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Ginger grows in China, India, Africa, the Caribbean, and other warm climates. The root of the ginger plant is well-known as a spice and flavoring. It's been a traditional remedy in many cultures for thousands of years.

Why do people take ginger?

Ginger is a common folk treatment for upset stomach and nausea. There's evidence that it may help.

Ginger seems to aid digestion and saliva flow. Studies found that taking ginger could reduce nausea and vomiting in some pregnant women.

But pregnant women should be careful with ginger. Some experts worry that it could raise the risk of miscarriage, especially in high doses. Check with your doctor.

Ginger seems to help with nausea caused by vertigo as well. There's mixed evidence about whether ginger helps with nausea caused by motion sickness, surgery, or chemotherapy.

Ginger does seem to help with painful periods. In one study, more than 60% of women felt that ginger lessened pain.

There's strong evidence that ginger may ease osteoarthritis pain. It may also help with:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Headache

But more research is needed to know for sure.

Lab and animal studies have found that ginger may, theoretically, help:

  • Lessen swelling
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Protect against Alzheimer's disease
  • Prevent blood clotting

We don't know yet if ginger would have these benefits in people.

Some people apply ginger compresses to the skin for pain. We don't know if this works or not.

Optimal doses of ginger have not been set for any condition. Quality and active ingredients in supplements may vary widely from maker to maker. This makes it very hard to set a standard dose. Ask your doctor for advice.

Can you get ginger naturally from foods?

Ginger is a common spice and added flavoring. Many people drink ginger teas or soft drinks.

What are the risks?

Side effects. In small doses, ginger has few side effects. It may cause:

  • Gas
  • Heartburn
  • Upset stomach
  • Mouth irritation

High doses of ginger -- more than 5 grams a day -- increase the chances of side effects. Ginger on the skin may cause a rash.

Risks. Ginger may raise the risk of bleeding. If you have a bleeding disorder, it may not be safe. And check with your doctor before taking ginger as a treatment if you:

Also, it's not known if ginger supplements are safe for children or for women who are breastfeeding.

Interactions. If you take any medications regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using ginger supplements. They could interact with blood thinners and medications for diabetes and high blood pressure.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on January 11, 2013

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