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Ginger

Botanical name: Zingiber officinale

Photo

© Steven Foster

Parts used and where grown

Ginger is a perennial plant that grows in India, China, Mexico, and several other countries. The rhizome (underground stem) is used as both a spice and in herbal medicine.

Ginger has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):

Science Ratings Health Concerns
3Stars

Morning sickness

Motion sickness

Osteoarthritis

2Stars

Epilepsy (in combination with bupleurum, peony root, pinellia root, cassia bark, jujube fruit, Asian ginseng root, Asian scullcap root, and licorice root)

Indigestion

Irritable bowel syndrome (Chinese herbal combination formula containing wormwood, ginger, bupleurum, schisandra, dan shen, and other extracts)

Nausea and vomiting following surgery

Nausea following chemotherapy

Pre- and post-surgery health

Vertigo

1Star

Atherosclerosis

Hay fever (Sho-seiryu-to: contains licorice, cassia bark, schisandra, ma huang [ephedra], ginger, peony root, pinellia, and asiasarum root)

HIV support (in combination with bupleurum, peony root, pinellia root, cassia bark, ginger root, jujube fruit, Asian ginseng root, Asian scullcap root, and licorice root)

Low back pain

Migraine headaches

Rheumatoid arthritis

3Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)

Traditional Chinese Medicine has recommended ginger for over 2,500 years. It is used for abdominal bloating, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, and rheumatism. Ginger is commonly used in the Ayurvedic and Tibb systems of medicine for the treatment of inflammatory joint diseases, such as arthritis and rheumatism.

Active constituents

The dried rhizome of ginger contains approximately 1–4% volatile oils. These are the medically active constituents of ginger and are also responsible for ginger’s characteristic odor and taste. The aromatic constituents include zingiberene and bisabolene, while the pungent constituents are known as gingerols and shogaols.1 The pungent constituents are credited with the anti-nausea and anti-vomiting effects of ginger.

In humans, ginger is thought to act directly on the gastrointestinal system to reduce nausea.2 Ginger has been shown to reduce the symptoms of motion sickness associated with travel by boat and, to a lesser extent, car.3 4 5 Two double-blind clinical trials have found that ginger may reduce nausea due to anesthesia following surgery,6 7 although one trial could not confirm this benefit.8 A preliminary trial has suggested ginger may be helpful for preventing chemotherapy -induced nausea. 9

While ginger is a popular remedy for nausea of pregnancy, it has only been clinically studied for very severe nausea and vomiting known as hyperemesis gravidarum.10 This condition is life threatening and should only be treated by a qualified healthcare professional. Because ginger contains some compounds that cause chromosomal mutation in the test tube, some doctors are concerned about the safety of using ginger during pregnancy. However, the available clinical research, combined with the fact that ginger is widely used in the diet of certain cultures, suggests that prudent use of ginger for morning sickness is safe in amounts up to 1 gram per day.

Ginger is considered a tonic for the digestive tract, stimulating digestion and toning the intestinal muscles.11 This action eases the transport of substances through the digestive tract, lessening irritation to the intestinal walls.12 Ginger may protect the stomach from the damaging effect of alcohol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen) and may help prevent ulcers.13

Ginger also supports cardiovascular health. Ginger may make blood platelets less sticky and less likely to aggregate.14 15 However, not all human research has confirmed this.16 17

How much is usually taken?

For prevention or treatment of motion sickness, 500 mg of dried ginger powder can be taken one-half to one hour before travel, and then 500 mg every two to four hours as necessary. Children below the age of six should use one-half the adult amount. For the treatment of nausea associated with pregnancy, women can take up to 1 gram daily,18 but should only use ginger for symptomatic relief of nausea and not on an ongoing basis. Ginger may potentially be used for nausea associated with anesthesia or chemotherapy, but only under the supervision of a physician.

Are there any side effects or interactions?

Side effects due to ginger are rare when used as recommended. However, some people sensitive to the taste may experience heartburn. People with a history of gallstones should consult a doctor before using ginger.19 Short-term use of ginger for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy appears to pose no safety problems. However, long-term use during pregnancy is not recommended. A doctor should be informed if ginger is used before surgery as the herb may increase bleeding.

Are there any drug interactions?
Certain medicines may interact with ginger. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.

References:

1. Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994, 39–42.

2. Holtmann S, Clarke AH, Scherer H, Hohn M. The anti-motion sickness mechanism of ginger. A comparative study with placebo and dimenhydrinate. Acta Otolaryngol (Stockh) 1989;108:168–74.

3. Grontved A, Brask T, Kambskard J, Hentzer E. Ginger root against seasickness. Acta Otolaryngol 1988;105:45–9.

4. Ribenfeld D, Borzone L. Randomized double-blind study comparing ginger (Zintona®) with dimenhydrinate in motion sickness. Healthnotes Rev Complementary Integrative Med 1999;6:98–101.

5. Careddu P. Motion sickness in children: Results of a double-blind study with ginger (Zintona®) and dimenhydrinate. Healthnotes Rev Complementary Integrative Med 1999;6:102–7.

6. Bone ME, Wilkinson DJ, Young JR, et al. Ginger root—a new antiemetic: The effect of ginger root on postoperative nausea and vomiting after major gynaecological surgery. Anaesthesia 1990;45:669–71.

7. Phillips S, Ruggier R, Hutchingson SE. Zingiber officinale (ginger)—an antiemetic for day case surgery. Anaesthesia 1993;48:715–7.

8. Arfeen Z, Owen H, Plummer JL, et al. A double-blind randomized controlled trial of ginger for the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting. Anaesthesia 1995;23:449–52

9. Meyer K, Schwartz J, Craer D, Keyes B. Zingiber officinale (ginger) used to prevent 8-Mop associated nausea. Dermatol Nursing 1995;7:242–4.

10. Langner E, Greifenberg S, Gruenwald J. Ginger: History and use. Adv Ther 1998;15:25–44 [review].

11. Bradley PR (ed). British Herbal Compendium, vol 1. Bournemouth, Dorset, UK: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1992, 112–4.

12. Yamahara J, Huang QR, Li YH, et al. Gastrointestinal motility enhancing effect of ginger and its active constituents. Chem Pharm Bull 1990;38:430–1.

13. al-Yahya MA, Rafatullah S, Mossa JS, et al. Gastroprotective activity of ginger in albino rats. Am J Chinese Med 1989;17:51–6.

14. 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 in patients with coronary artery disease. Prostagland Leukotrienes Essential Fatty Acids 1997;56:379–84.

15. Verma SK, Singh J, Khamesra R, Bordia A. Effect of ginger on platelet aggregation in man. Indian J Med Res 1994;98:240–2.

16. Lumb AB. Effect of dried ginger on human platelet function. Thromb Haemost 1994;7:110–1.

17. Janssen PL, Meyboom S, van Staveren WA, et al. Consumption of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) does not affect ex vivo platelet thromboxane production in humans. Eur J Clin Nutr 1996;50:772–4.

18. Brown DJ. Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1996, 111–8.

19. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 135–6.

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