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Ginger Shots Are One of Nature’s Best Immune-Boosting Tonics, Say Experts — Don’t Brave Sick Season Without Them

All you need is a high-speed blender to make this delicious sip that boosts white blood cells by 250%

Ginger shots are a buzzy beverage on social media right now, and for good reason. The spicy sipper packs a ton of health benefits. But where it really shines, say experts, is bolstering your immune system against colds, flu and other viruses. The best part: You can tap into these potent health benefits by making your own ginger shots at home in minutes. Here, top natural health experts reveal what ginger shots can do for you and share how to whip up your own delicious elixir.

What are ginger shots?

“A shot of fresh ginger juice is a concentrated extract of fresh ginger in its most potent, absorbable form, making it an excellent choice,” explains Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM, the author of Super-Powered Immunity: Natural Remedies for 21st Century Viruses and Superbugs. These small drinks are typically around 2 oz. And because they’re absorbed faster than when ginger is used in dried or in pill form, they’re “more potent than tea, candy, pills, or adding it to your smoothie,” says Schoffro Cook. “That means it works quickly and effectively.”

Ginger root has been used as a health-boosting tonic in ancient India and China for more than 5,000 years. And while it’s the star of this modern-day tonic, you’ll find most people mix ginger shots with other ingredients like lemon, honey, or turmeric to help offset the spice’s naturally strong taste. Making your own ginger shots at home will give you the freshest, most potent sipper. But you can also find pre-made bottled varieties at supermarkets and health food stores for those days when you’re short on time.

If you’re new to ginger shots, start slow. “Moderation is always recommended when first trying ginger shots,” says Kimberlee Blyden-Taylor, ND, MSc, chief medical officer at Sonoran University of Health Sciences in Tempe, AZ. A dose of pure ginger can potentially irritate your mouth or sinuses the first time you try it. To gradually adjust to this spicy sipper, try diluting your ginger shot in a small glass of water or apple juice, suggests Schoffro Cook. This lessens its impact on your mucous membranes.

Ginger root, which is used to make ginger shots
Emanuel Stanciu/Getty

When to avoid ginger shots

While the vast majority of folks can take ginger shots without issue, there are some people who should avoid the tonic. “Those taking blood thinning drugs may need to exercise caution while using ginger shots, particularly over longer periods of time — or potentially avoid them altogether,” she explains. That’s because research in the journal PLOS ONE suggests ginger may increase bleeding risk. (Instead of ginger, consider apple cider vinegar. Click through to learn how the tonic is a natural remedy for kidney stones.)

And ginger’s spicy nature, in the form of concentrated shots “makes it unsuitable for people with uncontrolled heartburn or GERD, stomach ulcers or active diarrhea,” explains Blyden-Taylor. (Click through to see our best fast-acting home remedies for heartburn relief.)

That said, ginger shots boats a wealth of health benefits for those who are able to enjoy them, especially when it comes to fending off illness.

How ginger shots boost immunity

“Ginger is a great antibacterial and antiviral remedy, making it ideal to ward off whatever nasty infection or seasonal bug is going around,” notes Schoffro Cook. And when it comes to blocking colds and viruses, fresh ginger shots have an advantage over dried ginger teas or supplements. Why? “Research shows that fresh ginger is far more effective than dried, yet most ginger products use dried ginger.”

1. Ginger shots block respiratory infections

A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology study found fresh ginger was significantly more effective than dried ginger at blocking respiratory tract viruses. Researchers say fresh ginger works by stimulating mucous cells to release a compound (IFN-β) that activates the immune system’s defenses to block viral invaders.

And if you do catch a respiratory bug, ginger can speed recovery. A separate Columbia University study suggests that ginger’s 6-shogaol compound reduces lung inflammation, eases airway sensitivity, and activates immune cells to encourage healing. (Click through to learn how ginger can help relieve ragweed allergies, too.)

An illustration of lungs and the respiratory tract

Related: Doctors Reveal the 5-Minute Tricks That Stop a Runny Nose Fast

2. Ginger shots block bacterial and viral infections

The benefits of ginger shots aren’t limited to blocking respiratory viruses. Research in the journal Immunology suggests that ginger increases the body’s levels of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), a substance that stimulates activity of infection-fighting white blood cells, by as much as 250%. This helps fend off both bacterial and viral invaders of any kind.

What’s more, a study in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research suggests that pungent ginger compounds can enter the bloodstream in as little as 30 to 60 minutes after consuming ginger. One there, they stimulate white blood cells to react 30% stronger to a bacterial infection. (Click through to our sister publication to learn how the spice star anise can boost immunity too.)

Related: The Best Tea for a Sore Throat? Docs Reveal Their Top 6 Picks That Soothe Fast

3. Ginger shots help ward off COVID infections

Research in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences suggests ginger’s antiviral properties help stop the virus from binding to healthy cells and replicating. Plus it helps tamps down inflammation that can occur with a COVID infection.

Related: Your Favorite Holiday Spices Ward off Colds, Soothe GI Upset and More, Say Dietitians

3 more health benefits of ginger shots

Ginger shot benefits aren’t just limited to cold and flu season. Here’s how sipping this spicy tonic can improve your health year-round.

1. Ginger shots turn off nausea

Tend to feel queasy on a long car trip or when you eat something that doesn’t agree with you? Ginger can help! “Consuming ginger shots may provide anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea benefits,” notes Abeer Bader, MSc, RD, LDN, the clinical nutrition manager for the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center in Boston, MA. “That’s due to gingerol, a bioactive compound found in ginger that is responsible for many of its health benefits.”

Research in the journal Food Chemistry Advances found that gingerol thwarts nausea and vomiting, while a separate study found fresh ginger reduces vomiting episodes by 20%. That’s an effect that makes you 28% less likely to take a sick day, the researchers found. Credit goes to the way ginger speeds stomach emptying to reduce queasiness.

And as Schoffro Cook adds, “while ginger is known for its anti-nausea effects and is often used by those suffering from motion sickness or car sickness, it has also been shown to be highly effective for any type of nausea and indigestion.”

2. Ginger shots ease head pain 

When headache or migraine strikes, it can be difficult to focus on anything else. Luckily, ginger can ease the ache quickly and effectively. “Ginger is a potent anti-inflammatory and anti-pain remedy that has been found to be superior to some pain medications, without the laundry list of side effects,” Schoffro Cook notes. Common side effects of traditional over-the-counter medications like NSAIDs can include gas, bloating, nausea, heartburn, diarrhea and constipation.

Proof it works: A study in the journal Phytotherapy Research found ginger reversed a burgeoning migraine as well as prescription sumatriptan, reducing pain by up to 90% within two hours. Ginger reduces painful inflammation in the brain and relaxes overly constricted blood vessels, plus it has a mild analgesic effect.

Tip: “Ginger is also beneficial for those suffering from arthritis, fibromyalgia, muscle pain and joint pain,” Schoffro Cook says. An example? In one study in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, gingerol in the spice reduced joint swelling and stiffness by 36%. (Click through to see why ginger is one of nature’s best 10 minute gout cures, too.)

3. Ginger shots reduce bloating 

If you’re like us, you hate that uncomfortably full and puffy feeling that sometimes happens after eating. But taking a ginger shot before digging into bloat-inducing foods can thwart trouble. Blyden-Taylor says ginger is a pro-kinetic agent. “In other words, it helps with intestinal motility moving food along the digestive tract, thereby easing bloating and gas production from constipation,” Blyden-Taylor explains. A study in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggests taking ginger just before eating significantly reduces GI issues like bloating. (Click through to learn how improving kidney function naturally reduces bloat.)

How to maximize the benefits of ginger shots

Ready to tap into the health benefits of ginger shots? Good news: It’s easier than you think! “You do not necessarily need to take ginger on a daily basis to reap its potential nutritional and health benefits,” says Bader. “The effects of ginger can be realized through periodic or occasional use, so my recommendation is to consume it based on your preference.”

That means that how often you sip one depends on your personal taste and desired health benefits. You may opt to take ginger shots on an “as-needed basis”, as Bader says, to help with symptoms like nausea or head pain. Or, you may decide to take ginger shots more regularly, such as when you’re under the weather.

“If you’re suffering from a bacterial or viral infection, or from a pain condition, you may find that sticking with a daily ginger shot or two might be helpful, especially when taken consistently for a week or two,” Schoffro Cook notes.

Tip: If you decide to take ginger shots daily, pencil in a week’s break every now and then. “Herbs are medicines, and your body can begin to adapt to them, rendering them less effective,” Schoffro Cook explains. “It’s best to take a week off every few weeks to ensure their overall effectiveness.”

How to make your own ginger shots

Clear glasses of ginger shots next to ginger, lemon and honey
Oda Hoppe/Getty

Making ginger shots at home is both an easy and inexpensive way to harness the herb’s health benefits. Bader’s simple, 5-minute recipe:

  • Cut a peeled, thumb-size piece of fresh ginger root (about 2 to 3″) into small pieces
  • Combine ginger with ¼ cup of water in a high-speed blender and blitz until smooth
  • If desired, add a squeeze of lemon, ½ teaspoon of honey, or a pinch of turmeric or cayenne pepper for flavor
  • If there’s too much roughage in your shot, strain it through a fine mesh strainer

Tip: Bader suggests popping your mixture in a fridge for a bit, as the shot tastes better cold. And to make things even easier, you can make the recipe in bulk, refrigerating the shots for up to 3 to 5 days. For long-term storage, pour the ginger shots into an airtight container or ice cube tray and freeze for about 3 to 6 months, Bader suggests. (Have leftover ginger? Click through to our sister publication to learn how to store ginger in the fridge or freezer to keep it fresh longer.)

What to look for in bottled ginger shots

Short on time? Try bottled ginger shots. Here’s what to look for in bottled ginger shots to make sure you’re getting the health benefits you’re after:

1. It should list ginger as the top ingredient

It seems obvious, right? But since ginger has a strong flavor, you may find it diluted with other ingredients to make it more palatable. “Ginger should be the first ingredient on the label if you’re choosing bottled options,” Schoffro Cook advises.

2. It should be low in sugar

“Another way to ensure that your ginger shot isn’t heavily diluted with other juices is to check the sugar content on the label,” explains Schoffro Cook. “Ginger is naturally devoid of sugar, so any sugar present in the juice shot is from other ingredients. It shouldn’t exceed a couple of grams of sugar, or it is excessively diluted with other juices.”

3. It should be free of additives

Bader recommends avoiding ingredients like artificial preservatives, flavors, and colors. And while a preservative-free product is ideal, if there are any, natural citric acid is better than sodium benzoate, says Schoffro Cook. “Sodium benzoate is a synthetic preservative that has been linked to a whole host of symptoms and even triggering some health conditions like asthma, hives, seizures, and others,” she explains.

When it comes additives, Bader says that flavor enhancers should be “few and simple.” That could be water, lemon, spices, honey and/or fruit juice in small quantities for additional flavoring.

For more amazing benefits of ginger:

This 2-Ingredient Ginger Tea Can Help You Lose Pounds and Boost Overall Health

Beat Hair Loss With a 3-Ingredient Ginger Hair Mask to Restore Thick, Luscious Locks

Soaking in a Warm Ginger Bath Could Help Relieve Cold Symptoms — Here’s How

In War on Stress, Ginger Root Is Your New Best Friend: Here’s Why and How It Calms

For more ways to boost immunity:

4 Affordable, Immunity-Boosting Supplements Doctors Take to Stay Healthy

Boost Immunity, Heal Your Gut, and Balance Blood Sugar With Purple Yams

MD: The Active Ingredient in Star Anise Is the Same One That Powers Tamiflu — Here’s How to Reap the Immune-Boosting Benefit

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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