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Medicinal Herb: Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Content provided on this page is for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options. Information on this page should not be considered as a substitute for advice from a healthcare professional. The claims made about specific products throughout this article are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.


Ginger is an herb indigenous to southeastern Asia. It is cultivated in the U.S., India, China, West Indies and tropical regions.
Ginger is a creeping perennial on a thick tuberous rhizome. In the first year, a green, erect, reed-like stem about 60 cm high grows from this rhizome. The plant has narrow, lanceolate to linear-lanceolate leaves 15 to 30 cm long, which die off each year. The flower scape grows directly from the root and terminates in a long, curved spike. A white or yellow flower grows from each spike.





Biological Name:
Zingiber officinale

Other Names:
Ginger; Ardrakam; Shunthi; Adrak; Sunth; black ginger; race ginger; African ginger; sheng jiang;

Parts Used:
Rhizome (root)

Active Compounds: 
The dried rhizome of ginger contains approximately 1-4% volatile oils. These are the medically active constituents of ginger; they are also responsible for ginger's characteristic odor and taste. The aromatic principles include zingiberene and bisabolene, while the pungent principles are known as gingerols and shogaols.

Volatile Oil:
Components can vary greatly, depending on the country of origin. The main components of the volatile oil are:
  • ( -)-zingiberene and arcurcumene
  • beta-bisabolene and arcurcumene
  • neral and geranial
  • D-camphor
  • beta-phellandrene
  • geranial
  • neral and linalool
  • (E)-alpha-farnesene, important as aroma carrier zingiberol (mixture of cis- and trans-beta-eudesmol)
  • Arylalkane - Pungent Substances

  • chief components [6]-gingerol, [8]-gingerol, [10]- gingerol

chief components [6]-shogaol, [8]- shogaol, [10]- shogaol


Diarylheptanoids: including, among others, gingerenone A and B


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.

Traditional Applications in Herbal Medicine:
Aromatic, carminative, stimulant to the gastro- intestinal tract, diaphoretic, expectorant, antiemetic, and stomachic, also sialagogue and digestive; Externally, a local stimulant and rubefacient.

Ginger is given in dyspepsia and flatulent colic excellent to add to bitter infusions; specially valuable in alcoholic gastritis; of use for diarrhoea from relaxed bowel where there is no inflammation. Ginger Tea is a hot infusion very useful for stoppage of the mensesdue to cold, externally it is a rubefacient. Essence of Ginger should be avoided, as it is often adulterated with harmful ingredients.

Ginger is used for:
    Atherosclerosis, heart disease
    Chemotherapy support
    Migraine headaches
    Morning sickness
    Motion sickness
    Nausea and vomiting following surgery
    Rheumatoid arthritis
    Eye diseases

Digestive System Actions:
Ginger is a classic tonic for the digestive tract. Classified as an aromatic bitter, it stimulates digestion. It also keeps the intestinal muscles toned. This action eases the transport of substances through the digestive tract, lessening irritation to the intestinal walls. Ginger may protect the stomach from the damaging effect of alcohol and non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen) and may help prevent ulcers.

Allergies and asthma:
Dried ginger can help in the management of allergies and asthma by offsetting the effect of the platelet-activating factor (PAP). PAP initiates inflammatory processes in allergy and asthma. It was found to become more active after changes in blood chemistry that occur in a high-fat diet.

Atherosclerosis and high cholesterol:

Arthritis, bursitis, fibrocystic breasts, lymphedema, and pain.
Ginger inhibits the production of immune-system components called cytokines. These chemicals are believed to create a long-term tendency toward inflammation. Ginger also stimulates blood circulation. These effects of ginger are taken advantage of in treating a number of disorders marked by swelling and pain, such as arthritis. Studies have also shown that ginger can relieve pain without the side effects typically found when using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and steroids.

Anti-nausea/Anti-vomiting Actions:
Research is inconclusive as to how ginger acts to alleviate nausea. Ginger may act directly on the gastrointestinal system or it may affect the part of the central nervous system that causes nausea. It may be that ginger exerts a dual effect in reducing nausea and vomiting.

Colds, influenza, and strep throat:

Parasitic infection.
Ginger contains a chemical called zingibain that dissolves parasites and their eggs. In laboratory trials, ginger extracts have been shown to kill the anisakid worm (a parasite occasionally found in raw fish) within sixteen hours. Ginger tea is useful as a supplement in treating schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease.

Seizure disorders.
Ginger protects the body from the hepatotoxic effects of valproic acid (Depakene), a common treatment for seizure disorders. Ginger, when used on a daily basis,  was found to improve the elevated levels of the liver enzymes alanine amino- transferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST).

Action and Uses in Ayurveda and Siddha

Ginger is an important herb used in Ayurveda. Ayurveda takes advantage of the following medicinal properties for ginger:

  • Analgesic, anti-emetic, aromatic, aphrodisiac, carminative, diaphorelic, digestive, expectorant, nervine, sialagogue, stimulant.
Ayurvedic practitioners consider ginger to be a truly a wonder drug, having so many healing properties. It was called the universal medicine. Taken with rock salt it reduces vayu; with rock candy it reduces Pitta; with honey it reduces Kapha. Thus it can be used to influence all tridoshas.

Ginger is used in the following ayurvedic remedies: katu rasam, ushna veeryam, vata-kapha-haram, katu- vipaka, lagu, snigdam, pachanam, ruchyam, vrishyam, swaryam, vibhanda haram, in grahani agnimanthyam. amavatham, chardhi, swasam, soolam, arsas, anaham, hrith-rogam, udhara rogam. It is used externally in kapha, swellings, headache.

Perhaps the most versatile of all herbs, fresh ginger can be topically applied as a warm fomentation to relieve spasms pain and cramps. Simply cut several slices of the fresh root and place them in a pan of boiling water. Saturate a flannel cloth with the tea and apply it topically as warm as the body will bear. This is an ideal treatment for stiff neck and shoulders. The herb is cooked with meat to aid its assimilation and detoxify it. Fresh ginger tea is the most ideal herb to use for the first signs of mucus, cold, cough, and so on. To make it taste better, add honey. Drinking ginger tea with meals will greatly aid digestion and assimilation and is useful for those with weak, cold digestion.


Ginger is one of the most widely available and widely used herbal remedy on the planet. Billions of people use ginger safely daily as food and medicine. A few precautions should be followed, though.

Ginger should not be used by those with heat signs in the lungs or stomach.

Side effects of ginger are rare when used as recommended. However, some people may be sensitive to the taste or may experience heartburn. Persons with a history of gallstones should consult a nutritionally oriented doctor before using ginger.

Ginger can prolong the sleeping time induced by barbiturates. Use ginger with extreme caution if you are taking any kind of medication to induce sleep.

Ginger is contraindicated in morning sickness. Because of its cholagogic effect, ginger should not be taken in the presence of gallstone conditions except under the supervision of a doctor. The daily consumption of ginger root may interfere with the absorption of dietary iron and fat-soluble vitamins. Avoid taking ginger for two weeks prior to undergoing elective surgery.

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.

Ginger can increase the potency of prescription medications used to prevent blood clots, such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), ticlopidine (Ticlid), or warfarin (Coumadin). Combining ginger with these medications could result in unexpected bleeding. Discuss with your physician before taking ginger to control nausea after surgery. If bleeding is a major risk, ginger should be avoided.

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