Ginger is a common household spice that has been used for centuries for its culinary and medicinal properties. Some people claim that ginger has cleansing or detoxifying effects on the body and can help to “clean you out”. But does ginger actually have these effects? Let’s take a closer look at the evidence.
What is ginger?
Ginger, or Zingiber officinale, is a flowering plant that originated in Southeast Asia. The rhizome (underground stem) of the ginger plant is commonly used as a spice and flavoring agent. It has a sharp, spicy, and slightly sweet taste. For medicinal purposes, ginger can be consumed as a tea, capsule, or extract.
Some of the active compounds found in ginger include:
- Gingerols – Give ginger its pungent flavor and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
- Shogaols – Formed when gingerols are heated. Also have anti-inflammatory effects.
- Zingerone – Has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Gingerdiones – Provide fragrance.
- Beta-carotene – An antioxidant that gives ginger its yellow color.
Traditional medicinal uses of ginger
Ginger has a long history of use in traditional medicine systems like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Some of the traditional uses for ginger include:
- Treating nausea, vomiting, and indigestion
- Warming the body and improving circulation
- Reducing inflammation and joint pain
- Helping to expel intestinal gas
- Acting as a diaphoretic to induce sweating
Based on its traditional uses, ginger is believed by some to have cleansing and detoxifying properties. Let’s look at the evidence behind this claim.
Does ginger cleanse the colon and act as a laxative?
Some proponents claim that ginger can help cleanse your gastrointestinal system by flushing out toxins and undigested material stuck in your colon. There are a few possible reasons why ginger may have this effect:
- Increasing motility: Some research shows ginger can directly stimulate contractions of the intestines. This may help speed up transit time and clear out material faster.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Ginger has compounds like gingerols and shogaols that are potent anti-inflammatories. They may soothe inflammation in the GI tract.
- Reducing bloating and gas: Ginger is considered a carminative – a substance that helps reduce intestinal gas. This may relieve symptoms like bloating.
A few studies have specifically looked at ginger’s effects as a laxative:
|Randomized, double-blind trial on 24 healthy volunteers (Micklefield et al 2000)
|2 grams of ginger powder in capsule form per day for 4 days
|Ginger significantly accelerated colonic transit time compared to placebo. No adverse effects observed.
|Study in rats (Yamahara et al 1985)
|Administration of ginger components like gingerols
|Increased motility through the gastrointestinal tract
Based on the evidence, ginger does seem to have mild laxative effects and prokinetic effects on the intestines. So it may provide some cleansing benefits, but they are likely to be relatively gentle compared to a true laxative herb.
Does ginger detoxify the body or liver?
Another common claim is that ginger can specifically help detoxify the liver and body by neutralizing or flushing out toxins. There is some preliminary evidence that ginger may support liver detoxification and antioxidant processes:
- Ginger has been shown to increase bile secretion in rats. Bile helps remove toxins from the liver.
- The ginger compounds 6-gingerol and 6-shogaol have demonstrated hepatoprotective effects in animal studies and test tubes. They protected liver cells from toxic injury.
- An analysis in rats found pretreatment with ginger extract helped offset the liver toxicity of the painkiller acetaminophen.
- Ginger encourages antioxidant activity by boosting glutathione levels and superoxide dismutase in the liver.
However, most of these studies are preliminary and done in animals or test tubes. More research is needed to confirm ginger’s detoxification potential in humans.
It’s also important to keep in mind there are no quick fixes or magic bullets for detoxification. The liver and kidneys constantly filter blood and remove waste products when they are functioning normally. The best way to support them is through overall healthy lifestyle habits, not fast cleansing techniques.
Cleansing effects of ginger water, juice, and tea
Ginger is commonly consumed as a tea, juice, or infused in water to maximize its cleansing benefits:
Ginger water is made by placing sliced ginger in hot or room temperature water, often with the addition of lemon juice and honey. Proponents claim drinking ginger water regularly may:
- Aid digestion
- Reduce nausea and vomiting
- Calm gastrointestinal issues like gas and bloating
- Support detoxification
- Boost circulation
However, there is little evidence specifically on the benefits of ginger water alone. More research is needed.
Ginger can be pressed and juiced to extract its bioactive components. Ginger juice contains the fiber-free nutrients and compounds that give raw ginger its unique flavor and health benefits.
Proposed benefits of ginger juice include:
- Relieving digestive troubles
- Soothing nausea
- Acting as a mild laxative
- Providing antioxidants
- Reducing inflammation
But again, there’s limited research available on ginger juice specifically. The juice essentially provides the compounds found in raw ginger root, just in a concentrated liquid form.
Ginger tea is one of the most popular ways to consume ginger. It’s made by steeping sliced or grated ginger in hot water, often with the addition of other herbs, honey or lemon. Proposed benefits of ginger tea include:
- Warming the body
- Soothing nausea and vomiting
- Aiding digestion after a meal
- Relieving bloating and gas
- Promoting sweating
- Cleansing the body
Studies have found evidence that ginger tea may help reduce nausea from motion sickness, pregnancy, and chemotherapy. It may also aid digestion after a meal when consumed as a nightcap tea. But other cleansing benefits are not as well researched.
Is ginger safe for cleansing?
For most healthy adults, ginger tea, supplements, or food amounts are considered safe, with minimal risk of side effects. However, some precautions to keep in mind include:
- Ginger may increase stomach acid production. Those with reflux or ulcers should avoid large doses.
- Blood thinning medications – High doses of ginger may increase bleeding risk.
- Diabetes medications – Ginger may enhance their blood sugar lowering effects.
Excess ginger consumption could potentially cause mild side effects like heartburn, diarrhea, or mouth irritation in sensitive people. It’s generally advised to stick to recommended doses and consult your doctor if you take any medications.
During pregnancy, up to 1 gram of ginger daily has been safely used for nausea and vomiting in most studies. But women who are pregnant should always consult their physician first.
It’s also important to keep in mind that ginger alone cannot “cleanse” the colon or liver. Proper cleansing requires adequate hydration, a healthy diet, exercise, stress management, and other healthy lifestyle factors.
Based on the evidence, ginger does appear to have mild cleansing and detoxification effects. Ginger may:
- Act as a mild laxative by increasing motility
- Help relieve gas and bloating
- Potentially support liver detoxification
- Provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds
Forms like ginger water, juice, or tea are reasonable ways to consume it, though the specific benefits of these are less researched. Despite its benefits, ginger is not a miracle cleanser on its own. But when combined with a healthy diet, hydration, exercise, and other positive lifestyle factors, ginger can be part of an overall detoxification regimen for better health.