Ginger, the underground stem, or rhizome, of the plant Zingiber officinale has been used as a medicine in Asian, Indian, and Arabic herbal traditions since ancient times. In China, for example, ginger has been used to aid digestion and treat stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea for more than 2,000 years.
Ginger has also been used to help treat arthritis, colic, diarrhea, and heart conditions. In addition to these medicinal uses, ginger continues to be valued around the world as an important cooking spice and is believed to help treat the common cold, flu-like symptoms, headaches, and even painful menstrual periods. Native to Asia where its use as a culinary spice spans at least 4,400 years, ginger grows in fertile, moist, tropical soil.
Ginger is a knotted, thick, beige underground stem (rhizome). The stem extends roughly 12 inches above ground with long, narrow, ribbed, green leaves, and white or yellowish-green flowers.
What's It Made Of?:
The important active components of the ginger root are thought to be volatile oils and pungent phenol compounds (such as gingerols and shogaols).
Medicinal Uses and Indications:
Today, health care professionals commonly recommend to help prevent or treat nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness, pregnancy, and cancer chemotherapy. It is also used as a digestive aid for mild stomach upset, as support in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, and may even be used in heart disease or cancer.
Several studies suggest that ginger may be more effective than placebo in reducing symptoms associated with motion sickness. In one trial of 80 novice sailors (prone to motion sickness), those who took powdered ginger experienced a significant reduction in vomiting and cold sweating compared to those who took placebo. Similar results were found in a study with healthy volunteers. While these results are promising, other studies suggest that ginger is not as effective as medications in reducing symptoms associated with motion sickness. In a small study of volunteers who were given ginger (fresh root and powder form), scopolamine (a medication commonly prescribed for motion sickness), or placebo, those receiving the medication experienced significantly fewer symptoms compared to those who received ginger.
Conventional prescription and nonprescription medicines that decrease nausea may also cause unwanted side effects, such as dry mouth and drowsiness. Given the safety of ginger, many people find it a welcome alternative to these medications to relieve motion sickness.
Pregnancy Related Nausea and Vomiting
Human studies suggests that 1 gram daily of ginger may be safe and effective for pregnancy-associated nausea and vomiting when used for short periods (no longer than 4 days). Several studies have found that ginger is more effective than placebo in relieving nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy. In a small study of 30 pregnant women with severe vomiting, those who ingested 1 gram of ginger every day for 4 days reported more relief from vomiting than those who received placebo. In a larger study of 70 pregnant women with nausea and vomiting, those who received a similar dosage of ginger felt less nauseous and experienced fewer vomiting episodes than those who received placebo.
Evidence from a few studies suggests that ginger reduces the severity and duration of nausea (but not vomiting) during chemotherapy. More research is needed to confirm these results and establish safety.
Nausea and vomiting following surgery
Research has produced mixed results regarding the use of ginger in the treatment of nausea and vomiting following surgery. Two studies found that 1 gram of ginger root before surgery reduced nausea as effectively as a leading medication. In one of these two studies, women who received ginger also required fewer nausea-relieving medications following surgery. Other studies, however, have failed to find the same positive effects. In fact, one study found that ginger may actually increase vomiting following surgery. More research is needed to determine whether ginger is safe and effective for the prevention and treatment of nausea and vomiting following surgery.
In addition to providing relief from nausea and vomiting, ginger extract has long been used in traditional medical practices to reduce inflammation. In fact, many health care professionals use ginger to help treat health problems associated with inflammation, such as arthritis and ulcerative colitis. In a study of 261 people with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, those who received a ginger extract twice daily experienced less pain and required fewer pain-killing medications compared to those who received placebo. Although a few studies have shown a benefit of ginger for arthritis, one trial found that the herb was no more effective than ibuprofen (a medication frequently used to treat OA) or placebo in reducing symptoms of OA.
* Although it is too early to tell if ginger will benefit those with heart disease, preliminary studies suggest that ginger may lower cholesterol and help prevent the blood from clotting. Each of these effects may protect the blood vessels from blockage and the damaging effects of blockage such as atherosclerosis, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
* Laboratory studies have also found that components in ginger may have anticancer activity. More research is needed to determine the effects of ginger on various cancers in humans.
Ginger products are made from fresh or dried ginger root, or from steam distillation of the oil in the root. The herb is available in extracts, tinctures, capsules, and oils. Fresh ginger root can also be purchased and prepared as a tea. Ginger is also a common cooking spice and can be found in a variety of foods and drinks, including ginger bread, ginger snaps, ginger sticks, and ginger ale.
How to Take It:
Ginger should not be used by children under 2 years of age.
Ginger may be used by children over 2 years of age to treat nausea, digestive cramping, and headaches. Adjust the recommended adult dose to account for the child's weight. Most herbal dosages for adults are calculated on the basis of a 150 lb (70 kg) adult. Therefore, if the child weighs 50 lb (20 - 25 kg), the appropriate dose of ginger for this child would be 1/3 of the adult dosage.
In general, ginger intake should not exceed 4 grams daily (this includes the ginger obtained through diet such as from ginger ale, ginger snaps, and ginger bread). Usually, food sources contain no more than 0.5% ginger.
Standardized dose: Take 75 - 2,000 mg in divided doses with food, standardized to contain 4% volatile oils or 5% total pungent compounds including 6-gingerol or 6-shogaol.
For nausea, gas, or indigestion: 2 - 4 grams of fresh root daily (0.25 - 1.0 g of powdered root) or 1.5 - 3.0 mL (30 - 90 drops) liquid extract daily. To prevent vomiting, take 1 gram of powdered ginger (1/2 tsp) or its equivalent, every 4 hours as needed (not to exceed 4 doses daily), or 2 ginger capsules (1 gram), 3 times daily. You may also chew a 1/4 oz piece of fresh ginger when needed.
For pregnancy-induced vomiting, use 250 mg 4 times daily.
To relieve arthritis pain: Take fresh ginger juice, extract, or tea, 2 - 4 grams daily. Topical ginger oil may also be rubbed into a painful joint. Fresh ginger root may also be placed in a warm poultice or compress and apply to painful areas.
For cold and flu symptoms, sore throat, headache and menstrual cramps: Steep 2 tbsp of freshly shredded ginger in hot water, 2 - 3 times daily. A drop of ginger oil or a few slices of fresh rhizome may also be placed in steaming water and inhaled.
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a health care provider qualified in the field of botanical medicine.
Side effects associated with ginger are rare, but if taken in excessive doses the herb may cause mild heartburn, diarrhea and irritation of the mouth. Some of the mild gastrointestinal side effects, such as belching, heartburn, or stomach upset, may be relieved by taking ginger supplements in capsules.
People with gallstones should consult a doctor before taking ginger. Make sure to tell your doctor if you are taking ginger and will be undergoing surgery or placed under anesthesia for any reason.
Do not take ginger if you have a bleeding disorder or if you are taking blood-thinning medications, including aspirin.
Ginger may alter the effects of some prescription and nonprescription medications. If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use ginger without first talking to your health care provider.
Blood-thinning medications -- Although ginger may interfere with blood clotting, there have been no scientific or case reports of interactions between ginger and blood-thinning medications, such as aspirin and warfarin. However, people taking medications that thin the blood should use ginger only under the supervision of a health care provider.
African ginger; Black ginger; Jamaican ginger; Zingiber officinale
* Reviewed last on: 11/17/2008
* Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Ali BH, Blunden G, Tanira MO, Nemmar A. Some phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe): a review of recent research. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008;46(2):409-20.
Altman RD, Marcussen KC. Effects of a ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2001;44(11):2531-2538.
Apariman S, Ratchanon S, Wiriyasirivej B. Effectiveness of ginger for prevention of nausea and vomiting after gynecological laparoscopy. J Med Assoc Thai. 2006;89(12):2003-9.
Awang DVC. Ginger. Can Pharma J. 1992:309–311.
Bertolucci LE, DiDario B. Efficacy of a portable acustimulation device in controlling seasickness. Aviat Space Environ Med. 1995;66(12):1155-1158.
Bhandari U, Sharma JN, Zafar R. The protective action of ethanolic ginger (Zingiber officinale) extract in cholesterol fed rabbits. J Ethnopharm. 1998;61(2):167-171.
Bliddal H, Rosetzsky A, Schlichting P, et al. A randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study of ginger extracts and ibuprofen in osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2000;8:9-12.
Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Boston, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000;153-159.
Bone ME, Wilkinson DJ, Young JR, McNeil J, Charlton S. Ginger root--a new antiemetic. The effect of ginger root on postoperative nausea and vomiting after major gynaecological surgery. Anaesthesia. 1990;45(8):669-71.
Bordia A, Verma SK, Srivastava KC. Effect of ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) and fenugreek (Trigonella foenumgraecum L.) on blood lipids, blood sugar, and platelet aggregation ion patients with coronary heart disease. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 1997;56(5):379-384.
Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. 2nd ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications; 1998:75-76.
Chaiyakunapruk N. The efficacy of ginger for the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting: a meta-analysis. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006;194(1):95-9.
Eberhart LH, Mayer R, Betz O, et al. Ginger does not prevent postoperative nausea and vomiting after laparoscopic surgery. Anesth Analg. 2003;96(4):995-8, table.
Ernst E, Pittler MH. Efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. B J Anaesth. 2000;84(3):367-371.
Fischer-Rasmussen W, Kjaer SK, Dahl C, Asping U. Ginger treatment of hyperemesis gravidarum. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 1991 Jan 4;38(1):19-24.
Fuhrman B, Rosenblat M, Hayek T, Coleman R, Aviram M. Ginger extract consumption reduces plasma cholesterol, inhibits LDL oxidation, and attenuates development of atherosclerosis in atherosclerotic, apolipoprotein E-deficient mice. J Nutr. 2000;130(5):1124-1131.
Gonlachanvit S, Chen YH, Hasler WL, et al. Ginger reduces hyperglycemia-evoked gastric dysrhythmias in healthy humans: possible role of endogenous prostaglandins. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2003;307(3):1098-1103.
Grontved A, Brask T, Kambskard J, Hentzer E. Ginger root against seasickness: a controlled trial on the open sea. Acta Otolaryngol. 1988;105:45-49.
Heck AM, DeWitt BA, Lukes AL. Potential interactions between alternative therapies and warfarin. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2000;57(13):1221-1227.
Kruth P, Brosi E, Fux R, et al. Ginger-associated overanticoagulation by phenprocoumon. Ann Pharmacother. 2004;38(2):257-260.
Langner E, Greifenberg S, Gruenwald J. Ginger: history and use. Adv Ther. 1998;15(1):25-44.
Larkin M. Surgery patients at risk for herb-anaesthesia interactions. Lancet. 1999;354(9187):1362.
LaValle JB, Krinsky DL, Hawkins EB, et al. Natural Therapeutics Pocket Guide. Hudson, OH: LexiComp; 2000:440-441.
Lee SH, Cekanova M, Baek SJ. Multiple mechanisms are involved in 6-gingerol-induced cell growth arrest and apoptosis in human colorectal cancer cells. Mol Carcinog. 2008;47(3):197-208.
Mahady GB, Pendland SL, Yun GS, et al. Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) and the gingerols inhibit the growth of Cag A+ strains of Helicobacter pylori. Anticancer Res. 2003;23(5A):3699-3702.
Nurtjahja-Tjendraputra E, Ammit AJ, Roufogalis BD, et al. Effective anti-platelet and COX-1 enzyme inhibitors from pungent constituents of ginger. Thromb Res. 2003;111(4-5):259-265.
Phillips S, Ruggier R, Hutchinson SE. Zingiber officinale (ginger)--an antiemetic for day case surgery. Anaesthesia. 1993;48(8):715-717.
Portnoi G, Chng LA, Karimi-Tabesh L, et al. Prospective comparative study of the safety and effectiveness of ginger for the treatment of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2003;189(5):1374-1377.
Sripramote M, Lekhyananda N. A randomized comparison of ginger and vitamin B6 in the treatment of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. J Med Assoc Thai. 2003;86(9):846-853.
Srivastava KC, Mustafa T. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders. Medical Hypotheses. 1992;39:343-348.
Thomson M, Al Qattan KK, Al Sawan SM, et al. The use of ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) as a potential anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic agent. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2002;67(6):475-478.
Vaes LP, Chyka PA. Interactions of warfarin with garlic, ginger, ginkgo, or ginseng: nature of the evidence. Ann Pharmacother. 2000;34(12):1478-1482.
Vutyavanich T, Kraisarin T, Ruangsri R. Ginger for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol. 2001;97(4):577-582.
Wang CC, Chen LG, Lee LT, et al. Effects of 6-gingerol, an antioxidant from ginger, on inducing apoptosis in human leukemic HL-60 cells. In Vivo. 2003;17(6):641-645.
White B. Ginger: an overview. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(11):1689-91.
Wigler I, Grotto I, Caspi D, et al. The effects of Zintona EC (a ginger extract) on symptomatic gonarthritis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2003;11(11):783-789.
Willetts KE, Ekangaki A, Eden JA. Effect of a ginger extract on pregnancy-induced nausea: a randomised controlled trial. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2003;43(2):139-144.
Yamahara J, Rong HQ, Naitohh Y, et al. Inhibition of cytotoxic drug-induced vomiting in suncus by a ginger constituent. J Ethnopharmacol. 1989;27:535–536.