We decided to find out what — if anything — ginger can really do for the voice.
Famous artists have told us they drink it religiously before and after performances and countless hard-working singers* laud it as a voice-saving super food… well, super drink.
Ginger has been used in herbal medicine to treat stomach problems, arthritis, headaches, and colds.
Some say ginger has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties and boosts the immune system.
The Uber-Claims About Ginger
There are scientific studies that seem to confirm almost every claim pertaining to ginger, but the scientific community won’t fully endorse the medicinal uses of ginger until there are many more, and much larger studies.
“There is not sufficient evidence to be able to make a broad statement that ginger is absolutely effective for most claims,” says Constance Brown-Riggs, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Dr. Marcus Coneys adds, “Ginger has been suggested to be an effective cancer treatment inasmuch as it may slow tumor growth — but that is in animal studies so remains to be studied in humans”.
When it comes to settling the stomach, however, the scientific community generally agrees.
Brown-Riggs says the nausea reducing aspect of ginger has been the most widely studied and confirmed among all the ginger claims.
Many singers drink ginger tea because, for them, it works.
“If you experience relief when you take ginger or any other form of complementary medicine — that is paramount,” says Brown-Riggs, who has personally experienced health benefits from taking ginger.
“If I know it is not harming you, you are taking a safe amount, and you tell me you feel better — that is what matters.”
How Does Ginger Tea Help The Voice?
Speech-Language Pathologist, Shelagh Davies says, “Singers should remember that nothing you swallow actually touches your vocal folds.”
The only substances that touch your vocal folds are things you inhale like steam (good) or smoke (not so good).
Foods and drinks that help the voice only do so after your body processes them and sends their goodness to your throat via your blood stream.
Ginger tea has no caffeine, and with a few drops of honey, it is a delicious and invigorating way to hydrate your body, which keeps your vocal folds in top form.
Plus, if you inhale a little steam as you sip it, you are moistening your vocal folds directly.
Singers suffering from a cold claim their nasal passages feel more open after a nice hot cup.
The spiciness of the ginger may bring on a little healthy sweating, and we know that hydration helps thin the phlegm that your body is producing.
As an immune system booster, ginger may help you fight off that cold faster.
“I believe good singers are not only relying on their voice when they sing – it involves the body, mind and spirit – this is how we connect with our audience,” says Brown-Riggs, who is also a singer.
“So, if these claims about ginger are true they would all benefit a singer. Wellness is more than being free from disease or having strong vocal cords, it’s functioning at our optimum level in every aspect of our being.”
How Much Should I have?
To get 1 g of ginger into your body by via ginger tea, you would need to drink about four mugs, according to Examine, a new resource on supplements and nutrition.
To get the same amount through liquid extract, you’d need 2 ml, or you could add a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger into your cooking.
In complimentary medicine, this 1 g dose per day would be standard for ailments such as arthritis.
Brown-Riggs says you should not take more than 4 g per day, and you should check with your primary care giver before implementing a serious regimen of ginger, just in case it could interact with other medication you may be taking.
– Kathy Alexander
Constance Brown-Riggs owns a nutrition counseling practice and is an award-winning certified diabetes educator. She is the author of The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes (New Page Books 2010) and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes (iUniverse 2006). Her professional honors include the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 2012 Excellence in Practice – Consultation and Business Practice Award; the 2009 Distinguished Dietitian Award from the New York State Dietetic Association; and the 2007 Diabetes Educator of the Year from the Academy’s Diabetes Care and Education dietetic practice group. See her website.
Kathy Alexander is a writer, singer, vocal coach and choir director. She has appeared in Vision TV’s Let’s Sing Again, The Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra and the Victoria International Jazz Festival (main stage). You can see more of Kathy’s work here.