Ginger has been used for more than 5000 years for cooking and as a medicine in many Asian countries because of its potent benefits. It is currently one of the most widely used herbs worldwide. According to ayurvedic traditions, ginger is considered to be the most ‘sattvic’ of spices and is one of the most essential herbs. It is considered Katu-rasam (bitter taste), Ushna-veeryam (hot potency), Vata-kapha-har-prabhavam (blemish correcting effect on air and phlegm), Katu-vipakam (pungent after-effect), Laghu-snigdha-gunam (mild and unctuous property) and is valuable as a suppressant and remedy for ‘Kaphaand Vatta’ disorders.
Ginger is called as Vishava-bheshaj (the universal medicine) and Maha-aushadhi (wide-spectrum medicine). The concept of digestive and metabolic fire (agni) is very central to Ayurveda. If food is properly processed and digested, it will not create toxins in the body, calledAma. Even if ‘ama’ is created, it can be destroyed by ‘agni’ which can be obtained from ginger in a medicinal manner. Ayurveda considers ginger as a pungent herb, its dose not have the strong, concentrated irritant pungency of chilli, but is irritant enough to wake the blood vessels. Even, in traditional Chinese medicine, ginger is famed for its use of removing toxins. It is used as an antidote for poisoning from food, drugs or other herbs.
But can a herb so potent have side-effects? The answer is yes, in fact herbalists advise not to take more than 4 grams of ginger in a single day. Ginger if taken in large quantities can cause heartburn, gas, bloating, nausea or stomach distress because it reinforces warfarin action by heterogeneous mechanisms. It may increase the risk of bleeding or possibly potentiate the effects of warfarin therapy, especially when taken in a powdered form.
Who should not consume ginger?
.People with Ulcers/Inflammation: Unchewed fresh ginger may cause intestinal blockage, and individuals who have had ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease or blocked intestines may react badly to large quantities of fresh ginger.
.People with Gallstones: Ginger can adversely affect individuals with gallstones. Ginger is contraindicated in people suffering from gallstones, because it promotes the production of bile.
.People with Bleeding disorders: Ginger stimulates circulation and increases blood flow while preventing blood clotting. It could increase risk of bleeding, especially if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking any medications that slow blood clotting.
.Pregnant Women: Pregnant women should also be careful with ginger as it may cause uterine contractions. It has also been shown to interfere with the absorption of dietary iron and fat-soluble vitamins. It is recommended that you consult an herbalist or a licensed healthcare professional before using ginger as a supplement or in your diet. Drinking ginger tea is especially not recommended in the final weeks of pregnancy due to the increased bleeding risk.
.Pre-surgery: According to an article published in “Der Anaesthesist” in 2007, consuming ginger around the time of surgery is also a risk for increased bleeding. If undergoing surgery, you should avoid drinking ginger tea within the two weeks prior to it.
.Reactive to certain drugs: Speak with your doctor before drinking ginger tea if you’re on any medication, since it interacts with certain drugs. It should also not be used by patients who take anticoagulant, barbiturates, beta-blockers, insulin medications or those who are on anti-platelet therapy. According to MedlinePlus, a medical service of the National Institutes on Health, ginger can interact with numerous other drugs like antacids which can be affected by ginger, stimulating the stomach’s production of acid. Ginger can also affect medications for the heart, antihistamines, cancer treatments and weight loss drugs.
.Possible herb interactions: Ginger also interacts with herbs that stimulate blood flow and slow blood clotting, which includes clove, garlic, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, turmeric, angelica. Combining ginger with these herbs could increase your risk of bleeding.
.Suppress Appetite: A pilot study published in “Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental” in 2012 found that ginger reduced appetite and increased feelings of satiety in overweight men. The study researchers suspect that ginger’s ability to modulate concentrations of the hormone serotonin may play a role in suppressing appetite. Because it’s a pilot study, however, more research is needed to validate these results. If you’re trying to gain weight, be aware that drinking ginger tea may potentially reduce your appetite.
.Diabetes/High BP: Avoid mixing ginger tea with blood-thinning medications, such as warfin and aspirin. Ginger may lower blood sugar and blood pressure, so speak with your doctor if you’re taking medication for diabetes or high blood pressure because you may not need as much if you drink ginger tea regularly.
Many of these side effects can be avoided by taking ginger supplements in capsules, such as enteric-coated capsules, which delay the body’s digestion of the herb until it enters the digestive tract. But, ginger when consumed in reasonable quantities has few negative side effects and is on the FDA’s “generally recognized as safe” list. There have been instances where herbal/health supplements have been sold which were contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. Thus, herbal/health supplements should be purchased from a reliable source to minimize the risk of contamination.