Ginger can make immune system alert, study finds

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Ginger, a well-loved spice, has long been hailed for its health benefits, specifically in bolstering the immune system.

The Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich brings new insight, showcasing how ginger can awaken our white blood cells, which are crucial for our immune system.

This discovery is particularly exciting as it adds a scientific backing to ginger’s traditional role in maintaining health.

The Growing Love for Ginger

Ginger is not just a culinary delight, but also a reputed medicinal plant. In Germany, for instance, the import of ginger has nearly quadrupled over the last decade, signaling its growing popularity as a health-enhancing food.

The appeal lies in its zesty taste and presumed health benefits, which are now being explored and verified by modern scientific research.

The essential query is whether the conventional consumption levels are substantial enough to render health benefits and which molecular structures in ginger play a pivotal role in this.

Ginger’s Journey in Our Body

To delve deeper, Veronika Somoza and her team at the Leibniz Institute embarked on a detailed study, building on the findings of a preliminary pilot study.

The focus was on how ginger compounds, specifically [6]-gingerol, acted within the body.

It was found that within 30 to 60 minutes of consuming ginger tea, noticeable amounts of this pungent ginger compound made their way into the blood, and [6]-gingerol was identified as achieving the highest levels.

Awakening the White Blood Cells

The team discovered that [6]-gingerol interacted with a specific receptor, TRPV1, found in nerve cells and white blood cells, influencing the activity of these immune cells.

When exposed to even very low concentrations of [6]-gingerol, the white blood cells, particularly neutrophil granulocytes which make up a substantial portion of our white blood cells and serve to fend off invading bacteria, became more alert and responded more vigorously to simulated bacterial infection by about 30 percent compared to control cells.

This outcome, however, could be reversed with the addition of a TRPV1 receptor-specific inhibitor, validating the pivotal role of the receptor in [6]-gingerol induced white blood cell activation.

Essentially, a mere liter of ginger tea could theoretically achieve the [6]-gingerol concentration necessary to modulate immune cell responses, suggesting that everyday consumption amounts may indeed be sufficient to modulate cellular responses of the immune system.


Ginger’s potential health benefits, particularly its role in stimulating white blood cells and thereby possibly strengthening the immune system, are beginning to gain scientific support.

While these findings from the Leibniz Institute are encouraging, they also pave the way for further research to unravel more details about the molecular, epidemiological, and medical aspects of ginger’s health benefits.

As we embrace ginger in our diets, these discoveries could lead to a more enlightened approach to leveraging ginger’s health-boosting properties, enabling us to integrate it more effectively into our diets and lifestyle for enhanced well-being.

However, as with any health-related discussion, it is crucial to have balanced and informed perspectives, and further research will be instrumental in providing more comprehensive insights into ginger’s role in human health.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies about breakfast linked to better blood vessel health, and drinking too much coffee could harm people with high blood pressure.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about unhealthy habits that may increase high blood pressure risk, and results showing plant-based protein foods may help reverse diabetes.

The research findings can be found in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.