It’s often cried that while eating an acne-friendly diet would be nice, it’s simply too expensive, or even inconvenient or intellectually challenging. Well, there’s one food found in every supermarket from American cities to Indian mountain passes which disproves this – ginger.
Ground ginger root is one of the most powerful yet simple foods for acne. Buy a bulk packet and a teaspoon per day will cost you as little as $2 per month. If you’re addicted to acne-friendly, paleo or vegan recipes, ginger is a flavouring you can add to countless meals. You can even add ground ginger to unhealthy recipes to soften the damage, in little more than five seconds.
There’s no complexity with ginger; using it is mindlessly simple. With tomatoes there’s potential with the vitamin C and lycopene, but a chance of an inflammatory reaction from the glycoalkaloids. Even apples are slightly too high in sugar. Ginger is one of the few acne-friendly foods which has no downside.
Ginger can be taken all over the world, to keep your skin clear no matter which continent you roam. Flying to Austria for a skiing holiday? Carry a vial of ginger and add it to the hot chocolate served in mountain restaurants. Trying to climb Everest naked? Swirl ginger into the yak butter tea the villagers sell you. The whole world serves coffee and tea.
Ginger is the equal of a bowl of raspberries for acne, but a daily pack of organic raspberries is much more expensive. Ginger is as cheap as sand but as valuable as diamond dust.
A strong antioxidant spice
Like oregano and basil before it, ginger is one of the richest yet most convenient antioxidant sources an acne patient could use. The greatness of ground ginger is down to its high concentration, having all the moisture evaporated and only the dense nutrition remaining. Ginger has an ORAC score of 28,811, lower than turmeric and cinnamon but still very high.
Ginger as a whole is proven to increase your own antioxidants as well. One study fed ground ginger powder to rats daily; the diet consisted of 0.5% to 5% ginger, an achievable amount for an everyday acne patient. After 1 month, levels of the three most important antioxidant enzymes increased: catalase by 37-94%, superoxide dismutase by 76-414%, and glutathione by 11-30%.
Glutathione is the all-important acne antioxidant which decreases massively during alcohol abuse or painkiller overdoses. Interestingly for people who can’t resist wine or beer, this study examined ethanol specifically, and found that the glutathione decrease caused by drinking it was reversed by ginger. A study on humans, 43 cancer patients, found once again that daily ginger doses increased all three antioxidant enzymes.
The explanation may be identified too. Ginger root has a higher than average amount of rare antioxidant compounds for a plant, including gingerols, paradols, zingerone and shogaols. Paradol or (6)-paradol is a phenolic antioxidant, found only in ginger and guinea peppers, which are members of the same plant family. This study treated rats with the toxic chemical DMBA. This led to a catastrophic decline in antioxidant enzymes like glutathione, but feeding them (6)-paradol reversed the decline, restoring the antioxidants to healthy levels. Paradol provides a large portion of ginger’s flavour.
Gingerol, meanwhile, which is completely unique to ginger, was shown to reverse the glutathione reduction from acetaminophen, or paracetomol. Glutathione depletion is one of the reasons why painkillers constantly give people acne – maybe it’s happened to you.
Ginger combines its own antioxidants with an ability to stimulate your own supply. The evidence is rock solid.
The glorious result for acne will be stronger skin against free radicals, and a healthier tone. You will also acquire the ability to conquer your genetics; if your skin is naturally oily, supercharging your antioxidant supplies will make it irrelevant.
A vicious inflammation slasher
If there’s one medicinal property which ginger has become famous for, it’s not clearing acne: it’s treating arthritis naturally. The ginger root is native to China, India, and West Africa, and it’s known that Indian and Chinese medicine used ginger for aching joints for at least 2500 years. It’s possible that West Africans did the same. Today, there’s even a natural arthritis supplement called Zinaxin, derived from the scientific name for ginger (zingiber officinale), containing extracts from two different ginger subspecies.
The explanation? Ginger can prevent immune system actors from attacking and damaging joint tissue, through it’s anti-inflammatory properties.
Firstly, we have a study comparing ginger to the pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin. Ginger was found to have equal anti-inflammatory properties to this specifically formulated medication.
This study fed humans 500mg of ginger for 3 months. Ginger caused a massive drop in c-reactive protein, the most accurate biomarker used to assess inflammation levels, while a starch placebo was ineffective.
Back in 2015, ginger deservedly gained entry to the top 18 foods for inflammation, but since then the floodgates have opened. This 2016 study analysed c-reactive protein once again, and concluded that eating just one gram of ginger daily decreased c-reactive protein by 27.6% in obese men after 3 months. I usually eat 3-5 grams daily. This 2016 review analysed 9 different studies from decades gone by, and concluded that “ginger supplementation significantly reduces serum CRP“.
There’s also endless studies on diseases caused by inflammation, such as this study on muscle stiffness. 20 martial art fanatics were fed ginger while exercising thrice weekly, and later experienced calmer and relaxed muscles compared to the placebo group. They ate just 3 grams each day, a small and easily achievable amount.
Consider the pain and stiffness after a hard workout. Remember how the muscle tissue feels as it slowly calms down, and apply that to the pimples on your face. They too will calm down and any swelling will decrease, thanks to ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties.
Ginger was also found in this study to reduce migraines as effectively as the migraine drug sumatriptan, and with less side effects. Migraines have many causes, but inflammation of brain tissue is one of them.
The unique antioxidants enter the fray once again, including gingerols (study) and shogaols (study). Also, you might not believe a word of this while your daily dose of ginger is burning your throat, but shogaol has potent anti-tussive or cough healing properties.
The subject of inflammation is a complex one. Ginger works by inhibiting both COX-2 and 5-lipoxygenase, two master-regulators which control numerous pro-inflammatory chemicals between them. Different anti-inflammatory plants act on different inflammatory agents. Sweet potatoes and olive oil also act on COX-2, whereas lavender oil inhibits neutrophils.
Regardless, eating ginger will soothe the redness and swelling of your acne.
The enemy of oiliness
Ginger is similar to cinnamon in its ability to lower blood levels of insulin and glucose, and thus reduce sebum production. It’s less powerful, but in a way, that’s a good thing. Cinnamon was shown to lower blood glucose by 19-28%, a great drop but such a big one that you have to control your intake if you’re on a low carb diet or get dizzy regularly.
Ginger was found to decrease fasting blood sugar by 10.5% in this study on 88 diabetic patients. A placebo group experienced an increase, of 21%. Both insulin levels and fasting insulin were found to be lower in the lucky ginger group, which is the main factor for acne. 3 grams of ginger for 8 weeks was all it took to achieve these excellent results.
How exactly does it work? Ginger’s endless antioxidants can protect insulin molecules and make less of them necessary, but these benefits are uniquely strong compared to other antioxidant rich foods like pomegranates. It turns out that the glorious miracle compound is 6-gingerol. This study analysed 6-gingerol; it was shown to increase glucose uptake at insulin-responsive energy stores, therefore making less insulin necessary.
This later study confirmed that gingerol enhanced GLUT-4, the actual protein which transports glucose from the bloodstream and into muscle stores. Gingerol caused a slight increase in GLUT-4 activation, but substantially enhanced its transportation powers, allowing the existing GLUT-4 to bind to energy store cell membranes and store the glucose inside more effectively.
Seeing as GLUT-4 is controlled by insulin, eating gingerol and thus ginger will allow insulin levels to fall. The best part is that both gingerols and shogaols are extremely well absorbed in humans and accumulate rapidly in tissues (study), unlike some other antioxidants such as curcumin from turmeric.
Elevated insulin is the one of the biggest causes of oily skin. Improving insulin sensitivity allows levels of insulin to be lower while still fulfilling its purpose, shuttling energy into glycogen stores. After eating potatoes, fruit, or yogurt, the natural insulin increase will be shorter and more efficient. Adult acne readers particularly stand to benefit from this, since teenagers haven’t had decades for their insulin sensitivity to wear away yet.
Bonus benefit – brain enhancement
We now arrive at a benefit which has nothing to do with acne – the acquisition of intelligence. An objective which, according to the latest studies, ginger is excellent at achieving.
This study examined 60 healthy middle-aged women, feeding them either plant extracts as a placebo or ginger. After 2 months, the ginger group experienced significant improvements in memory, attention and cognitive processing abilities.
A study on mice was similarly interesting, with ginger-fed mice enjoying improved memory and learning. Some bonus details were revealed too, as ginger was found to have increased nerve growth factor (NGF), which stimulates the growth of new neurons, and synaptophysin and PSD-95, two indicators of higher synapse formation. All we can do now is pray that the scientists don’t take it too far and we all wake up with mice as our leaders.
With inflammation, the gingerols, shogaols and zingerones are all responsible, but the brain boosting benefits are almost entirely down to the shogaols.
This study found that 6-shagoal suppressed neuro-inflammation and consequently, degeneration of the brain, while this 6-shagaol study pretty much matched the ginger one on rats exactly, with increases in NGF and synapse markers. During digestion in humans, 6-shogaol is broken down into 16 different metabolites, meaning that any one of them could be responsible.
Any food which is rich in antioxidants can improve your brain health, by protecting neurons and neurotransmitters from free radical oxidation, but ginger has unique properties. Ginger should improve both your mood and your intelligence. Of course, this does have benefits for your skin, as McDonald’s won’t be able to convince you that a big mac is the real cure for acne.
Bonus benefit 2# – higher testosterone
The greatness of easily purchased ginger powder continues with a mysterious power to increase testosterone levels in humans. It started with two rat studies (one, two) in which ginger increased both testosterone and fertility. The investigation then moved onto humans, with 75 apparently infertile men being fed ginger daily.
After 3 months, the moment of truth arrived: total testosterone levels increased by an average of 17.7%.
Ginger also increased the secretion of leutinising hormone by 43.2%. Leutinising hormone is a hormone regulator secreted by the pituitary gland. In men, it kick-starts the synthesis of testosterone, by signalling leydig cells in your balls to manufacture it.
In another interesting mechanism, testosterone production in your balls depends on certain enzymes. One of the studies speculated that the high antioxidant content of ginger protects these vital enzymes from toxic molecules.
Testosterone is the reason why acne exists in the first place, but the antioxidants in ginger will balance out the damage. All you will be left with is extra concentration, sex drive, and muscles that explode from nowhere after lifting only a pebble. Factors related to fertility improved as well: including sperm mobility and sperm count, and testicular weight in the rat studies (who cares if you can barely walk).
For women, ginger will likely have no effect given that their hormonal systems are wildly different. If you are an athlete, a bodybuilder or a man looking to create an army of kids, ginger is a top food to include.
Will topically applied ginger achieve anything?
The internet is full of recipes combining ginger with honey, yogurt, lemon juice or oils to create a face mask. For some reason, ginger is one of the most popular natural skincare ingredients. The truth is that ginger’s huge amount of antioxidants will prevent acne excellently, if combined with a carrier oil for penetration, but that’s the only proven property.
That said, ginger is in my top 5 natural topical treatments to keep an eye on. Why? Because two of its fellow spices, turmeric and cinnamon, ended up having topical powers that nobody could have expected.
Both are similar to ginger nutritionally: high in antioxidants and their own unique compounds. In 2012, topically applied cinnamon was demonstrated to increase collagen levels significantly in human skin, thanks to its signature compound cinnamaldehyde. Topical turmeric, meanwhile, has been proven to decrease sebum production by 24.76% after 3 months.
Ginger has no standout powers like these – yet. Few topical studies have been conducted at all, other than some showing mild wound cleansing properties. With ginger’s high amount of unique compounds like gingerols, zingerones, shogaols and paradols, the opportunity for a completely unexpected power is huge. The greater the number of rare compounds, the greater the chance of a rare power. With shogaols enhancing your brain and gingerols enhancing your glucose stores, time will tell what they do to your skin.
Ginger is the spice equivalent of oregano: a strong acne-clearing food which can be bought in bulk and added constantly to any food you desire.
Ginger is less nutritious than turmeric, the most powerful spice for acne, but has the huge advantage of versatility. Turmeric is limited to curries. With ginger, there’s opportunities in yogurt, milk, tea, coffee, and many homemade recipes using acne-friendly alternative ingredients like honey and banana flour.
Oregano is the master of savoury foods like meat, while ginger is the ruler of the sweetness realm. Never forget simple, inexpensive tricks like these.
An excellent bulk brand is this Frontier Co-op Organic Ginger Root Powder.
If a university student whose diet consisted of pizza and ready meals and whose antioxidant intake consisted solely of potatoes (which are weak for antioxidants) swirled ginger into his milk daily, he could see huge improvements in his skin, just from a simple trick like that. The less antioxidants you eat, the more you stand to benefit.
Thanks for reading!