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 everywhere from American cities to remote Indian villages which disproves this – ginger.
Ground ginger root is one of the most powerful yet mindlessly simple foods for acne. Buy a bulk packet and a teaspoon daily can cost you just $2 monthly. 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. 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 worldwide, clearing your skin whichever continent you roam. Flying to Austria for a skiing holiday? Carry a vial of ginger and add it to hot chocolate in mountain restaurants. Trying to climb Everest naked? Swirl ginger into the yak butter tea the villagers sell you.
Ginger is the equal 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 before it, ginger is among the most convenient antioxidant bombshells an acne patient could use. The greatness is down to the high concentration, with all moisture evaporated and only dense nutrition remaining. Ginger has an ORAC score of 28,811, lower than turmeric and cinnamon but still extremely high.
Ginger is also proven to accelerate the production of your own antioxidants. One study fed rats a daily diet consisting of 0.5% to 5% ginger, an easily achievable amount. 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. Interestingly for people who can’t resist wine or beer, this study examined ethanol specifically, and found that ginger reversed the glutathione decrease caused by drinking it. A study on humans, 43 cancer patients, found once again that eating ginger daily increased all three antioxidant enzymes.
The explanation may be identified too. Ginger root is particularly rich in rare antioxidant compounds for a plant, including gingerols, paradols, zingerone and shogaols. Paradol or (6)-paradol is a phenolic antioxidant, also found in the closely related guinea pepper. This study treated rats with the toxic chemical DMBA. Antioxidant enzymes like glutathione declined catastrophically, but feeding them (6)-paradol restored the antioxidants to healthy levels.
Gingerol, meanwhile, which provides the flavour of ginger, was shown to reverse the glutathione reduction from acetaminophen, AKA paracetomol. Glutathione depletion is the biggest reason why painkillers constantly give people acne – maybe it’s happened to you.
Ginger combines its own antioxidants with a strong power to stimulate your own supply.
The glorious result for acne will be stronger skin against free radicals, and a healthier tone. You can also 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 is famous for, it’s not clearing acne: it’s treating arthritis naturally. It’s known that Indian and Chinese medicine used the native ginger for aching joints for at least 2500 years, and it’s possible that West Africans did the same. Today, there’s even a natural arthritis supplement called Zinaxin, containing extracts from two different ginger (zingiber officinale) subspecies.
The explanation? Ginger can prevent immune system agents from attacking joint tissue, through its anti-inflammatory properties. Firstly, we have a study where ginger had equal anti-inflammatory properties to the pharmaceutical drug indomethacin.
This study fed humans 500mg of ginger for 3 months, and observed a massive drop in c-reactive protein, the most accurate biomarker used to assess inflammation levels.
Back in 2015, ginger deservedly gained entry to the top 18 foods for inflammation, but since then the floodgates have opened. This 2016 study 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“. The unique antioxidants enter the fray once again, including gingerols (study) and shogaols (study).
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. 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. Your pimples will calm down and disappear in exactly the same way. Ginger was also found in this study to reduce migraines as effectively as the migraine drug sumatriptan, and with less side effects. Brain tissue inflammation is a big cause of migraines.
The subject of inflammation is a complex one, and ginger works by inhibiting both COX-2 and 5-lipoxygenase, two master-regulators which control numerous pro-inflammatory chemicals. Different anti-inflammatory plants act on different pro-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 like cinnamon: it lowers blood levels of insulin and glucose, and thus reduces sebum production. It’s less powerful, but in a good way. Cinnamon was shown to lower blood glucose by 19-28%, such a big drop that you have to control your intake if you’re on a low carb diet or get dizzy regularly.
3 grams of ginger decreased fasting blood sugar by 10.5% in this 8 week study on 88 diabetic patients. A placebo group experienced an increase, of 21%. Both insulin levels and fasting insulin were lower in the lucky ginger recipients, and insulin is the main factor for acne.
How exactly does it work? Ginger’s endless antioxidants can protect insulin molecules and make less insulin necessary, but ginger easily beats other antioxidant rich foods like pomegranates. It turns out that the glorious miracle compound is 6-gingerol. This study analysed 6-gingerol specifically, and detected increased glucose uptake at insulin-responsive energy stores, making less insulin necessary.
This later study confirmed that gingerol enhanced GLUT-4, the actual protein which transports glucose from the bloodstream into muscle stores. Gingerol increased GLUT-4 activation just slightly, but significantly enhanced its transportation powers, allowing the existing GLUT-4 to bind to energy store cell membranes and store the glucose inside more effectively.
Since GLUT-4 is activated by insulin, this extra efficiency will allow insulin levels to fall. The best part is that gingerols are extremely well absorbed in humans and accumulate rapidly in tissues (study), unlike some antioxidants such as curcumin from turmeric.
Elevated insulin is a massive cause of oily skin. Improving insulin sensitivity allows insulin to remain lower while still fulfilling its energy regulation duties. After eating potatoes, fruit, or yogurt, the natural insulin spike 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 erode yet.
Bonus benefit – brain enhancement
We now arrive at a benefit which is unrelated to acne – the acquisition of intelligence. A goal which fresh evidence suggests ginger is excellent for.
This study fed ginger to 60 healthy middle-aged women, and after 2 months, they 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. Ginger significantly 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 wake up with mice as our leaders.
Unlike with inflammation and insulin, 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 matched the ginger study on rats almost exactly, with increases in NGF and synapse markers. During digestion in humans, 6-shogaol is broken down into 16 different metabolites; any of them could be responsible.
Any antioxidant-packed food can improve your brain health, by defending neurons and neurotransmitters against free radical assault, but ginger has unique properties. Ginger could 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 purchasable ginger powder continues with a mysterious power to increase testosterone levels. It started with two rat studies (one, two) in which ginger increased both testosterone and fertility. The investigation then moved onto 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. Additionally, testosterone production in your balls depends on certain enzymes, and one study speculated that the antioxidants of ginger protects these vital enzymes from toxic molecules.
Testosterone is 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: sperm mobility and sperm count, and testicular weight in the rat studies (who cares if you can barely walk).
In women, ginger will likely achieve nothing given that their hormonal systems are wildly different. If you’re an athlete, a bodybuilder or an average Joe plotting to create an army of kids, ginger is a top food to include.
Will topically applied ginger achieve anything?
Strangely, topical ginger is rampantly popular. The internet is full of recipes combining ginger with honey, yogurt, lemon juice or oils. The truth is that ginger’s 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 its fellow spices turmeric and cinnamon have topical powers that nobody could have expected.
Both are nutritionally similar to ginger: high in antioxidants and unique compounds. In 2012, topically applied cinnamon was demonstrated to significantly increase collagen levels 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 abundant unique compounds like gingerols, zingerones, shogaols and paradols, the opportunity for a completely unexpected power is huge. The greater the 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 meal 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!