Here’s what research shows about the mental health benefits of ginger

Image: Here’s what research shows about the mental health benefits of ginger

Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory that also offers other health benefits. In fact, the versatile plant can even help boost your mental health.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) comes from the rhizome or root of a flowering plant native to China, but the spice can grow in any area that is warm and humid. Aside from its use as a natural remedy for digestive disorders, ginger can also be used to address arthritis, memory loss and dementia, and muscle aches and pains.

Thanks to scientific research, experts are beginning to understand how ginger works. To date, research has identified over 100 compounds in ginger. More than 50 of these are antioxidants, which is crucial to brain health since the organ is vulnerable to free radical damage.

Ginger is often used as an anti-inflammatory, making it a popular natural remedy for arthritis. The plant’s anti-inflammatory property can also help people with brain disorders like ADHD, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, brain fog, and depression, which are often associated with chronic inflammation of the brain. Experts believe that ginger’s anti-inflammatory effects on the brain are due to two unique compounds called 6-shogaol and 10-gingerol.

Like the Indian spice turmeric, ginger also has a compound called curcumin. This compound is a natural antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral. Curcumin is a potent herbal brain supplement ingredient that can help address anxiety, brain aging, depression, and neurodegenerative diseases. (Related: What Happens To Your Body When You Start Eating Ginger Every Day.)

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Ginger for brain health

Your body is constantly under attack from oxidative stress. Oxygen in the body splits into single atoms with unpaired electrons, and electrons can often be found in pairs. These atoms, called free radicals, scavenge the body to find other electrons so they can become a pair. When these atoms are paired, they cause damage to cells, DNA, and proteins. Studies show that free radicals are linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, cancer, and Parkinson’s, among others.

Your brain is prone to free radical damage since it requires a lot of oxygen. Free radicals are caused by common factors like:

  • Air pollution
  • Fried food
  • Grilled meat
  • Lack of sleep
  • Radiation from your mobile phone and computer
  • Stress

Antioxidants in ginger can also protect the brain from further damage and memory loss after a stroke.

Ginger increases the level of two of the most important brain chemicals: dopamine and serotonin. Depression is strongly associated with deficient levels of both chemicals.

Dopamine is called the “motivation molecule” because it helps you focus and be productive. Dopamine is also in charge of your pleasure-reward system. Meanwhile, serotonin is known as the “happiness molecule” because it helps sustain a positive mood.

The spice is traditionally used to treat memory loss and dementia and research has determined that ginger can help improve other cognitive functions besides memory. According to a study, healthy adults given dried ginger supplements showed improvements in attention, reaction time, and working memory.

People with diabetes also rely on ginger as a natural remedy because it can help control blood sugar, especially if you are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Ginger has antioxidants called gingerols that enhance insulin sensitivity and prevent certain neurological diabetic complications.

Ginger is an effective remedy that can minimize the pain of migraine headaches. The spice has similar effects to sumatriptan, a commonly prescribed migraine drug that narrows blood vessels to the brain. But unlike sumatriptan, which is associated with negative side effects, ginger can relieve migraines without any side effects.

Suggested ginger dosages

Ginger, which comes in many forms, can be used as a food and as a supplement. Ginger supplements are available as capsules, crystals, essential oils, extracts, loose powder, and tinctures.

A typical dose of ginger is one gram, and the best way to ingest this dose is by taking two ginger capsules. Most supplements contain at 500 milligrams (mg) per capsule.

Below are some ginger dosage equivalents:

  • One teaspoon of fresh, grated ginger root
  • Two droppers (or two milliliters [ml]) of liquid ginger extract
  • Two pieces of crystallized ginger (about a one-inch square and 1/4 inch thick for each piece)
  • Four cups of ginger tea (Make the tea by steeping two teaspoons of grated ginger in 32 ounces of water for five to 10 minutes.)

Possible ginger side effects and interactions

When consumed as a food, especially fresh, ginger is considered very safe with little to no side effects. However, when too much ginger is consumed in other forms, especially powdered ginger, it may cause side effects such as bloating, gas, heartburn, and nausea.

Ginger also functions as a blood thinner. Avoid taking it as a supplement if you take blood-thinning medication such as warfarin. If you take diabetes or high blood pressure medications, talk to a healthcare professional to determine adjustments to your medication if you want to take supplemental ginger.

Ginger is a versatile herbal remedy that can help relieve digestive upset, and it also offers various benefits for brain health and function. Add fresh ginger to your diet or take it as a supplement to enjoy its many benefits and improve both your physical and mental well-being.

Visit to read more articles about ginger and other natural cures that can help improve your mental health.

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Curcumin reduces the effects of a high-fat diet

Image: Curcumin reduces the effects of a high-fat diet

Diets high in fat are known as major contributors to many health diseases, such as heart disease, and cancer. Researchers at Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research in India discovered that taking curcumin supplements minimizes the damage caused by a high-fat diet.

In their study, the researchers looked at the beneficial effects of curcumin on inflammation, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance in high-fat-fed rats. They examined two groups of rats: one group fed with a high-fat diet only and another group given a high-fat diet with 200 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) body weight of curcumin every day for 10 weeks.

The researchers measured the rats’ food intake, body weight, and biochemical parameters at the start and the end of the study. After 10 weeks, they also measured the oxidative stress parameters in skeletal muscle and liver triglyceride levels.

The results revealed that the high-fat diet increased the body weight and liver fat. It also increased the levels of plasma glucose, insulin, insulin resistance, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL-c), and decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

The high-fat diet also increased inflammation and oxidative stress in skeletal muscles. It also increased liver triglyceride content and caused fat buildup in the liver.

However, the supplementation with curcumin significantly improved these changes. Curcumin supplementation significantly reduced body weight, liver adipose tissue, glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance. In addition, it decreased plasma levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, VLDL-c, and inflammatory markers, and increased HDL cholesterol. Moreover, it reduced oxidative stress, hepatic triglyceride content, and liver fat deposition.

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With these findings, the researchers concluded that curcumin could improve lipid levels, oxidative stress, inflammation, and insulin resistance caused by a high-fat diet.

Curcumin and turmeric

Curcumin is the active ingredient of the spice called turmeric and is responsible for most of the spice’s health benefits. It takes up about two to eight percent of most turmeric preparations and gives turmeric its distinct color and flavor.  Here are some health benefits of turmeric and curcumin backed up by scientific evidence:

  • Cancer: One of the most notable benefits of turmeric and curcumin is their ability to prevent cancer. Turmeric and curcumin may help prevent cancer by reducing the activity of colon and other cancer cells. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that curcumin inhibits to the DYRK2 enzyme. Inhibiting this enzyme stops protein complexes known as proteasomes that contribute to cancer development. This action interrupts the proliferation of cancer cells, reducing tumors, and slowing cancer’s growth. This is beneficial for preventing proteasome-addicted cancers, such as triple-negative breast cancer and multiple myeloma.
  • Antibacterial: Turmeric and curcumin have powerful antibacterial effects. They have been reported to inhibit the growth of many disease-causing bacteria.
  • Antifungal: Studies have also reported that turmeric and curcumin have antifungal effects. They can disrupt fungal cell membranes and could be used with other fungal medicines for better effect.
  • Diabetes: Turmeric and curcumin can improve blood sugar metabolism and potentially reduce the effects of diabetes in the body.
  • Heart disease: As mentioned in the Indian study, curcumin reduced bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. These effects, which were also seen in earlier studies, can cut the risk of heart disease.
  • Liver health: Turmeric and curcumin can also protect the liver from damage caused by oxidative stress.
  • Obesity: Research has shown that turmeric and curcumin may inhibit the inflammatory pathway related to obesity and may help control body fat.
  • Osteoarthritis: Plant compounds in turmeric, including curcumin, can decrease inflammatory markers and relieve osteoarthritis symptoms, such as pain and stiffness.

Here are some natural interventions that slow down (and sometimes even reverse) cataracts

Image: Here are some natural interventions that slow down (and sometimes even reverse) cataracts

Regardless of your actual age, your eyes are often the last thing that stays young. However, this is only possible if you regularly follow a healthy diet.

Preventing and reversing cataracts

While cataracts are linked to poorer eyesight and even blindness, they are believed to be an inevitable part of aging. However, certain modifiable risk factors and natural interventions may help slow and even reverse this condition.

  1. Curcumin (turmeric extract) – There is significant data that confirms the health benefits of curcumin in the animal model of cataract formation. Study data revealed that curcumin, a highly therapeutic polyphenol that’s responsible for turmeric’s bright yellow color, can help prevent the formation of cataracts.
  2. Don’t use cholesterol-lowering statin drugs – For more than 20 years, data from animal research has determined that statin drugs are linked to cataracts. In the post-marketing surveillance of statin drug users, findings have shown that when taken, “either alone or in combination with other drugs which inhibit their metabolism,” the drugs increase the risk of cataracts in individuals who take them. An identified mechanism for the cataractogenic potential of these drugs is the fact that they can gain systemic distribution in the body, which happens when they pass through the blood-brain-barrier and enter the eye itself, specifically, the outer cortical region of the lens where cholesterol synthesis is critical. This mechanism is responsible for the damage in the lens. (Related: 8 Eye issues you can’t afford to ignore.)
  3. Lutein – According to a two-year double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study, lutein can help improve visual function in individuals with age-related cataracts. Sources of lutein include egg yolks, kale, and marigold.
  4. Wheatgrass – Data from a 2005 study, which was titled “Aging reversibility: from thymus graft to vegetable extract treatment — application to cure an age-associated pathology” and published in the journal Biogerontology, wheatgrass can potentially reverse lens opacity linked to cataracts. Researchers explained that for the study, the lens opacity of old dogs who received oral dosages of wheatgrass for one month was measured before and after the treatment. The results revealed that there was a 25 to 40 percent reduction of lens opacity. The study authors posited that the wheat sprouts can help in “the recovery of age-related alterations and in treating age-associated pathologies” because they contain “regulatory acid peptides, a remarkable level of highly energetic phosphoric radicals and antioxidant molecules. These compounds in wheatgrass can potentially help reduce lens opacity.

What are cataracts?

Cataracts are dense and cloudy areas that can form in the lens of your eye. A cataract often develops when proteins in your eye form clumps that prevent the lens from sending clear images to your retina.

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The retina works by turning the light that comes through the lens into signals. The signals are then sent to the optic nerve, which is finally sent to the brain.

A cataract forms slowly and in time, it will interfere with your vision. You might get cataracts in both eyes, but they rarely form simultaneously.

Older people often develop cataracts. The National Eye Institute reports that more than 50 percent of individuals in the U.S. have cataracts or have undergone cataract surgery the moment they turn 80 years old.

Some common symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Double vision in the affected eye
  • Frequently needing changes in prescription glasses
  • Halos surrounding lights
  • Increased sensitivity to glare
  • Trouble seeing at night

Some underlying causes of cataracts may include:

  • Certain diseases (e.g., diabetes)
  • The long-term use of steroids and other medications
  • Radiation therapy
  • Smoking
  • Trauma
  • Ultraviolet radiation

Don’t wait until your eyesight starts to worsen. Follow a healthy diet today to delay and maybe even reverse your cataracts.

Find more ways of taking care of your eyes naturally at

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How Forest Bathing Gave Me A Whole New Perspective On the Idea of “Natural Healing”

A foray into the world of talking to trees helped me become not just more mindful, but more adventurous.

“Think of a question you have about your life. Now find a tree and place your hands on the bark. Feel the tree. Listen to the tree. Don’t leave until you have your answer.”

This was a literal thing that was said to me during my first “forest bath”—a mindfulness-based hike I was hoping wouldn’t be too hippie-dippy. Spoiler alert: it was. Rather than some profound pearl of wisdom from Mother Nature herself, all I could hear was the sound of my own voice inside my head saying, What the hell are you doing here? Do you think they’ll notice if you leave?

As a health and wellness journalist, I like cold, hard, clinical science. I abstain from any activity involving incense, I have absolutely zero desire to try Ayahuasca. But I’m also curious, and I’m a sucker for a good hike, which is how I ended up non-ironically hugging a tree with 10 strangers.

“Forest bathing” may sound like new age-y nonsense, but the core philosophy is really about how being outdoors can facilitate calming of the mind and body.

A forest bath, I’d learned after I’d RSVP’d to a friend’s event, involves no literal bathing. (Thank god, since the idea of stripping down like a wood nymph would have crossed way too many lines for me. To say nothing of the splinters!) Called shinrin-yoku in Japan where the practice was first created, forest bathing is simply the practice of mindfully walking through a natural space—touching the bark on the trees, inhaling the cool mossy scent of the dirt, feeling the splashes of sunlight peeking through the leaves and falling on your skin. It’s a literal manifestation of stopping to smell the roses.

“Mindfulness in nature, or forest bathing, provides an opportunity to calm the mind and body, while also being supported by nature,” Nina Smiley, Ph.D., director of mindfulness programing at the postcard-worthy Mohonk Mountain House in upstate New York, and author of Mindfulness in Nature, told me much later.

In theory, it sounded lovely. In practice, it meant I was talking to trees. I was instructed to “place” all my anxieties on a leaf and then cast it away, a little ship of worries now owned by the breeze. I munched on vegan chocolate bark made with flowers foraged from the trail. I worried increasingly about my relationship to reality with every step.

After we’d sat in a circle in a meadow reflecting on Mother Nature’s messages and closed the experience mindfully, I high-tailed it to find the nearest Uber, pizza, and glass of wine. My dip into the world of forest bathing had brought me way the hell out of my comfort zone.

The transformation of my mood after forest bathing was not a single epiphany so much as a slow, natural healing process that enhanced my ability to be mindful in otherwise chaotic situations.

But in the days following, I started noticing some odd after-bath effects: a calmer response to emails that would have normally thrown me into a tailspin of anxiety, an awareness of the dozens of shades of green in the tree outside my window, a sense of how the air in San Francisco where I live always smells marine and deliciously briney, even in its more urban center.

Then there was a slowly awakening sense of curiosity in new things, even a desire for adventure. One of the main themes of the bath was focusing on the idea that nature is a powerful and pervasive force—no matter what’s going on in our busy, social media-saturated lives, Mama Nature will always have our backs. We meditated on being empowered by that—taking more risks and following our inner compasses. Coincidentally or not, I found myself doing more of that in the weeks after the forest bath, saying yes to more things out of my comfort zone and ditching some of the narrow-minded hang ups that had kept me from trying new things (like any restaurant that put flowers on the menu, the meditation class at my yoga studio, or the makeup counter at Whole Foods).

When I stopped to reflect several weeks later, I realized my new age-y encounter with the wood nymphs had actually made a pretty significant mark.

Though it freaked me out, I wanted more. So I scheduled a hike with Smiley—a true expert in forest bathing—on her turf at Mohonk just before peak foliage season (picture hiking trails with views so good you can almost see all the way to Manhattan and a crystal clear lake that looks like it was taken from a Wes Anderson film) to ask her about how a skeptic like me could be more open-minded about adopting some of the tenets of forest bathing.

“It has long been known that nature nurtures,” she told me. “The interest in forest bathing speaks to the desire for ways to calm, center, and strengthen the body, mind, and spirit. Minds are saturated with information overload, and many feel the need to be constantly multi-tasking and digitally connected, creating an addiction to busyness.” Guilty.

With an expert guide, I hit the trail with a different set of priorities (and a formal request to skip any hugging of and/or talking to trees), namely to slow down and use all of my senses to really take in each moment rather than focus on getting a workout or a view, like I normally would on a hike. “The vibe of forest bathing is very different,” Smiley says. “Once you’re outdoors, forest bathing is only a mindful breath away. Once you understand how to do this—and how it feels to calm the body and clear the mind—you can do this walking down a city street, appreciating nature in the middle of an urban setting.”

It turns out that forest bathing doesn’t actually require a forest at all, just an outdoor space where I can be fully present.

Three hours later, I was stepping off a bus in midtown Manhattan at rush hour—a place I’d usually hug a thousand trees to avoid. Normally, I’d grab a cab and get the f**k out, but in the spirit of a little mindful adventure, I decided to walk through the heart of the city and practice some of what Smiley was preaching. I was surprised to find there’s a shocking number of flowers in Times Square—on an early fall night, with the right mindset, it’s almost a lovely stroll.

At first, my hang up with forest bathing was the new age-y nature of the idea—and to be clear, I’m still skeptical about the whole getting answers from trees thing. But the surprising sense of being more open-minded and adventurous about integrating natural healing into my wellness routine and—at the risk of sounding too hippie-dippy—my life, made me a convert. “Bringing the principles of forest bathing into everyday life means understanding that being fully present in the moment is a powerful way to enhance well-being,” Smiley says. If that means opening my eyes and mind wide enough to find a moment of serenity even in the concrete jungle, I’m willing to at least try to see the forest for the trees.

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