Medicinal Properties of Ginger

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.

Plant Description: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).
Ginger has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine to treat problems such as vomiting, abdominal bloating, diarrhea, coughing, and rheumatism. Tibb and Ayurvedic medicine also uses ginger to treat inflammatory joint diseases including rheumatism and arthritis.

Proposed Medical Benefits of Ginger

Ginger root is used to provide relief of motion sickness including sweating, vomiting, dizziness, and nausea.

Ginger has other uses including relieving arthritis pain, ulcerative colitis, menstrual discomfort, headaches, fevers from flu and colds, and sore throats. Gastrointestinal problems including heartburn can also be treated with ginger. Ginger is also used to treat arthritis, both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. It is thought that garlic can also provide relief for toothaches.

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.

Motion Sickness

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.

Chemotherapy nausea

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.

Other uses

  • 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.
Available Forms: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:Pediatric

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.

Precautions: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.

Possible Interactions: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.

In medicinal doses it has a reputation for stimulating the gut and helping digestion, causing a burning sensation in the mouth and increasing the flow of saliva. It is reputed to stimulate the heart, skin, kidneys and nervous system and to act as an aphrodisiac. It has been given for a number of conditions such as in some forms of delirium, for sea-sickness, malarial and other fevers, gout, constipation and haemorrhoids.

It has also been used for alleviating uterine and other internal bleeding, and when combined with a plant called nux vomica (a source of strychnine botanically known as Strychnos nux-vomica) it has been used for digestive disorders, chronic diarrhoea and colic, and has been used in chronic alcoholism. The snuff has been used to treat hayfever. The whole plant cooked in milk has been applied to reduce swellings and hardened tumours. Chilli powder has been used in India to apply to dog bites.

Medicinal qualities of Chili

Chilli peppers are all-season foods: they warm you up in winter and cool you down in the summer. This correlates to the feeling of warmth when eating chiles. Hot foods do increase perspiration, which may be the underlying reason they are enjoyed in hot climates. So a sweat and possibly a brief increase in your metabolic rate won't influence weight loss either. The best contribution to weight loss is the flavours chiles can add to foods when the fat has been removed. Studies done in populations that use hot peppers consistently found that these people show no higher incidence of any gastrointestinal diseases. In fact, there are some areas where they exhibit some beneficial effects. The Capsaicin has been identified as an anticoagulant and could possibly aid in preventing a heart attack or stroke. Since 1982, there have been more than 2,000 scientific studies published describing the medicinal benefits of chiles. These include treatments for asthma, arthritis, blood clots, cluster headaches, shingles and severe burns. 

It is believed that relief of PMS can come from the Endorphin release after eating chiles, although there is certainly the possibility of other factors coming into play. Aside from the documented physiological/psychological effects of endorphins, chiles are high in compounds known as Bioflavonoids

These compounds are powerful anti-inflammatories. Bioflavonoids are also noted to help blood vessel walls strengthen and lessen bleeding. This could be another source of the relief. Chiles are also cited by nearly every homeopathic and home remedy book to be able to reduce inflammations. Chiles are believed by many peoples to achieve this effect through a normalising of blood pressures and blood flows in the body. Chiles are also noted to be relatively high in magnesium. Some time ago, bananas were touted as the ultimate cure for PMS when it was found that potassium helped to relieve the symptoms associated with PMS. Magnesium comes from the same family on the periodic table and could potentially mimic this effect.

Information from:
University Maryland medical Centre