Drinking ginger tea could help people to avoid bad breath, according to research.
Gingerol, the chemical which gives ginger its spicy flavour, stimulates an enzyme in the mouth which breaks down the substances which make breath smell bad.
Sulfur-containing compounds from food can create an unpleasant smell in people's mouth, contributing to halitosis – the medical name for bad breath.
But gingerol, which can get into the body from eating or drinking the root, boosts the level of the enzymes needed to get rid of the smell by 16 times in just seconds.
Experts say the findings could lead to toothpaste and mouthwashes being made with the spicy ingredient.
Halitosis is common – the NHS suggests a quarter of people have it regularly – and it can be embarrassing or lower people's self esteem.
Researchers at the Technical University of Munich in Germany discovered ginger could help when investigating how food affects the actions of molecules in saliva.
They found the levels of an enzyme called sulfhydryl oxidase 1 shot up 16-fold just seconds after someone ingested gingerol.
Scientists then tested human volunteers to see how this affected the saliva and breath of the people, and found the people's breath improved.
Enzymes break down smelly sulfur in the mouth
This, they say, is because the enzyme breaks down sulfur in the mouth which causes the odour.
The same process also means the ginger can get rid of long-lasting aftertastes from things like coffee.
'As a result, our breath also smells better,' explained Professor Thomas Hofmann, who led the study, and he added companies making oral hygiene products could in future learn from the way ginger works.
But it is not clear how much ginger a person would need to eat or drink to have the desired effect.
Ginger also reduces vomiting in sick children
And the new research adds to past claims of the health benefits of ginger – in May this year, scientists said the root could help children suffering from stomach bugs.
A study by the University of Naples revealed if children with gastroenteritis are given drops of ginger, they are likely to have less severe vomiting and less likely to need time off school.
The research found while 86.7 per cent of children given a placebo threw up at least once during their illness, only two thirds of those taking ginger were sick.