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Supplements

ginger

What Is It?
Health Benefits
Forms

Dosage Information

Guidelines for Use

General Interaction

Possible Side Effects

Cautions

References

Evidence Based Rating Scale

 What Is It?

Revered around the world for its pungent taste, ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a natural spice that is also widely prized for its medicinal properties. Since ancient times, traditional healers in a diverse array of cultures have used this plant primarily to help settle upset stomachs. Chinese herbalists have relied on ginger as a medicine and flavoring for more than 2,500 years. (1)The early Greeks mixed it into breads (hence the first gingerbread), and North American colonists sipped nausea-quelling ginger beer, the precursor of modern ginger ale. Today, many cultures continue to rely on ginger for controlling nausea and also for reducing Inflammation.

A botanical relative of marjoram and turmeric, the ginger plant is indigenous to Southeast Asia and is now also extensively cultivated in Jamaica and other tropical areas. It's the plant's aromatic rhizome (or underground stem) that's used for culinary and medicinal purposes.

Health Benefits

Ginger's effectiveness as a digestive aid is due largely to its active ingredients: gingerols and shogaols. These substances help to neutralize stomach acids, enhance the secretion of digestive juices (stimulating the appetite), and tone the muscles of the digestive tract. Gingerols and shogaols also exhibit cancer-preventive activity in experimental carcinogenesis (tumor development). (1) Research confirms the presence of anti-inflammatory properties in ginger as well. (2)  In addition, animal studies suggest that ginger stimulates insulin production and may have anti-diabetic properties. (18, 19) Animal studies also indicate that ginger may lower blood pressure. (20)

Specifically, ginger may help to:

  • Relieve nausea. Standard anti-nausea medications often work through the central nervous system, causing drowsiness. Ginger isn't likely to cause this reaction because it acts directly on the digestive tract. In studies of women undergoing major gynecological or exploratory (laparoscopic) surgery, those who took 1 Gram of ginger before the procedure experienced significantly less postoperative reaction to anesthesia and surgery--namely, nausea and vomiting--than did those who were given a Placebo. (3) When used in conjunction with a high protein meal, ginger may also be useful in easing the nausea that frequently follows chemotherapy treatments.(4)

  • Combat motion sickness. In a widely cited study of Danish naval cadets, those given 1 gram of powdered ginger daily had many fewer incidents of cold sweats and vomiting (classic symptoms of seasickness) than did those given a placebo. A number of other studies have demonstrated similar findings concerning ginger's calming effect on motion sickness. (5)

  • Reduce dizziness. Ginger's anti-nausea action also helps dispel dizziness, particularly when the dizziness is aggravated by motion sickness. Older people, who can be unsteady on their feet, may particularly benefit from ginger's steadying influence. (6)

  • Control chronic pain. Ginger helps indirectly to relieve chronic pain by reducing inflammation and, particularly when taken in Standardized Extract form, by lowering the body's level of natural pain-causing compounds called Prostaglandins. Localized chronic pain may also respond well to ginger oil massages. (7)

  • Limit flatulence. Because ginger soothes the digestive tract, it can be useful in relieving flatulence. Supplements or freshly grated ginger root mixed with diluted lime juice work well for this purpose. (8)

  • Ease the pain of muscle aches and rheumatoid arthritis. Ginger oil massaged into sore or aching muscles offers a measure of relief from muscle strain, in part because of the Herb's anti-inflammatory properties. When taken in standardized extract form, ginger may additionally lower the level of the body's natural pain-causing compounds called prostaglandins. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms may also respond to treatment with ginger, either in massage oil or standardized extract form. In a study of seven women with rheumatoid arthritis, reduced joint swelling and pain were reported following a daily regimen of up to 1 gram of powdered ginger or 5 to 50 grams of fresh ginger. (8,9)

  • Minimize symptoms of the common cold, allergies, and other respiratory conditions. Ginger is a natural Antihistamine and Decongestant. It seems to provide a measure of relief from cold and allergy symptoms by dilating constricted bronchial tubes. It's often included in herbal decongestant blends that are designed for sinusitis and other respiratory complaints. (8)

  • Reduce blood lipid levels.  A recent study of patients with hyperlipidemia (elevated cholesterol and triglycerides) showed that a daily regimen of 3 grams of ginger resulted in reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, reduced triglycerides, and increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels. (16)

    Note: Ginger has also been found to be useful for a number of other disorders. For information on these additional ailments, see our Dosage Recommendations Chart for Ginger.

Forms

  • Tablets
  • Fresh powder
  • Fresh root
  • Ginger tea
  • Ginger ale
  • Ginger crystals 

Dosage Information

Special tip:

--Select ginger supplements standardized to contain the "pungent compounds," namely, gingerols and shogaols. These are the plant's critical active ingredients.

Ginger can be used in the following forms and dosages for the majority of conditions mentioned:

--Standardized extract in pill form: Take 100 to 200 mg every four hours up to three times a day.

--Fresh powdered ginger: Take 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon every four hours or up to three times a day.

--Fresh ginger root: Take a 1/4- to 1/2-inch (peeled) slice every four hours or up to three times a day.

--Ginger tea: Drink several cups a day. Tea is available in prepackaged bags or can be prepared by steeping 1/2 teaspoon of grated ginger root in 8 ounces of very hot water for five to ten minutes. A cup of tea, when steeped for this amount of time, can contain about 250 mg of ginger.

--Ginger ale: Drink several cups a day; an 8-ounce glass contains approximately 1 gram of ginger. Be sure to select products made with real ginger and try to avoid products sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

--Crystallized ginger: Enjoy two pieces of crystallized ginger a day; about 500 mg of ginger is present in a 1-inch-square, 1/4-inch-thick piece of ginger prepared this way.

  • For motion sickness: Take  1 gram of dried powder thirty minutes to four hours before departing and then every four hours afterward as needed. (5)

  • For aching muscles: Add a few drops of ginger oil to 1 tablespoon of a neutral oil (such as almond oil), blend well, then rub the mixture into the painful area. (8)

  • For rheumatoid arthritis: Take 100 mg three times a day or drink up to four cups of ginger tea daily. (8)

  • For chronic pain: Either take 100 mg three times daily or blend a few drops of ginger, lavender, and birch oils with 1 tablespoon of a neutral oil (such as almond oil), and gently massage the mixture into the affected areas. (8)

  • For cold and allergy relief: Drink up to four cups of ginger tea daily as needed. Folk practitioners also recommend chewing fresh ginger, drinking real ginger ale, or squeezing juice from a fresh ginger root and mixing it with a spoonful of honey.

Be sure to check out our Dosage Recommendations Chart, which has therapeutic dosages for specific ailments at a glance.

Guidelines for Use

  • Take ginger capsules with a glass of water or other fluid.

  • To prevent postoperative nausea, start taking ginger the day after surgery but only under a doctor's guidance.

  • If you are undergoing chemotherapy, take ginger with food to reduce the chance of stomach irritation.

  • If using raw ginger, be sure to chew it thoroughly, as there have been reports of bezoar (balls of fibrous material that collect in the stomach) formation in children and the elderly. 

General Interaction

Ginger has shown insulin stimulation in animal studies. Use caution when combining ginger with diabetes medications since it may cause hypoglycemia. (19) Ginger may increase the risk of bleeding. Use caution when combining ginger with anticoagulants and antiplatelets such as aspirin, heparin, and warfarin (Coumadin). (21)

Possible Side Effects

  • Ginger, in all available forms, is very safe to take for a wide variety of ailments.

  • Some people report heartburn, diarrhea, and mouth irritation after taking ginger. (8)

Cautions

  • Don't treat pregnancy-related nausea with ginger for longer than the first two months of pregnancy. Similarly, don't take more than 250 mg four times a day during pregnancy without consulting your obstetrician.

  • Avoid medicinal amounts of ginger if you have gallstones unless your doctor advises you otherwise; the herb increases bile flow.

  • Because ginger can make blood platelets less sticky--and thus increase the risk for bleeding--it's probably a good precautionary measure to stop taking ginger three to four days before any scheduled surgery. Start up again right after surgery. 

REFERENCES

1.  Shukla Y, Singh M. Cancer preventive properties of ginger: a brief review. Food Chem Toxicol. 2007May;45(5):683-90.Epub 2006 Nov 12
2.  Grzanna R, Lindmark L,Frondoza CG.
Ginger--an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions. J Med Food. 2005 Summer;8(2):125-32
3. 
Nanthakomon T, Pongrojpaw D. The efficacy of ginger in prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting after major gynecologic surgery. J Med Assoc Thai. 2006 Oct;89 Suppl 4:S130-6
4. Levine ME, Gillis MG, Koch SY, Voss AC, Stern RM, Koch KL. Protein and ginger for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced delayed nausea. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Jun;14(5):545-51 
 
5.  Grøntved A, Brask T, Kambskard J, Hentzer E. Ginger root against seasickness. A controlled trial on the open sea. 
Acta Otolaryngol. 1988 Jan-Feb;105(1-2):45-9
6.  Lien HC, Sun WM, Chen YH, Kim H, Hasler W, Owyang C Effects of ginger on motion sickness and gastric slow-wave dysrhythmias induced by circular vection.
Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2003 Mar;284(3):G481-9
7. 
Langner E, Greifenberg S, Gruenwald J. Ginger: history and use. Adv Ther. 1998 Jan-Feb;15(1):25-44
8.  White B. Ginger: an overview.  Am Fam Physician. 2007 Jun 1;75(11):1689-91
9.  Srivastava KC, Mustafa T. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders. Med Hypotheses. 1992 Dec;39(4):342-8
10. Pongrojpaw D, Somprasit C, Chanthasenanont A.  A randomized comparison of ginger and dimenhydrinate in the treatment of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy
.  J Med Assoc Thai. 2007 Sep;90(9):1703-9 
11. Ensiyeh J, Sakineh MA.  Comparing ginger and vitamin B6 for the treatment of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: a randomised controlled trial.  Midwifery. 2008 Feb 11. [Epub ahead of print]
12. Chaiyakunapruk N, Kitikannakorn N, Nathisuwan S, Leeprakobboon K, Leelasettagool C. The efficacy of ginger for the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting: a meta-analysis. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Jan;194(1):95-9
13.  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
14.  Smith C, Crowther C, Willson K, Hotham N, McMillian V.  A randomized controlled trial of ginger to treat nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 2004 Apr;103(4):639-45
15.  Srivastava KC, Mustafa T. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and rheumatic disorders.  Med Hypotheses. 1989 May;29(1):25-8
16.  Alizadeh-Navaei R, Roozbeh F, Saravi M, Pouramir M, Jalali F, Moghadamnia AA.  Investigation of the effect of ginger on the lipid levels. A double blind controlled clinical trial. 
Saudi Med J. 2008 Sep;29(9):1280-4.
17. 
Zingiber officinale (Ginger). Altern Med Rev.2003 Aug:8(3):331-5
18.  Islam MS, Choi H.  Comparative effects of dietary ginger (Zingiber officinale) and garlic (Allium sativum) investigated in a type 2 diabetes model of rats.  J Med Food. 2008 Mar;11(1):152-9.
19.  Akhani SP, Vishwakarma SL, Goyal RK.  Anti-diabetic activity of Zingiber officinale in streptozotocin-induced type I diabetic rats.J Pharm Pharmacol. 2004 Jan;56(1):101-5.

20. Ghayur MN, Gilani AH.
Ginger lowers blood pressure through blockade of voltage-dependent calcium channels. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2005 Jan;45(1):74-80
21. Thomson M, Al-Qattan KK, Al-Sawan SM, Alnaqeeb MA, Khan I, Ali M. The use of ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) as a potential anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic agent. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2002 Dec;67(6):475-8

Evidence Based Rating Scale  

The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies with what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice. This tool is meant to simplify which supplements and therapies demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions. This scale does not take into account any possible interactions with any medication/ condition/ or therapy which you may be currently undertaking. It is therefore advisable to ask your doctor before starting any new treatment regimen.

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Date Published: 04/18/2005
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