Ginger Supplements & Ales Review
Initial Posting: 4/29/16 Last Update: 10/11/17
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Summary: What You Need to Know About Ginger Supplements
- A dose of 1 gram ginger root (or rhizome) powder (just under ½ teaspoon) per day may help reduce nausea from motion sickness and pregnancy. Ginger root extracts (which are more concentrated) may also be useful for these purposes and 1 gram of extract has been shown to modestly decrease pain from osteoarthritis. (See "What It Does")
- The active compounds in ginger are believed to be gingerols and, possibly, shogaols. In the supplements ConsumerLab tested, gingerols ranged from 4.5 mg up to 38.1 mg per daily serving. Ginger ales were found to contain very low amount of gingerols (Results Table).
- Only half of the products selected for review were Approved for quality, i.e., containing their expected amounts of gingerols and lacking heavy metal contamination. The most common problem found was lower than expected amounts of gingerols (See "What CL Found").
- See ConsumerLab's Top Picks for products which were Approved and provide superior value.
- When taking ginger, particularly larger daily doses, it's generally recommended to divide the dose throughout the day. (See What to Consider When Using).
- Ginger appears to be safe, short-term, at doses as high as three grams of root powder per day. Typically there are few side effects, although stomach upset and heartburn may occur. However, there certain cautions apply if you have low blood sugar or diabetes, take blood-thinning medication, or are pregnant or having surgery (See Concerns and Cautions).
What It Is:
Ginger (from the root or rhizome of Zingiber officinalis) is a spice commonly used for food flavoring and as ingredient in drinks and teas. Traditionally, it has been used to treat a wide range of ailments, from digestive complaints to respiratory illness and arthritis.
Phenolic compounds in ginger (gingerols and shogaols) are chemically related to capsaicin and piperine, the compounds which give chili pepper and black pepper their respective spiciness. These compounds in ginger have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and other properties which may be responsible for some of ginger's effects (Pertz, Planta Med 2011; Wang Nat Prod Commun 2014). The shogaols also contribute to the characteristic pungent taste of dried ginger and ginger extracts (Semwal, Phytochemistry 2015).
What It Does:
Nausea and vomiting
There is some evidence that certain gingerols and shogaols from ginger act on serotonin receptors in the stomach and increase the rate of gastric emptying, both of which could contribute to an anti-nausea effect (Abdel-Aziz, Eur J Pharmacol 2006; Hu, World J Gastroenterol 2011). Unlike some medications for motion sickness, ginger does not appear to work by affecting the brain or inner ear (Acta Otolaryngol 1989).
The clinical evidence for ginger's effects on nausea is mixed. In a small study among young adults with a history of motion sickness, those who took a little less than 1 gram (940 mg) of ginger root powder 20 minutes before a motion-sickness inducing exercise (spinning in a chair for up to six minutes) reported less nausea, and, were able to stay in the spinning chair longer, than those who took dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) or a placebo (Mowrey, Lancet 1982). A study among naval cadets sailing on the high seas found that taking 1 gram of ginger root powder significantly reduced the tendency for vomiting and cold sweating in the four hours after ingestion, compared to placebo (Grontved, Acta Otolaryngol 1988). However, several other studies using the same dose of ginger have found no benefit (Wood, Clin Res Pr Drug Regul Aff 1988; Stewart, Pharmacology 1991).
From an analysis of twelve randomized, controlled trials involving pregnant women and lasting from four days to three weeks, researchers concluded that a daily dose of between 600 mg and 2,500 mg of ginger root powder significantly decreased nausea symptoms, but not the number of vomiting episodes, compared to placebo. Doses of less than 1,500 mg appeared to be most effective. There was no increased risk from ginger for any major side-effect or adverse event (including arrhythmia, spontaneous abortion, allergic reaction to treatment, or dehydration) (Estelle, Nutr J 2014). However, there may be an increased risk of bleeding from ginger intake during later weeks of pregnancy (See Concerns and Cautions).
From surgery or chemotherapy:
Ginger has shown only limited benefit in preventing postoperative nausea and vomiting (Morin, Anasthesiol Intensivmed Notfallmed Schmerzther 2004). Results in preventing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting have been mixed, with results being better in women than men. A placebo-controlled study in Italy among patients receiving two rounds of chemotherapy found no overall benefit from adding ginger extract to their standard therapy which included anti-emetic medications. The extract was taken as two capsules (each with 40 mg of ginger extract containing 16 mg of gingerols and 1.12 mg of shogaols) on a full stomach in the morning and again in the afternoon. Further analysis showed that the ginger actually resulted in a higher incidence of nausea among men but had a moderate favorable effect in women. (Bossi, Ann Oncol 2017). This finding in women is consistent with a study in 60 women undergoing chemotherapy (anthracycline) for breast cancer who were taking standard anti-nausea medications (palonosetron and aprepitant). Those who consumed ginger (500 mg of powdered ginger mixed with a spoonful of yogurt) twice a day during the first three days of chemotherapy had significantly less nausea and vomiting in the days after chemotherapy (there was no significant improvement the day chemotherapy was administered) compared to women who did not consume ginger (Arslan, Clin J Oncol Nurs 2015). No adverse effects attributed to ginger were reported.
A laboratory experiment showed that compounds in ginger can act as a proton-pump inhibitors, similar to the ulcer medication Prevacid (lanzoprazole) which decreases acid production in the stomach (Siddaraju, Mol Nutr Food Res 2007).
Laboratory evidence suggests -shogaol from ginger may affect collagen cells in a way that could potentially help to protect from cartilage and bone degradation. However, there are few well-designed studies on the effects of ginger on osteoarthritis in people, and results have been mixed.
In a review of five randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials in which daily doses ranged from 500 mg to 1,000 mg of ginger extract researchers concluded that, overall ginger may modestly reduce pain and disability from osteoarthritis of the knee and hip (Bartels, Osteoarthritis Cartilage 2015). In the studies, no serious adverse events were reported; mild adverse events all related to "bad taste" or various forms of stomach upset.
A review of five clinical studies using doses between 1.6 and 3 grams of ginger powder daily for one to two months concluded that supplementation significantly lowers blood glucose and HbA1c levels, but not fasting insulin levels or HOMA-IR (Daily, J Ethnic Foods 2015). The ginger was usually taken in divided doses, after meals. No adverse advents were reported in the studies other than one report of heartburn after taking ginger.
In a double-blind, randomized study in 100 people who took either 50 mg of the standard migraine medication (sumatriptan) or 250 mg of ginger powder at the onset of a migraine, 70% of those who took sumatriptan and 64% of those who took ginger had favorable relief (> 90% reduction in headache severity) after two hours (Maghbooli, Phytother Res 2014). However, the results were not statistically significant and the study did not use a placebo control, making it difficult to determine ginger's efficacy.
See the Encyclopedia article about Ginger for more information.
Quality Concerns and What CL Tested for:
Neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor any other federal or state agency routinely tests ginger supplements for quality prior to sale. In order to help consumers identify products of better quality, ConsumerLab.com purchased and tested ginger supplements to determine whether they contained their expected amounts of gingerols (compounds believed to be responsible for some of ginger's effects) and were not contaminated with the heavy metals lead, cadmium or arsenic. The amount of shogaols in products was also determined. Tablets were tested for their ability to properly break apart (disintegrate) in solution.
See How Products Were Evaluated for more information on testing.