Okay, raise your hand if your Mom used to hand you a glass of ginger ale when you had an upset stomach as a kid. Mmm hmm, I thought so, most of us have our hands in the air. Mine would be except it’s hard to type with one hand, but take my word for it that when I felt nauseous as a child, the Canada Dry would be hitting the glass before I knew it. Actually, there is a lot of sound medical advice in this theory, as the herb ginger has been historically linked to quelling the queasies. Granted, the amount of actual ginger in your glass of ginger ale probably varies pretty widely depending on the brand but the theory behind this practice definitely seems to be rooted in some pretty definite empirical proof.
Ginger, or Zingiber officinale, has been used since ancient days for its medicinal powers. Way back when, people used ginger to help soothe upset stomachs, and Chinese herbalists have used ginger for more than 2,500 years as both a flavor and a medicine. Early settlers of America drank ginger beer if they felt sick to their stomachs. Scientifically, ginger is related to turmeric and marjoram, and it grows in Southeast Asia and also now in Jamaica. The rhizome or stem that grows underground contains all of the power for seasoning your cooking and medicinal reasons.
The main ingredients in ginger that help account for its apparent stomach-soothing abilities are called gingerols and shogaols. According to the Whole Healthmd website, these two naturally-occurring substances have been found to help neutralize stomach acids, increase the amount of digestive juices and tone the muscles that line the digestive tract.
One reason that people often like to use ginger to help combat nausea is that it tends to be pretty free of side effects. Medicines that help control nausea often cause drowsiness because they do their work through the central nervous system. Because ginger works directly on the digestive tract, it does not tend to have this side effect. One study of women who were about to have a major exploratory or gynecological procedure found that taking one gram of ginger before the procedure let to significantly less post-operative nausea and vomiting reactions to both the anesthesia and the surgery. Women in the same study who took a placebo did not have the same pleasant result. When eaten along with a high protein meal, ginger might also help patients who are undergoing chemotherapy control their nausea.
If you suffer from motion sickness, either on the sea or in cars, ginger might be the thing for you. A Danish study that looked at naval cadets found that taking one gram of powdered ginger a day led to fewer cases of vomiting and cold sweats, both symptoms of seasickness. Again, there was a placebo group that unfortunately did not do so well in this regard. If you have dizziness associated with motion sickness, ginger may help with this as well.
And if you ate one too many bean burritos at lunch, you and your co-workers, friends, and family members might appreciate it if you reached for some ginger after your meal. As ginger goes to work soothing the digestive tract, it may also relieve flatulence. Taking ginger in supplement form may be especially effective or if you don’t mind the strong flavor, mix some grated ginger root with some diluted lime juice and drink it down.