Surprising Health Risks and Benefits of Ginger

Ginger is revered for its culinary and medicinal qualities, but the pungent spice can also pose some unexpected risks for people with certain medical conditions.

Adapted by Alyssa Jung from Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal (Reader's Digest Association)
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Ginger can reduce flatulence

If you find yourself a little gassy, sip on ginger tea or chew some peeled raw ginger. You can also add a slice or two to bean dishes, which may reduce your flatulence.

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Ginger relieves pain

Studies suggest that taking ginger at the first sign of a migraine can help tamp down the pain, as the herb may help block inflammatory hormones. Other studies have shown ginger may help treat arthritis. In one, people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis experienced less pain and swelling when they took powdered ginger daily compared with those who didn't.

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Ginger may help prevent cancer

Ginger may have some cancer-fighting properties, according to several studies. In one, researchers found that ginger caused ovarian cancer cells to die. Another study found that gingerroot supplements reduced inflammation in the colon.

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Ginger might cause pregnancy complications

When it comes to ginger and pregnancy, studies are mixed. Some studies have suggested a link between ginger intake and miscarriage and other pregnancy complications, while others have found no harm in using it to relieve nausea. Always talk to your doctor before taking supplements or using it to treat morning sickness.

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Ginger can cause mouth inflammation

In botanical medicine, ginger is considered a warming herb, meaning it causes the inside of the body to generate more heat. This can cause the mouth and mucous membranes to become inflamed, which can be irritating. If you find consuming ginger uncomfortable, avoid it.

Ginger helps relieve nausea

Next time you're doubled over with a virus or motion sickness, try ginger in any form you can stomach--ginger ale, ginger pills, and candied gingerroot have all been shown to ease nausea. One study even found that ginger was as effective as the prescription medication scopolamine in preventing motion sickness, without the drowsy side effects.

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Ginger can lower blood sugar levels

A new study found that powdered ginger lowered blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. If this is of concern to you, monitor your sugar carefully and check with your doctor on how the ginger could interact with medications, which could throw off insulin levels in a dangerous way.

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Ginger can inhibit blood clotting

One Australian study found ginger to be a powerful anti-coagulant even more effective than aspirin, and the National Institutes of Health cautions against consuming ginger while on blood-thinning drugs because of an increased risk of bruising or bleeding. If you have a bleeding disorder or take a blood-thinning medication, you might want to steer clear of ginger.

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