overload. The great news is ginger may help manage the burden. Ginger has been shown to protect the liver and kidneys from cadmium and aluminium toxicity in rabbits and rats respectively. It also prevented liver damage and scarring from painkillers in mice.,,
Significantly, 2000mg a day improved liver health, insulin resistance and reduced liver enzymes in 44 individuals with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) after 12 weeks of ingestion. In my clinical experience, this condition often co-exists in women diagnosed with insulin resistance PCOS, but commonly goes undiagnosed.
What’s more is a review of nine clinical trials showed that ginger may reduce fasting blood glucose and HbA1c a marker for long term glucose levels. It’s why increasing ginger consumption is always a staple in my protocols where blood sugar issues feed into hormone imbalance such as PCOS.
And finally, our immune system. Our immune system plays a pivotal role in ovulation and is increasingly being recognized as the driver for certain conditions that were traditionally seen as hormonal such as endometriosis. This is why supporting our immune system is doubly important for women.
Clinical studies still need to verify the safety and effectiveness of ginger for various infections. However, there are numerous cellular studies that demonstrate it could kill viruses, bacteria and yeasts. For example, one study showed that fresh ginger prevented the common cold virus from infecting human cells., As a tincture, it’s been shown to fight:,,
Staphylococcus aureus, a common cause of skin infections
Staphylococcus pneumoniae, which can cause serious lung infections
Haemophilus influenzae, the common cold
Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which causes hard-to-treat hospital infections
Salmonella, a cause of food poisoning
Escherichia coli, a common cause of UTIs
Ginger extracts also blocked the growth of 19 strains of stomach-ulcer-causing Helicobacter pylori, including the drug-resistant ones, in the lab.
Disclaimer: The statements made in this blog post are for educational and entertainment purposes only. They are not intended to diagnose or treat any individual or condition. If you are concerned about your health please consult your licensed medical doctor before changing your diet or taking supplements. This website uses affiliate links, which means the author may earn from products and services recommended although it should be noted that this is not at an additional cost to the consumer.
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