I really love ginger. But when I heard people put it in smoothies…I thought YUCK! Until I tried it myself and became a ginger smoothie believer!
I’ve found that the key when adding ginger to smoothies is using the right flavor combination and not adding too much or too little. It goes great with berries, fresh turmeric, pineapple, or citrus. But I definitely wouldn’t want to add it to a chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie.
Smoothies are certainly not the only way ginger has been used in beverages. In fact, in nineteenth-century England, ginger was a common bar condiment for sprinkling in beer! More common culinary uses for ginger include teas, juices, salad dressings, and stir fry. The possibilities are endless!
What’s in Ginger?
Ginger contains health-promoting plant chemicals called phenolic compounds. The two primary active ones found in ginger are called shogaol and gingerols . These compounds have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties . Specifically, gingerols can inhibit COX-2 expression . This is important because COX is an enzyme that promotes inflammation and pain. It is also the enzyme that is targeted by common NSAID medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, advil, and motrin.
Health Benefits of Ginger
Ginger has been studied for its use in a wide variety of conditions ranging from nausea and vomiting to gastrointestinal complaints, cancer, pain conditions, heavy metal toxicity, and more.
Digestion: The use of ginger to treat nausea and vomiting has proven to be successful in cases of morning sickness, motion sickness, chemotherapy, and post-surgery . For seasickness, a study found that ginger was more potent than the pharmaceutical agent Dramamine in controlling nausea and vomiting .
GI symptoms such as colic, gas, bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and dyspepsia  can often be relieved by ginger. One of the mechanisms by which ginger impacts the gastrointestinal tract is by speeding up gastric emptying , making it a potentially viable option for conditions such as gastroparesis.
Cancer: Ginger has been studied for its potential to suppress cancer growth of the skin, ovary, colon, breast, oral cavity, kidney, prostate, pancreas, stomach, liver and brain . Based on an in vitro study, gingerol was found to cause apoptosis of cancer cells in the stomach . In vitro and in vivo studies have provided evidence that the other main active constituent in ginger, shagoal, suppresses the growth of prostate cancer .
Pain: Research also supports the use of ginger for pain conditions such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) , headache , muscle pain , and osteoarthritis . It is theorized that ginger’s anti-inflammatory effect results in the symptom improvement experienced by individuals with these pain conditions.
Heavy metal toxicity: In an animal study, ginger was found to have hepatoprotective (liver protective) effects in rats exposed to heavy metals . Ginger appeared to reduce accumulation and increase elimination of cadmium, mercury, and lead. It was proposed that the antioxidant properties of ginger accounted for this protective effect on the liver.
Ginger and SIBO
Many practitioners are now recommending ginger as a motility agent for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). It may be especially helpful for those with SIBO who experience symptoms such as bloating, constipation, belching, indigestion, and dyspepsia. These benefits may be due to ginger’s ability to promote gastric (stomach) motility .
In my personal experience, ginger has been helpful for taming my itchy skin, improving bowel frequency, and relieving gas. Unfortunately, it has not been nearly as strong as the pharmaceutical prokinetics I have tried such as low dose erythromycin and Resolor.
I experimented with ginger after my SIBO treatment phase. At times, I used it in combination with other prokinetics and at other times for symptomatic relief (note: I was under the care of a physician who was aware of and encouraged my experimentation. Before experimenting on your own, I highly recommend asking your physician if this is safe for you as ginger may act on the serotonin pathway in the gut, potentially putting you at risk of serotonin syndrome when combined with other medications).
I found that ginger was a very effective tool for helping initiate bowel movements on days when I did not have a natural urge in the morning. It also helped tame my itchy skin or flatulence when I ate foods that exacerbated my symptoms.
Some individuals experience an unpleasant heartburn sensation when taking ginger. If you experience discomfort when taking ginger capsules, you may want to try food forms of ginger as they can be a little more gentle. My ginger berry smoothie recipe might be just the thing to try!
- ⅔ cup frozen blueberries
- 20 frozen raspberries
- 1 inch nub fresh ginger, peeled
- ¼ cup coconut water
- 1 cup unsweetened vanilla hemp milk (or other non-dairy milk of choice)
- 1 tiny sliver avocado (trust me- you want this!)
- 1 handful baby spinach (optional)
- 1 tablespoon protein powder (my favorite is pumpkin seed protein)
- In a high-speed blender, combine all ingredients. Blend until smooth, adding more non-dairy milk if too thick or more blueberries or avocado if too thin.
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