Ginger, as we know it, comes from the root of the ginger plant. The spicy fragrance and flavor of ginger comes from its natural oils – the most important of which is gingerol – and it is this same part of ginger that offers such significant health benefits. Gingerol has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

Ginger is commonly used to treat nausea and other stomach issues but it actually has a number of scientifically backed health benefits, and in many cases has been proven to be as effective as some common medicines. Ginger can be eaten fresh, added to your food, or taken as supplements, and in some cases the oil can be applied topically. Read on for 9 ways that ginger can improve your health, and how to incorporate more into your diet.

1) Combat nausea. 

This is the most common use of ginger, but did you know that it has been scientifically proven? Studies have been undertaken where people took ginger after surgery, during periods of morning sickness, or during extreme medical treatments for HIV or cancer which are known to cause nausea and vomiting. Taking ginger by mouth, and/or dabbing ginger oil onto the wrists of patients all had positive effects on those suffering from nausea and vomiting.

2) Soothe painful menstrual periods. 

Research showsthat taking 1500mg of ginger daily for the first three days of menstrual periods can reduce menstrual pain and other symptoms about as well as popular medications including ibuprofen.

3) Increase your appetite. 

A little fresh ginger is known to activate your digestive system and encourage your appetite.

4) Alleviate muscle pain. 

Ginger can soothe muscle pain caused by exercise, which may be in part due to the anti-inflammatory properties. Although it doesn’t have an immediate impact, studies show that ginger taken over time can reduce the day-to-day progression of muscle pain.

5) Fight illness. 

Ginger inhibits the rhinovirus, which is responsible for the common cold, as well as salmonella.

6) Soothe osteoarthritis. 

Research has shown that ginger can reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis over time, even comparing ginger to medications such as ibuprofen. Massage therapy using ginger oil can also reduce short-term stiffness and knee pain.

7) Ward off diabetes. 

A 2015 study of people with Type 2 diabetes showed ginger powder significantly reduced fasting blood sugar levels when taken daily. It also improved HbA1c (a marker for long-term blood sugar levels) by 10%, and improved two other markers that are both major risk factors for heart disease.

8) Ease nasal congestion. 

Try brewing a hot ginger tea to alleviate congestion in the throat and nose. Simply steep fresh ginger in boiling water for a spicy and healthy tea.

9) Reduce dizziness. 

Taking ginger can reduce the dizziness associated with vertigo and nausea.

How to incorporate more ginger into your diet

It’s easy to add ginger to your diet; you can use it fresh or powdered, and it has a delicious spicy flavor. Ginger is readily available at the supermarket, and although it is relatively expensive you need only use a small amount in your cooking. Look for fresh ginger root without wrinkles, and store it in a snap-lock bag in the refrigerator or freezer. Ginger should last in the fridge for around a month, but it can be used for longer as long as it isn’t slimy or moldy, or too soft. Make sure you peel it before use, and then grate or slice it depending on your recipe.

You can pop freshly peeled ginger slices into a cup of boiling water for a healthy, ginger tea that is great for your gut health. Look for dried or crystallized ginger at your local grocery store or health shop – as long as it doesn’t have too much sugar on it, this is a great little spicy treat to have before or after meals.