If you've spent any amount of time reading about health supplements and holistic medicine, you've probably come across the use of kitchen spices as herbal remedies. Cinnamon, garlic, tea; any number of common kitchen ingredients have health benefits when consumed as part of an overall healthy diet.
Two of the most frequently mentioned – and potentially powerful – spices are turmeric and ginger. In fact, in addition to all of their unique benefits, these two are commonly combined into one super-supplement. Many believe that they have synergistic ingredients that help power up each other. Is that true? What are the benefits of combining these two roots? Let's find out.
First, let's start with the basics. What are these two roots?
Ginger is also known by the scientific name Zingiber Officinale, and it's a root native to Southeast Asia. It's a potent spice with a bit of a kick and an almost fruity scent, particularly when prepared fresh. When dried and ground into a powder, it loses that fruitiness but gains more of that potent spicy taste distinct from capsaicin.
Turmeric is also known as Curcuma Longa. It's distantly related to ginger, as part of the same overall family of root spices. It's a brilliant orange-yellow color and contains a compound called curcumin, which is responsible for most of its medicinal benefits. It's typically found in India and the surrounding countries.
Cardamom is a third spice in the same family, though it hasn't been studied as much for its health benefits.
Both roots are commonly consumed as culinary spices and can be found fresh, dried, or ground into a powder. You can find them in all three forms fairly commonly in the west as well, due to their proliferation as both culinary spices and health supplements.
What Benefits Do They Have?
The reason many people believe that these two spices have synergistic properties is that, despite coming from different areas, having different flavor profiles, and containing different chemical compounds, they both have similar sets of benefits.
Anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation is one of the most common sources of illness around the world. Inflammation is the body's reaction to stress and illness. As a bodily process, it sends blood and warmth to the affected area, to better allow your immune system to fight off whatever is ailing it. Unfortunately, that inflammation itself can exacerbate some ailments and cause others.
Inflammation can worsen autoimmune diseases and arthritis, and can potentially even cause other diseases, including certain kinds of cancers. Chronic inflammation is also difficult to detect since low levels of inflammation throughout the body can be hard to notice and manifest as soreness and aches rather than anything obvious.
Many different studies performed on relatively small groups of people, usually those with specific ailments like arthritis, have shown anti-inflammatory benefits in both turmeric and ginger. Turmeric has the potential to be nearly as effective as NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen, commonly used as painkillers.
"One review of 15 studies also observed that supplementing with turmeric could reduce levels of CRP, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and malondialdehyde (MDA), all of which are used to measure inflammation in the body." - Healthline
Pain relief. Another major benefit of both ginger and turmeric is pain relief. This is somewhat closely tied to inflammation. Aspirin and ibuprofen both work by reducing inflammation, which reduces sensitivity and aches in joints, in muscles and throughout the body. So, when you reduce inflammation, you also reduce pain.
It's also possible that both ginger and turmeric have natural pain-relieving functions. Many different studies on different groups of people, targeting different ailments, have seen some level of reduction in chronic pain through the use of these two roots.
There are some caveats here. For one thing, the therapeutic dose is higher than the culinary dose. Where you might use half a teaspoon of ginger or turmeric in a meal – and some of that gets left behind in the pan – the dose you use medicinally is larger. A typical dose used in a study for chronic pain is 1000mg or 1500mg. Using that much of the spice in your meals, well, that's going to be an acquired taste.
The second caveat is that it's not always just ginger and turmeric used in these studies. One of the most common tests is using curcumin, the compound in turmeric, isolated from the rest of the ingredients in turmeric. Given that culinary turmeric is only about 3% curcumin, the therapeutic dose is a much larger and more concentrated version of the spice. If you buy a supplement rather than the spice, you're getting concentrated curcumin instead, which will have more therapeutic effects.
Immune system support. Your immune system is one of the most complex parts of your body, believe it or not. It's a finely-tuned and always-active machine, constantly fighting off small pathogens and invaders, while building defenses against them to fight them off later.
"Boosting" the immune system isn't always desirable. Many autoimmune diseases are an over-active immune system, targeting and attacking natural parts of the body, like the lubricating cartilage in your joints or a protein in your skin.
That said, when we say something like ginger or turmeric boosts the immune system, what we mean is that it supports immune function. It doesn't make your immune system more active, nor does it train your immune system the way a vaccine might. Instead, it might help do some of the work for your immune system.
Some studies with ginger and turmeric have shown that they can suppress the growth of certain respiratory viruses and other ailments. It can even help fight off some of the effects of allergies!
Again, there's always a caveat. Many of these studies have only been performed in test tubes or on mice, and have not been proven in humans. We don't yet have enough evidence to say whether or not these benefits are "real" for people, but it certainly can't hurt to give them a try.
Anti-nausea. Anyone that grew up with parents who rely on natural remedies knows that ginger is one of THE go-to medications for nausea. Whether it's a ginger candy or a ginger ale, any time you have an upset stomach, nausea, or another stomach complaint, chances are that a good infusion of ginger can help.
There's not much ginger in something like ginger ale, and yet even at that dose, it can prove effective. It stands to reason that a more intense dose will have a more pronounced effect. Since many actual anti-nausea medications have a range of side effects, it's no wonder that people turn to ginger when it's readily available.
Several studies have confirmed that ginger supplements can help a lot with nausea induced by, for example, surgery. Post-op nausea is an irritating problem for many people, and a simple ginger supplement helps a lot in reducing it. There's also some research showing that it may have benefits for those undergoing chemotherapy.
There are also a host of other potential benefits, which haven't been studied at all. We've only included the benefits with some scientific backing here.
How to Use Ginger and Turmeric Together
There are a lot of different options available to you when using these two spices, but they all boil down to two main choices.
The first is to use supplements. You can easily buy individual or combined supplements. Around 1000mg of both spices is enough to get therapeutic effects for most people. Taking that much of each spice once each day, usually alongside a meal, is generally enough.
You can also find a combined supplement. These supplements typically combine turmeric, ginger, and some other ingredients. For example, our combination includes ginger, turmeric, curcumin extract, as well as black pepper, cayenne, and sea salt. All of these have benefits on the body and can help increase the potency of one another.
In particular, black pepper is an important part of this mixture. Many studies have shown that one particular compound in black pepper, known as piperine, has a synergistic effect with curcumin. In other words, by adding some black pepper to your turmeric, you make the turmeric more effective.
The addition of cayenne is a way to get some capsaicin into the mixture, which also has anti-inflammatory properties.
The other option available to you is to use it in food.
Now, we don't necessarily recommend this option, for three reasons. The first is that you won't be able to use enough of the spices, in general. Since the therapeutic dose is so high, you're going to need to load up on the spices, and that is bound to overload any meal you make.
The second reason is that you need to take it every day for the best effect. While some people take to single, repeated meals easily, most of us like some variety in our lives. You'll eventually get tired of dumping a spoonful of ginger and turmeric in every meal, and then you'll probably turn to supplements anyway.
The third reason is that culinary turmeric is not concentrated the way supplement turmeric is. Culinary turmeric only includes about 3% curcumin, whereas the turmeric you get in a supplement can be as much as 95% curcumin. It gets to the point where a medicinal dose of turmeric is so large it's comical, AND it's expensive to keep buying that much of the spice.
Our recommendation? Do both.
Get a combined supplement like the one we sell, and take that daily. Then, buy a set of spices to use in your dishes.
- Black pepper
- Cayenne, Red Pepper, or another capsaicin-including spice
These are all potent spices with beneficial effects on inflammation, and additionally, pain, and other issues.
Do These Spices Have Side Effects?
One of the biggest problems with herbal remedies is that they aren't pure. Medicines are a single pure ingredient, which interacts with the body in a specific, predictable way. Side effects happen, but they can be controlled or accounted for.
The drawback to using spices like turmeric and ginger as medicines is that you never really know their potency. One batch of turmeric could be much more potent than another. One jar of ginger could be fresh and new, while another could be older and partially deteriorated. It's a risk you take.
Side effects for ginger and turmeric are relatively few. There are a couple worth knowing, however.
First up, ginger has some blood-thinning properties. This alone is rarely a problem, but it means that if you're taking ginger supplements, you might have some trouble with clotting if you get a cut or a wound. If you're on blood-thinning medications, the effects compound, and it can reach dangerous levels.
Ginger can also reduce blood sugar. Again, on its own, this isn't a problem. However, if you have diabetes, or if you're on a medication that reduces blood sugar, you might find that you have blood sugar issues.
High doses of curcumin have been known to cause some other side effects in certain people who are sensitive to it. These include rashes, headaches, and intestinal distress.
As with any time you're taking a supplement as a medication, you need to consult with your doctor to make sure you're not going to cause any interactions with medication or medical issues you may have. However, if you're generally healthy and are not taking other medications, you can usually take supplements like these safely.
As always, if you experience drastic negative side effects, discontinue using the supplements and consult a doctor. It's rare, but you may have a sensitivity or allergy to the ingredients, or you may have gotten a bad batch.
Have you tried out using ginger and turmeric, on their own or together? If so, have they had a beneficial effect on your overall health? Let us know your story in the comments! We always like hearing about the success stories of our customers.
Additionally, if you ever have any comments, questions, or concerns, please feel free to reach out at any time!