Common name: Ginger
Other names: Ginger root
Latin name: Zingiber officinale
Affinities: Immune system, digestive system
Actions: Circulatory and digestive stimulant, immunomodulator, carminative, rubefacient, diaphoretic, stomachic
Specific indications: Loss of appetite, flatulence, spasmodic gastric and intestinal contractions, painful menstruation, cool extremities
Diseases: Osteoarthritis(1), inflammatory arthritis(3), heart disease(3), common cold(3), fever(3), irritable bowel and diarrhoea without inflammation(3), type II diabetes(1)
Parts used: Roots
Energetics: Warming, drying
Characteristics: Ginger is a flowering plant whose rhizsome (roots) are used for medicinal and culinary purposes. Ginger grows stems about a meter in height with narrow leaves and yellow flowers. Ginger originated in the tropical rainforest in Southern Asia, however, it no longer grows wild. It is in the same family as turmeric and cardamom.
History: Ginger has had a long history of medicinal use, dating back 2000 years. In traditional Chinese medicine and Ayruveda it was used in stomachaches, diarrhoea, nausea, asthma, respiratory disorders, and arthritis (Grzanna et al., 2005).
Current applications: Ginger may be suitable for treating travel sickness, flatulent colic, irritable bowel, and diarrhoea where no inflammation exists (Bartram, 2013). It helps in cases of colds and influenza to promote perspiration and reduce body temperature. As a warming circulatory stimulant, it may prove helpful for cold hands and feet. As a digestive stimulant, it may be useful in stimulating appetite. It can be included in ones diet for atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. It may be useful in cases of nausea and vomiting.
Dr. Christopher used ginger extensively and listed it as a stimulant (of circulation and digestion) alongside other similar herbs like cayenne and prickly ash (Christopher, 1976). In his text, ‘The School of Natural Healing’, he wrote, ‘(ginger) is generally combined with herbs going into the abdominal area, because it is a carrier. Ginger is an herb which accentuates so many herbs in the lower abdominal and colon areas’. He used it in his bowel corrective formula designed to promote good bowel health.
Science: Ginger root contains various anti-oxidants and nutrients including polyphenols, vitamin C, beta-carotene, flavonoids, and tannins (Prakash et al., 2010). It is an anti-inflammatory and represses prostaglandin synthesis, a pro inflammatory lipid (Grzanna et al., 2005). Ginger exhibits spasmolytic activity, meaning it reduces spasms, and so may be good for intestinal bloating and cramps (Ghayur et al., 2005). Ginger also exhibits gastrokinetic activity, meaning it increases passing, so can help relieve constipation (Ghayur et al., 2005). There are two well conducted studies of reasonable size on humans. One study found a significant reduction in osteoarthritis pain (Altman et al., 2001), however the effect size was quite low. It also used a patented extract with another herb so it is hard to judge which was responsible for the effect. Another study on type II diabetes found it reduced symptoms of the disorder (Mozaffari-Khosravi et al., 2014).
Safety: Ginger is safe, even for pregnant or breast feeding women. It can be used by the young or old.
Dosage: Dose of tincture is 5-60 drops 3-4 times daily.
For inflammatory conditions, osteoarthritis, and type II diabetes; 3g ginger powder can be taken daily in divided doses.
A strong infusion can also be made by brewing two teaspoons of grated ginger root in boiling water, steep for 10 minutes, then drink 3 times daily. This infusion may help digestive issues.
Research on models
Anti-inflammatory activity: Ginger represses prostaglandin synthesis (inflammatory lipid molecules) through inhibition of cyclooxygenase- 1 and cyclooxygenase-2. (Grzanna et al., 2005). A patented extract including ginger called Eurovita Extract 77 has also been shown to switch off inflammatory genes.
Anti-bacterial activity: Ginger extracts have been found to display anti-bacterial properties ex vivo (Malu et al., 2009).
Anti-oxidant activity: In one study, anti-oxidant compounds including polyphenols, flavonoids and total tannin were identified (Prakash et al., 2010).
Spasmolytic activity: Ginger has been found to exhibit spasmolytic (spasm reducing) behaviour in vivo models (Ghayur et al., 2005).
Gastrokinetic activity: Ginger was found to increase passing of charcoal in vivo models. Hence supporting its traditional use as a digestive aid (Ghayur et al., 2005).
Research on humans
Osteoarthritis: One study (n = 261, double blind placebo controlled) found a modest, but significant decrease in knee pain (p = 0.048) over placebo after 6 weeks of treatment with a ginger extract (Altman et al., 2001). There were some mostly mild gastrointestinal adverse effects in the ginger extract treated population. One capsule was taken twice daily of a patented extract. Each capsule contained 255 mg of Eurovita Extract 77, derived from 2.5-4g of dried ginger root and 0.5-1.5g of dried galangal (Alpinia galangal) root.
Type II diabetes: Another study (n = 88, double blind placebo controlled) found significant decreases in fasting blood sugar and improvements in insulin resistance after consumption of ginger powder daily in a capsule for 8 weeks (Mozaffari-Khosravi et al., 2014). Patients received 3 one-gram capsules containing ginger powder per day.
Altman, Roy D., and K. C. Marcussen. “Effects of a ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis.” Arthritis & Rheumatism 44.11 (2001): 2531-2538.
Bartram, Thomas. Bartram’s encyclopedia of herbal medicine. Hachette UK, 2013.
Christopher, John R. School of Natural Healing. Christopher Publications, 1976.
Ghayur, Muhammad Nabeel, and Anwarul Hassan Gilani. “Pharmacological basis for the medicinal use of ginger in gastrointestinal disorders.” Digestive diseases and sciences 50.10 (2005): 1889-1897.
Grzanna, Reinhard, Lars Lindmark, and Carmelita G. Frondoza. “Ginger—an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions.” Journal of medicinal food 8.2 (2005): 125-132.
Malu, S. P., et al. “Antibacterial activity and medicinal properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale).” Global Journal of pure and applied Sciences 15.3 (2009): 365-368
Mozaffari-Khosravi, Hassan, et al. “The effect of ginger powder supplementation on insulin resistance and glycemic indices in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.” Complementary therapies in medicine 22.1 (2014): 9-16.
Prakash, Jamuna. “Chemical composition and antioxidant properties of ginger root (Zingiber officinale).” Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 4.24 (2010): 2674-2679.