You may be familiar with ginger as a star ingredient in pumpkin pie or gingerbread cookies, but it also has a long history of use in ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment to alleviate arthritis, cold symptoms and nausea. The way ginger affects digestion also makes it a possible weight-loss aid that may suppress hunger and moderate blood sugar levels.

Ginger and Blood Sugar

Preliminary research suggests that ginger helps stabilize blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. Wild fluctuations in blood sugar can lead to cravings, extreme hunger and insulin desensitization, all of which can cause overeating. In a 2015 study published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, participants with type 2 diabetes who consumed ginger powder daily for 12 weeks experienced reduced levels of fasting blood sugar 6. A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition reported that ginger taken daily for eight weeks helped reduce insulin sensitivity and fasting blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics 17. Despite these promising results, larger and additional studies are needed to confirm whether ginger is effective for people with diabetes.

Ginger Helps You Feel Full

Ginger may help diminish your appetite, which makes cutting calories easier. The journal Metabolism published a study in 2012 that demonstrated that a hot ginger beverage containing 2 grams of ginger powder consumed after a meal reduces feelings of hunger for up to six hours. The ginger drink also seemed to increase the number of calories the body used to digest the initial meal, known as the thermic effect of food. This small study is promising, but more research is needed to confirm the findings.

Ginger for Obesity Treatment & Weight Loss

Animal studies have indicated that ginger, when used in conjunction with other therapies, may be a way to treat obesity. A 2014 issue of the Journal of the Science and Food of Agriculture, tested the effect of gingerol -- the primary component in ginger -- on body weight in obese rats 8. After 30 days, the rats experienced significant reduction in body weight as well as improved levels of leptin -- the hormone that signals satiety -- and insulin.

Another study performed on rats and published in a 2013 issue of European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences compared the effects of a ginger supplement and Orlistat, a medication that promotes weight loss 9. After four weeks, the ginger and Orlistat had similar significant effects on reduction in body weight. The ginger also improved the level of good cholesterol in the rats' blood.

However, it's too early to say whether or not ginger has the same weight loss benefits in humans.

Precautions in Taking Ginger

Ginger added to meals as a spice or condiment shouldn't be an issue for most people. Supplemental pills, tinctures and oils, though, should be approached with caution. You should be talk to your doctor before adding ginger in supplemental form to your diet, and if you take a blood thinner, you should be extra careful -- ginger can increase the risk of bleeding. Those on high blood pressure or diabetes medications should also consult their medical care provider before consuming extra ginger, because in addition to its effects on blood sugar, it can lower blood pressure.